Climate change is an environmental problem facing the whole world. The aim of the article is to examine the impacts and effects of climate change on and human health in Nigeria. From our findings, climate change has caused global warming by raising the mean global temperature by about 0.7°C. Climate change has both direct and indirect impacts on human health.
Human activities that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is mainly responsible for the alarming rate at which global climate is changing.
As human population increases and people try to improve their living standards, with its concomitant modernization through the provision of infrastructure, the pressure on earth’s resources (especially fossil fuel and forest resources) increases.
Therefore, population growth, urbanization and the increasing demand for goods and services have brought an enormous increase in industrial activities with enormous emissions of greenhouse gases largely responsible for the current global warming. Some of these gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbon.
It is evident that Nigeria is already in experiencing the impacts of climate change. Available reports show that since the late 1960s mean temperature in Nigeria started a gradual rise that has continued to date, in response to global warming. In addition, the country is witnessing a general decline in rainfall, particularly in the northern region of the country. Furthermore, rainfall duration and intensity has become highly unpredictable with late onset, early cessation and long breaks within the rainy season noticed to be more frequent.
Thus, climate change impact on rainfall in Nigeria does not only translate to a general decline in mean value but could be quite erratic in amount and pattern of distribution from region to region.
In Nigeria, there is a perennial humid condition in the southern states with annual rainfall exceeding 3000mm in parts of the Niger Delta and the southeast corner, while the extreme drought-prone parts in the north-most fringes may receive anything from 250mm to 700mm.
However, many coastal areas in Nigeria such as Eket, Lagos, Ibadan, Uyo and Calabar have received excessive rainfalls recently causing floods that resulted in loss of lives and property, while locations in northern Nigeria had deficit rainfall. Indeed, Nigeria is said to be one of the most climatologically vulnerable countries in Sub-Saharan Africa regarding climate change.
The long-term maintenance of health of a population depends on the continued stability and functioning of the ecological and physical system of the biosphere.
The weather and climate of a place constitute an integral part of that complex life-support system. Therefore, climate change due to global warming will be disastrous for human health because it alters the normal composition of the earth’s atmosphere upon which life depends.
Humans are both the driver of climate change, as well as, the recipient of the impacts thereof. Unsustainable exploitation of the earth’s resources, which causes huge emissions of greenhouse gases has largely affected climate. Conversely, rising temperatures, changing patterns of rainfall, rising sea levels (all of which are products of climate change), influence the capacity of societal development.
The relationship between climate and human health is probably the most obvious of the interactions between climate and society. These are both direct and indirect impacts of climate change on human health in Nigeria.
Hot weather due to climate change has reduced human comfort through profuse sweating, heat rashes, and other heat-related concerns. Hot working environment created by climate change reduces human ability for physical or mental tasks and, prolonged exposure to heat may lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke. With increased and intensified heat waves from climate change, more people may likely suffer from heat stroke, heart attack and other ailments associated with elevated heat.
Furthermore, higher temperatures in the cities might cause increased ground-level concentration of noxious gases and smoke particles, which will accelerate chemical reactions that generate other pollutants, thereby increasing air pollution problems.
Elevated air temperature and air pollution are serious health problems because breathing polluted or dirty air often leads to increased probability of respiratory diseases, lung cancer heart attack and cardiovascular disorders.
Vector borne diseases (VBD) are presently posing major public health threats in many parts of the world, especially sub-Saharan African. They are transmitted by insects or other arthropods which include malaria, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, trypanosomiasis and dracunculiasis, etc. As climate change increases global temperatures, regions that before now were free of VBDs due to cold climates, will see migration of these vectors into new regions with elevated temperatures.
The destruction of ozone will lead to increased ultra-violet radiation reaching the earth, thereby raising the incidence of skin cancer, cataracts and river blindness.
Heavy Rainfalls and Flooding:
Already, heavy rainfalls have caused severe flooding in many parts of southern Nigeria such as Calabar, Uyo, Bayelsa, Ibadan and Lagos, which have had more than a fair share of devastating floods. Floods cause dislocation of communities with attendant problems of potable water scarcity, poor sanitation, typhoid, dysentery, cholera and related diarrheal diseases. During floods, soil wash and sewage systems’ overflow, could contaminate water sources with grave health consequences for consumers.
Melting Ice and Sea Water Intrusion:
Rise in global mean temperature due to climate change is melting a significant proportion of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets. The melting ice will lead to sea level rise, which could cause saltwater to intrude into fresh-water sources with serious health implications for coastal dwellers.
Climate change is expected to increase not only the frequency of wind storms but also their intensity. Severe windstorms such as tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons and thunderstorms are already associated with massive deaths and property damage. Climate change induced windstorms will cause more damage and death through massive flooding of low-lying coastal areas, falling trees and power lines, direct mangling of objects (as with tornadoes). Indeed, mental health effects such as depression and anxiety have been reported after extreme weather events (tornado, hurricane or intense thunderstorm events)
Climate change heat and desiccation may extend the influence of drought from semi-arid regions into previously wet, productive regions of the country, with the attendant consequences of crop failures, food shortages, hunger and malnutrition. Many semi-arid regions of the Nigeria are fast becoming deserts with serious dislocation of people or complete annihilation of human populations.
Addressing climate change and its impacts on the Nigerian society is a daunting task. There is the need for Nigerians to respond to climate change from both policy level and house-hold level in order to combat the menace.
At policy level, there is need for strategic planning through sound policy formulation, provision of regulatory and institutional frameworks, as well as, the building of robust human and material capacities in order to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
There is the need for massive tree planting throughout the country and, especially in areas of the country that have already been degraded.
There is the need to end gas flaring in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. Taking appropriate steps to end gas flaring in the Niger Delta region will be a significant contribution by Nigeria towards mitigating climate change.
At the household-level, there is the need to conserve energy. For example, measures such as turning off electric lights and appliances when not in use, preferring to walk or cycle rather than driving always, planting trees and creating lawns in our surroundings; are house-hold level measures that individuals and groups can adopt to mitigate climate change.
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