Guest Blog Post: A Ticking Time Bomb
Bombs are serious. Especially when they aren’t disarmed in time. Saturday 16 February is a crucial date for the African continent — and for the global climate.
We should all be worried when the political leaders of Nigeria, one of the world’s most populous countries, fail to address environmental degradation and climate change. The Nigerian population is increasing rapidly, and will have more and more of an effect on the regional environment, as well as on climate change globally. A local study (Surge Africa) shows that awareness of climate change is poor, and a report (Ayegba Oliko/Punch) calls for concern on the political leadership in Nigeria on taking on the climate crisis.
Nigeria has one of the world’s most booming economies, and, with 196 million inhabitants, a rapidly increasing population. In February, the Nigerian electorate will be heading for the polls in the 2019 general election. The UNDP estimates that, by 2050, Nigeria will be the third most populated country in the world. Reports point out that of the candidates hoping to become the country’s political leaders in the February election, not a single one has even mentioned environmental degradation or climate change while running for office.
A key solution to the region is to battle climate change as if it was a matter of life and death since actually, it is. The increasing tensions from the fact that Lake Chad and the shrinking of Congo Basin is providing freshwater and food for 40 million people. The International Peace Institute (The Global Observatory) has the story of how the conflict between farmers and herders have left 1,300 dead only in 2018, making it six times as deadly conflict as those dead by the attacks from Boko-Haram terrorists.
Thus already today this problem is leading to water and food shortages, social unrest and climate refugees in a vast regional area (International Peace Institute/IPI The Global Observatory). Additionally, there are huge problems in the Niger Delta as a result of oil spill, with disastrous social, economic and ecological consequences (The Guardian).
The leaders of Nigeria must wake up while they still have time and act responsibly on a local and regional scale to safeguard and educate it’s citizens on climate change as the guest blog post “A Ticking Time Bomb”, by Nasreen Al-amin clearly shows.
A Ticking Time Bomb
The Harmattan (1) arrives as a wind carrying sand into the air, creating a dusty brown atmosphere that’s almost impossible to breathe without a mask. Outside, people carry on with their daily business of frying akara (2) by the roadside, driving keke-napeps (3) making suya (4) and the usual street hawking. Most of them without protective face masks, despite the weather — because that’s how it always is in this season of the year. Except this time it’s different. Smog, cold and the daunting wind mix sand dust, dirt and all sorts of pollution, making the air heavy and particularly impenetrable to human eyes.
Amidst the chaos of the extreme weather, air pollution and the economic struggle, change is evident. It can be seen and felt. But the threat of climate change remains unknown to the 10.6 million people bustling through the Nigerian city of Kano. They live their daily lives thinking the change in weather patterns simply reflects seasonal alterations.
The northern part of Nigeria has been plagued by deforestation, losing more than 15 square kilometres of forest every year. Nigeria loses its forest at the rate of 11.1 per cent yearly (5). You could say that climate change and human consumption both played a pivotal role in accelerating this disaster. Firewood is predominantly used as source of energy, means of cooking and for other economic purposes. Where a population of millions of people relies solely on the forest for such resources, carrying out large-scale felling of trees without simultaneously replanting, deforestation is inevitable. Many communities are also now experiencing drought and failed harvests. As rainfall becomes less, more communities will be affected and water scarcity will spike, leading to enormous social and health problems.
In the northeast of the country, where the climate crisis is more persistent, environmental conflicts have been on the rise for years now. Farmers and herders fighting over arable land leave hundreds of innocents victims in their wake, which in turn fuels more ethnic rivalry. Regions rich with mineral resources such as gold, diamonds and other precious stones are dominated by intensive artisanal mining practices, which increase erosion and exposure to harmful substances like mercury and arsenic via the air and watercourses. Meanwhile, outside forces take advantage of poverty to fuel more local crisis in these regions and gain a stronghold in the area.
A 2018 survey (6) carried of climate awareness among middle and low income Nigerians showed that 1 in 300 people are aware of climate change (6). And even people who have some idea of the threat don’t consider it to be imminent. This is disappointing, but not surprising.
Among the 2,877 people asked whether they knew what the climate change crisis involves, only 48 were able to give a slight explanation of what they think it could mean. The remaining 2,829 defined it in the most simple of terms: a change in the weather (6).
In Nigeria, every region is battling climate crisis in the face of environmental conflict, poverty, hunger, economic insecurity, deforestation and migration.
But the most pervasive problem of all could be the population not knowing that this is indeed a climate change crisis. Not knowing that the actions of first world countries in search of economic prevalence has resulted in their demise.
Not knowing the risks, not knowing the dangers. Not knowing that the recent sandstorms will only increase, that heat waves will intensify and the lack of available water will lead to worse droughts, which will affect agriculture on a vast scale, leading to disastrous famines. Not knowing that the cumulative effects of human health crisis, various forms of pollution, low rainfall and extreme weather events are only beginning.
The northern part of Nigeria alone has a population of approximately 78.7 million people. At what point does the intervention begin? Where do you start talking about a catastrophic disaster that’s going to disrupt the lives of an entire population, and one that’s capable of destroying their future entirely? Where does mitigation come in?
We must understand that while countries in Europe and America are moving quickly towards clean energy, focused on reducing carbon emissions and are well protected by disaster risk reduction measures, northern Nigeria is just one of the many regions where the vast African population is experiencing the tribulations of climate change but is yet to grasp the magnitude of what is happening — and why.
- Dry season in Nigeria; usually between November and February (depending on how long the season lasts). Its usually consist of cold and dusty winds.
- Bean buns. Beans that are blended with vegetables and then fried.
- Motor tricycle
- Grilled meat. Suya is generally grilled on a mud pit, the meat is put in sticks then grilled in open space.
- Source Vanguard: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/06/nigeria-loses-forests-rate-11-1-annually-centre/amp/
- Nasreen Al-amin (Surge Africa), December 2018, A Report on Climate Awareness Survey in Kano City, Nigeria
Written by Nasreen Al-amin
Introduction by Mårten Thorslund, We Don’t Have Time
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