The impacts of climate change in Nigeria will vary in extent, severity and intensity, but the exact degree still remains uncertain. This is because a detailed and in-depth quantitative research into the vulnerability of Nigeria’s socio-economic sectors is yet to be undertaken. The general consensus is that all sectors of the country’s development and the natural ecosystems will be affected by climate change.
Of course these impacts are not going to be felt overnight, and one could therefore argue that the structure of the economy will gradually change during the actual time period before the impacts are likely to be fully realised. Consequently, it is important to note that these potential impacts only serve as rough indications of what may likely happen if the current trends in temperature and rainfall changes persist, and if no adaptation and other adjustments take place. They serve as general guidelines for future policy directions and the imperative to take immediate action without waiting for the potential calamitous effects of climate change on the economy and livelihoods of the people to take place.
The following is a summary of what is at risk in Nigeria in the face of climate change, based on various studies:
Overall Economy: According to the DFID (2009) study, if no adaptation is implemented, between 2-11% of Nigeria’s GDP could potentially be lost by 2020, thereby hampering the national development goal of becoming one of the top 20 economies in the world. In this regard, climate change presents significant threats to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (or the new Sustainable Development Goals), especially those related to eliminating poverty and hunger and promoting environmental sustainability. It would increase vulnerability and hinder or reverse the development process.
Agriculture and Food Security: Agriculture is one of the sectors most sensitive to global warming in Nigeria. Under a “business as usual scenario”, agricultural productivity in the country could generally decline between 10 to 25 per cent by 2080. For some areas in the northern part of the country, the decline in yield in rainfed agriculture could be as much as 50 percent. According to some recent work, climate-induced declines in crop yields are expected to have significant longterm effects on the GDP of Nigeria, reducing it by as much as 4.5 percent by 2050. These modeling results assume—in accordance with Vision 20: 2020—that the share of agriculture in GDP will decline from 40 to just 15 percent. Climate change is also projected to affect food trade. For example, the long term net imports of yams and other vegetables are expected to decrease, but net imports of rice are expected to increase, by as much as 40 percent, unless significant transformation of the agriculture is carried out in a climate-smart manner.
Water: Climate change is an additional stress to water security in Nigeria. Climate change would result in increased variability in rainfall, predictably resulting in floods in some humid areas to the south in the country and decrease in precipitation in the savanna north. This may result in droughts and decrease in surface water resources in the north. A considerable proportion of the population is at risk of water stress, with less than 40% with potable water. Also, hydro-electric power generation suffers frequently from low in-flow into the dams, and water transportation along inland channels has also been negatively impacted. The situation is expected to worsen in the very near future (FMEnv, 2010). There are also possible changes in surface runoffs and groundwater flows in shallow aquifers that can be linked to climate variability, with implications for permanent and seasonal water bodies such as lakes and reservoirs. The rapid shrinking of Lake Chad from about 45,000 km2 in 1960 to less than 3,000 km2 in 2007 is attributed mainly to changes in the climatic conditions over the region towards increasing aridity in the extreme northeastern part of the country. The dwindling water resources of the sub-region, which has drastically reduced opportunities for sustainable agriculture, is a plausible contributing factor to the current conflicts and high degree of insecurity being witnessed in the area.
Floods and Droughts: Climate change would result in increased variability in rainfall, predictably resulting in floods in many parts of the country, particularly the humid areas, with devastating consequences. For example, the total value of destroyed physical and durable assets caused by the 2012 floods alone in the most affected states of Nigeria has been estimated to be about N1.48 trillion (about US$9.5 billion) or about 2% of its currently debased GDP of US$510 billion. While floods may further ravage the humid areas to the south, decrease in precipitation is expected in the savanna north. This may result in increased drought frequency and decrease in surface water resources, particularly in the north. Thus, the northern part of the country may increase its dependence on underground water sources.
Soil Erosion: Climate change-related heavier and steadier than normal rainfall that is expected in the southern part of the country will worsen soil erosion that is already of catastrophic condition in the sub-region. Recent increase in the number of reported severe landslides in southeastern States of the country is an attestation to the possible climate change-induced changes in erosion intensity.
Sea Level Rise: Global warming-induced accelerated sea level rise (ASLR) of 0.5 – 1m that is anticipated for Nigeria could worsen the environmental condition of the country’s coastline, which is already undergoing pronounced morphological changes as a result of natural extreme events such as sea surges and tidal waves. With specific reference to the Niger Delta, it is estimated that with an accelerated sea level rise (ASLR) of about 0.5m, about 35% of the delta could be lost. With ASLR of about 1.0 m by 2100 (French et.al., 1995) about 75% of the delta could be lost.
Energy: Climate change will have significant effects on the energy sector in Nigeria. In particular, rising temperatures would result in increased energy demand for air conditioning, refrigeration and other household uses. This will be very critical in this era of energy insufficiency in the country.
Tourism: Tourism, one of Nigeria’s fastest growing industries, could be negatively affected as many tourist attractions are located along the coastal zone of the country. Also, those tourist-attracting traditional festivals (e.g. Argungu festival on river Argungu in Kebbi State) may decline to the extent that climate change induces shrinkage of such rivers.
Ecosystems: The forest ecology and the ecosystems that are already under significant human pressure would be adversely affected. Persistent flooding and water logging due to accelerated sea level rise or extreme weather events could render forest regeneration more difficult. The savanna biome of northern Nigeria would be very vulnerable to any climate-change-related dramatic reduction in rainfall in the region. This could result wide spread degradation of habitats and the intensification of desertification.
How adequately or otherwise Nigeria is responding to these potential challenges will be addressed in future articles.
(People who are interested in additional technical details can read: (a) Cervigni, R., Riccardo, V., and Monia, S, eds. 2013. Toward Climate-Resilient Development in Nigeria. Directions in Development. Washington, DC: World Bank.; (b) DFID (Department for International Development), 2009: Impact of Climate Change on Nigeria’s Economy.; and (c) FGoN (Federal Government of Nigeria), 2013: Nigeria Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) 2012 Floods).
By Prof. Emmanuel Oladipo (Climate Change Specialist and Adjunct Professor, Department of Geography, University of Lagos, Nigeria. email@example.com)