Both in scientific text and in generic media communication we are often frustrated by the interchanging usage of the closely-related terms, “global warming” and “climate change”. The processes are complicated, but it suffices to state that global warming causes climate change. It is indeed a science to simplify science. The former results from excessive accumulation of greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; the latter is responsible for progressive environmental disasters that endanger life, property, and livelihoods.
Thanks to the digital revolution, it has become easy, via the ubiquitous smart phone to google up technical jargon and popular slogans anywhere, and make enough sense of their intricate linkages. Additionally, it is important that readers look up “ecological footprint” and “carbon footprint”, which actually reflect the state and modulation potential of national, group and individual contributions to global warming.
In recent months there have been massive climate protests and rallies in the world’s capitals. Because Nigerians are not interested in such things, we wonder what the fuss is all about. In reality, climate change has become the greatest problem in the civilization of the 21st century. If the 16-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, has enough grasp of climate change science, so can all of us.
All nations on the planet are impacted by global warming without exception, and all countries and cultures must play a role in the mitigation of global warming, and adaptation to climate change. While industrialised countries are largely at fault in causing global warming, what should worry us more is the fact that the poorer nations will be disproportionately endangered by climate change.
Global warming is the resulting distillate from a centrifuge of economic growth and reckless environmental degradation. There are apocalyptic indices, no doubt, but in truth it is a matter of life and death which we cannot leave to governments. Evidence is incontrovertible, and hardly a branch of science exists over which experts are more in agreement. Climate change doubters have now shrunk to an infinitesimal minority.
Today, climatological changes in one portion of the planet are likely to cause havoc in a distant geographic environment. A change of currents in the South Pacific could remotely trigger off temperature anomalies in West Africa that result in heavy rainfall and floods in Nigeria. It is for this reason that the fight against global warming has progressed in joint international operations.
We all have a stake in combating climate change. The attack strategy is basically two-pronged: mitigation of global warming through alternative, energy efficient, and less polluting industrialisation by the rich nations targeted at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide; and adaptation by all countries to the impacts of climate change.
Because plants absorb carbon dioxide in the chemistry of photosynthesis, every tree you plant or cut down has an impact on the budget of carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere. Planting more than 500 billion trees globally could remove 25 percent of existing carbon from the atmosphere, a recent study has found. Nigerian cities must be filled with vegetation that will absorb carbon dioxide, check floods and soak up excessive rainfall and flash floods, but also provide breeding habitats for birds and pollinating bees, beetles, and butterflies. We have no choices but to create urban forests for our own safety. And it will cost next to nothing.
Are you interested in ecological footprint in terms of the number of hours you use the air conditioner, the quantity of fuel consumed by the jeep and generating set? Are you worried about how many single-use plastic bags you log home from the supermarket? Do you talk to your children about climate change? Have you thought of replacing your well-manicured lawns with a vegetable garden? Are there trees and shrubs in your compound? Have you practiced separating domestic waste – empty bottles, plastics and paper from biologically-degradable kitchen waste, to enable composting with the latter?
Have you thought of reducing the amount of meat you consume, based on the fact that compared with a 100g portion of vegetables, a 50g chunk of red meat is associated with at least 20 times as much greenhouse-gas emitted and 100 times as much land use. Are you considering installing solar panels on your roof top?
Any reader unable to answer 50 percent of these questions in the affirmative constitutes a climate change liability, and not the solution to the problem.
By Ako Amadi (Environmental and Social Impact Consultant; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Amadi resides on Road A4, at Plot A2B, of Carlton Gate Estate in Lagos, Nigeria. He studied marine science, international development and non-profit management at Kiel and Kassel universities in Germany, and at Harvard. He was Head of Marine Biology at the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography, Director of Nigerian Conservation Foundation, and Technical Advisor/Analyst with the Canadian International Development Agency, Abuja