October 24, 2022

Why climate change must define our elections

Why climate change must define our elections


FOLLOWING unprecedented rainfall this year, the vast length and breadth of this country has been flooded. Most adversely impacted are Kogi and Bayelsa states. Kogi State, which is located smack on the confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue, has been submerged by water. Bayelsa, which is down stream, has been cut off completely from civilisation, with nearly one million of its citizens displaced.

It is a tale of woe for nearly all the states of the federation, including the Mambilla and Jos plateaux, which experienced the most torrential rains in a generation. Not less than a conservative 700 Nigerians have lost their lives. Millions have lost their properties and live in camps. And millions more are prone to diseases and hunger as a consequence.

In fact, the impact of the flooding on farmlands and produce is so humongous that it is feared by the experts that the initial 14 million Nigerians projected by UNICEF to suffer hunger and starvation next year, arising from flooding and insecurity, is hugely underestimated. 

We can see clearly that climate change, which has brought about this flooding, is real and not a hoax as touted  by queers who are in denial. For Nigerians, and indeed humanity, climate change has assumed the proportion of a clear and present danger.

For a further appreciation of its adverse effects, we need to know what climate change is and its ramifications. The United Nations refers to the phenomenon as “shifts in temperatures and weather patterns”. These shifts, according to the UN, “may be natural such as through variations in the solar cycle”.

Human beings are said to be the major driver of climate change on account of burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. Temperatures and emissions continue to rise as a consequence of which our planet Earth is about 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than it was in the 1800s. In fact, it is reported that the 2011-2020 decade was the warmest on record.

The consequences of climate change are many and deleterious. They include: intense droughts as we have seen in East Africa and the desertification and desiccation of Northern Nigeria; hurricanes, particularly in the United States and the Caribbean; flooding as witnessed recently in Pakistan and Nigeria; deforestation as we have seen in the Brazilian Amazon; wild fires as have taken place in Europe, the United States, Australia and North Africa; and rising temperatures all over the world.

In Nigeria, climate change has given rise to fratricidal herder-farmer conflicts which have exacerbated insecurity, poverty, hunger and brought about needless deaths. Climate change, like life itself, is a poignant paradox: The one hundred least emitting countries generate a paltry three per cent of the total carbon while ten countries, with the largest emissions,  contribute 68 percent. The five greatest culprits are China, US, India, Russia and Japan.

While one can say that developing countries are at the receiving end of these emissions, such a position is languid and must be modulated by our own propensities. Nigeria, particularly, is complicit: We continue to produce fossil fuels through extraction of petroleum products and we flare gas. We continue to denude our forests and thick vegetation by felling trees with abandon. And even as we fell these trees, which we deploy for domestic use, we do not consciously replenish them by planting new ones.

We pay lip service to tree planting campaigns. Often, the campaigns are ceremonies held perennially with our Emirs and Chiefs either swaddled in elaborate turbans or bedecked in agbadas. The FCT, for instance, which used to be a cross between the rain forest and the savannah some 40 years ago, has now become one massive concrete with mansions and estates dominating the landscape.

But if some of our cities are massive concretes, in the manner of the FCT, with no trees planted to replace those cynically uprooted, my fear is that the flooding we have seen this year, and its devastating consequences, may be a new normal. The flood may revisit us in the near future, and with greater fury and vengeance, all thanks to the unrelenting and prolific emissions of the Earth’s polluters.

Which is why, in my consideration, climate change, must, like such issues as heightened insecurity, the battered economy, our wobbly educational system and our nearly non-existent health system(with medical doctors and health workers departing the country in droves), should assume a prominent place in the discourse and debates that will define the 2023 general elections.

It is intellectually indolent to lay the blame of climate change on the doorsteps of the biggest emitters. It is also convenient to exculpate us. Candidates jockeying for the presidency must, thus, be interrogated as to how they intend to overcome this daunting challenge.

The candidates must be asked to succinctly articulate for us a realisable and practical roadmap as to how they intend to surmount this challenge. How can Nigeria obviate or mitigate this disaster? How do we intend to work in concert with others to bring carbon emission to heel? 

What are the concrete, step by step, practical measures we should take to avoid flooding and its dire consequences? What is our position as a mono cultural economy, dependent on oil, against the resolution of the UN that fossil fuel production should decline by roughly six per cent per year between 2020 and 2030?

These concerns, in my view, are profound. They should inform and underline the on-going presidential campaigns and elections. Thankfully, the campaigns have just begun.