Summary: Climate change with its associated environment and socio-economic impacts constitute one of the most serious problems facing humanity today. Climate change tends to increase poverty and hardship, decrease water resources, worsen food insecurity, create social insecurity and destabilize economies; governments across the world are making efforts towards combating climate change. In this post, we examine the roles of both renewable energy and energy efficiency as solutions to climate change impacts in Nigeria. In order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, there is the need to harness renewable energies like the solar, wind and geothermal energies to replace the present day burning of fossil fuel energy for lighting, heating, cooling, manufacturing, cooking, transport, entertainment, etc.
Climate is the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period.
It can also be seen as the average weather in a given area over a longer period of time. A description of a climate includes information on variable like the average temperature in different seasons; rainfall; and sunshine; as well a probability (chance) of extremes.
The climate of an area refers to the weather conditions during a period of time usually several decades.
For example, we can say that the climate of Nigeria is characterized by the dry and the rainy season, since for several decades this has been the trend in Nigeria.
The interactions between some permanent features of the earth (i.e. the atmosphere, oceans, and land) determine the climatic conditions in different parts of the globe.
Climate change refers to changes in climate patterns from mean values of certain climate indices over a period of time ranging from a few years to decades.
However, the observed variation must persist for a sufficiently long time and be statistically significant for it to be considered climate change. Otherwise, it would be considered climate variability or fluctuation.
Climate change results from human activities that cause emission of greenhouse gases: (carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, methane, aldehydes, nitrous oxides, ozone, water vapour, and others). Some of the GHGs emitting activities are agricultural whereas others are industrial.
GHGs are gases that trap heat leading to global warming. GHGs cause the greenhouse effect because they have the tendency to absorb infrared radiation hence contributing to the warming of the lower atmosphere and earth surface.
Greenhouse Gases Emission: Available data shows that the earth is warming at an unprecedented rate in the last 100 years and the warming has been attributed partly to an increase in the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide accounts for more than 80 percent of the pollution leading to global warming. Furthermore, the entire continent of Africa contributes 3.5 percent.
Some of the effects of climate change observed in Nigeria include the following:
Change in Rainfall Pattern: Reduced rainfall which would likely affect food security since our agriculture is rain-fed.
Deforestation and Desertification: The northern part of Nigeria is fast becoming drier due to declining rainfall intensity and frequency. Furthermore, the increase in mean ambient temperature is causing significant changes in forest and rangeland cover. Loss of vegetation will in turn lead to the encroachment of the desert in many parts of northern Nigeria.
Coastal Erosion: Warming has caused melting of ice caps, which has led to a rise in sea level along Nigerian coastal waters. Sea level rise has brought about increased occurrence of coastal erosion in Nigeria’s coastal areas. This has led to flooding of low-lying areas in the region and affects agriculture, fisheries and general livelihoods.
General Flooding: Climate change has caused increase in flooding in the southern part especially in the coastal regions. Flood and erosion remove top soil, renders roads impassable, affect fresh water resources, threaten lives and properties, and render many people homeless.
What is Renewable Energy?
The term ‘renewable energies’ refers to energy sources that are regularly replenished by natural processes; hence, are in endless supply.
They include wind, rivers, ocean wave and tides, solar, biomass, geothermal (heat of the earth), etc.
Technologies that have been developed to harness these energies are called renewable energy technologies (RETs) or sometime also called “clean technologies” or “green energy”.
Two major advantages of renewable energy is that they are inexhaustible (i.e. their rate of use does not affect their availability in future); and they are clean and pollution-free.
In other words, they are sustainable natural forms of energy that can be harvested continuously and constitute a sustainable source of energy.
The proper implementation of RETs can reduce significantly greenhouse gas emission which would reduce GHGs emission.
The energy contained in the force of the winds can be harnessed and converted into mechanical energy for performing various tasks such as generating electricity, pumping water, grinding grain, etc.
Modern wind turbines are being used to generate electricity in countries such as Germany, Denmark, India, China, and the United States to supplement more traditional sources of electric power.
Wind energy is available in all regions across Nigeria; though wind speed is higher in northern Nigeria than in the southern part of the country.
Hence, Nigeria can develop and utilize energy from the wind for electricity generation instead of burning fossil fuel.
Nigeria is blessed with boundless solar radiation that can be harnessed and converted to electrical energy. Furthermore, it does not release GHGs into the atmosphere.
By energy efficiency, we mean the use of energy in a manner that minimizes the amount of energy needed to provide services.
This is possible by using energy efficient appliances that help to reduce the energy necessary to provide services like lighting, cooling, heating, manufacturing, cooking, transport, entertainment etc.
Hence, energy efficiency products essentially help to do more work with less energy. There are two important ways we can approach the efficient use of energy.
First, we need to change the type of technology we use to a more efficient one. A good example is the one we cited above on the light bulbs; replacing incandescent bulbs with energy efficiency bulbs.
Second, we need to change the ways we do things. An example is switching off appliances when not in use.
Most of the energy we generate in Nigeria comes from the burning of fossil fuel (oil and gas). Moreover, for every kilowatt of electricity we consume, there is an equivalent emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
The use of renewable energy as well energy efficiency practice can help to reduce the emission of GHGs into the atmosphere.
Nigeria is already enduring the effects/impact of climate change. There is the need for government to make provision to integrating climate change considerations into national policies and programmes. Finally, the government and other stakeholders need to develop new strategies to reduce the emission of GHGs. Such strategies might include advocacy for renewable energy, energy efficiency products, and good environmental practices.
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