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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Climate change, media and Nigeria floods

Predictions by the National Coordinator of Climate Change Network in Nigeria (CCN), Mr. Surveyor Efik, that the Atlantic Ocean washout of the Kuramo Beach and Okun Afa settlements on the coastal city of Lagos are “small signs of bigger calamities to be unleashed on the city and the country,” seems to have manifested earlier than anticipated.

Efik may not have been the only one to have made such prediction about Nigeria; but he has, on several occasions, tried to paint the picture of the calamities that lie in wait for Nigeria – direct consequences of the changing climate – without mincing words each time he is prompted.

In August, he had submitted that, “unless urgent adaptation measures were taken, a tsunami may occur in Lagos.”

He also disclosed during that interview that the threat of the ocean surge, as a consequence of swollen water volume due to increase in global temperatures, hangs loosely on most (or all) of Nigeria’s coastal cities.

Efik made this assertion six years after a prediction by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) listed Lagos and other cities on the coastal line of Africa among those faced with extreme floods due to sea level rise.

Less than two months after his prediction, Nigeria is being flooded from north to south. Unfortunately, the country had been adequately warned. In 2005, a team of American marine and related experts on expedition of the Atlantic Ocean had noted that Nigeria and some cities on the mid-ridge of the Atlantic Ocean could be destinations for deadly hurricanes and similar events. Soon after, series of hurricanes hit some major cities in the United States and the Lagos Bar Beach was washed out by serious floods from the ocean.

At a recent meeting on Climate Change by the Africa Adaptation Programme (AAP) Nigeria in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Environment Editor at Independent Newspapers Limited, Mr. Michael Simire, noted that, although “humans have been adapting to their environments throughout history by developing practices, cultures and livelihoods  suited to local conditions,” current realities have shown that we are not prepared for the emergencies resulting from the swift changes in climatic conditions as experienced currently.

This holds so true for Nigeria, as the raging flash floods and its threats to the existence of man experienced  in the last one month across most parts of the country has caused unimaginable distress to lives and properties of inhabitants along the coastal line of the country with authorities being lost on what to do.

The reality of the devastation of the flood that had affected lives and properties in virtually all the six geo-political zones of the country was the reason concerned professionals came together in Lagos to face the reality of Climate Change, by proffering practical adaptation and mitigation solutions.

At the ‘Strategic Media and Development Partners Forum on Climate Change Adaptation in Nigeria, stakeholders exchanged ideas and deliberated on the need for the media to come up with strategies for the media to effectively communicate the reality of the change and make the people understand what it means.

Climate Change crusader, Mr. Tunde Akingbade, in a paper tagged, “Challenges of Climate Change Reporting and the Media in Nigeria,” stated that the expectation of man of rainfall at a given period of the year had changed, as all predictions by weather experts have been eroded by the change in climate.

“Twenty-two years ago, at the celebration of World Meteorological Day in Nigeria, one of Nigeria’s Meteorological experts sounded an alarm in Lagos that the sun was getting hotter and radiating more energy to the earth than it has done since creation. Very few people, including the media, thought that was something alarming that needed a space in the newspaper or television,” Akingbade noted, while informing on how climate change had been dubbed a figment of imagination in the past.

Not so many people may like President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe; but, on climate change, he probably got it right when he said, “With the rivers becoming heavily silted up, the flood danger is increased.” This statement as presented by Akingbade was sequel to a visit Mugabe made to Somalia in 1978, where he said: “He could have wept to see trees being choked by the advancing desert, rather like people being drowned in flood.”

Throwing this up to the media, he said the media must rise up to the challenges of informing, sensistising and communication of these threats to people in order for Nigerians to get used to present realities of our time.

He noted that since climate plays a role in the survival of man, the much talked about change does not mean change in weather but a change in what people are experiencing over a long period of time that has been changing or suddenly changed.

“Since the industrial revolution, more carbon dioxide and Green House Gases have been released into the atmosphere – causing he earth’s climate to be changing as confirmed by studies by the IPCC,” Akingbade noted. Unfortunately, this has received only marginal attention from governments of countries like Nigeria that are most at risk.

“The Nigerian environment has suffered from massive pollution and degradation in the last 55 years. In the North, the Sahara desert is threatening everyone while the sea is eating our 800 Kilometers shoreline with great intensity. The air is fouled by industrial fumes. In the Delta, gas flaring is scorching the earth. The climate is changing,” Akingbade said, adding that the bigger task is in the hands of the media, which he said cannot afford to sit on the fence.

Panelists at the Lagos meeting noted that adaptation is a measure that is usually planned in advance or measures that may be put in place simultaneously in response to pressure on the environment, noting that such measures may include building of wall fences and improve the quality of healthcare care and facility prior to its occurrence.

They also expressed worry that over politicisation of issues concerning climate might lead to further aggravation on the victims because of the insincerity of the populace on politicians. They accused politicians of taking advantage of such emergence situations for personal enrichment at the detriment of the victims.

The National Co-Ordinator, AAP Nigeria, Dr. Samuel Adejare Adejuwon, said, “The ongoing flooding in many parts of the country and the aftermath greatly underscores the vulnerability of Nigeria to the vagaries of nature.”

Adejare noted, “In Nigeria, the high level of climate risk is related to a number of factors, including our densely populated low-lying coastline, which is also home to a high concentration of industry and infrastructure.”

He also pointed out that the North of the country, which forms part of the Sahel, is at risk of further drought and desertification.

Recent analysis by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), as presented by him, shows a trend of late onset of the rainy season, with most of the country experiencing a below-average length of rainy season. Climate projections, according to him, have also indicated that mean annual rainfall will be lower in the North of the country and higher than normal in the coastal belt, with lower dry season contributions to annual totals in all belts.

“Sea-level rise leading to submergence of lowlands along the coast would result in much of the land currently used for agriculture being lost, with resultant devastating socio-economic and socio-cultural costs,” Adejare noted, while pointing out some of the climate change related weather conditions that were predicted prior to the recent events across the country.

On its part, Adejare said, AAP Nigeria has taken the bull by the horn.

“We have developed an electronic newsletter to update readers on the various activities and initiatives taking place under AAP in Nigeria. It will also interest you to know that the AAP Nigeria through the Climate Change Department of the Federal Ministry of Environment and with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) set up the AAP Media Network,” he informed the Lagos meeting.

Meanwhile, the experts and other stakeholders that met in Lagos said Climate change has opened the world of Science and Technology to further areas of researches as people are currently seeking ways of developing and producing reinforced electricity poles, roofing materials, drought and flood resistant crops, sporting materials footballs that defy soaking, synthetic playing turfs among others.

The bigger challenge, however lies with government at all levels, which have been urged by the Lagos meeting  to be sincere and proactive towards issues of climate.

By Onche Odeh and Oyeniran Apata

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