CLIMATE CHANGE: A 2 Degrees Warmer Nigeria

CLIMATE CHANGE: A 2 Degrees Warmer Nigeria

Yobe State, 2013
Yobe State, 2013 — Image Credits

Eleven northern states – the so-called frontline states – representing 43% of the country’s land mass, are facing a relentless expansion of the Sahara. Africa’s biggest desert is expanding southwards by more than half a kilometer each year. With a continued rise in carbon emissions and more global warming, it is likely that the sand dunes will reach Abuja. Current science indicates that the number of hot days will double in Nigeria – with implications for agriculture as well as human and animal health. By 2020, if no climate change adaptation is implemented, between 2-11% of Nigeria’s GDP could potentially be lost. Where forests used to cool the climate in northern Nigeria, exposed landscapes and communities suffer from intense solar radiation. At the same time, people continue to cut down the remaining trees for cooking and baking of bread. A typical bakery uses one tree per day – that’s one forest of 300 trees lost every day for Jigawa State alone.


Onitsha, 2012 — Image Credits
Much of Nigeria’s catastrophic erosion is man-made and due to poor environmental management such as blockage of water ways and sewage systems, often through misguided construction projects. But carbon emissions and the resulting global warming exacerbate the erosion problem, as rains are becoming more extreme and flush precious farm lands, forests, buildings and whole roads into greedy gullies. The estimated 3,000 gullies present in southeastern Nigeria vary in size - some are vast complexes of eight kilometers with fingers one or two kilometers long. Flooding and gully erosion is taking a large toll on the health, environment, economic and social assets of mostly poor Nigerians. The World Bank estimates the economic losses from erosion at more than 100 million dollars per year in terms of injuries and premature death, loss of vegetation cover and environmental services, income losses and yield reduction (farm to market mobility disruption), damage to infrastructure (transport, water systems, telecommunications, social infrastructure), as well as private property, social dislocation, and migration.


Image Credits

They might not know that global carbon emissions are the cause of their problems, but millions of Nigerian farmers – both women and men – are living the reality of climate change in form of degrading soils, diminishing harvests and resulting hunger. With further increases in carbon emissions, food security will be under extreme stress in Nigeria as large areas of land will become useless. Long-term records show that over the past 105 years, the average amount of rainfall per year dropped by 81 mm. As temperatures increase, agricultural outputs decline because of high evaporation rates, reduced soil moisture, lowering of the groundwater table and shrinking of surface water. Heat stress reduces farmers’ productivity and leads to rapid deterioration and wastage of farm produce. The biggest obstacle, however, is lack of knowledge on how to adapt to the changing climate – only 5% of Nigerian farmers have access to improved, climate resilient seeds. Bush burning remains a significant source of carbon emissions and is the no.2 emitter in Nigeria, after gas flaring in the Niger Delta.


Flooding — Image Credits
Global warming has raised global sea level about 8 inches since 1880, and the rate of rise is accelerating. Rising seas dramatically increase the odds of damaging floods from storm surges. A Climate Central analysis finds that the likelihood of so-called century floods occurring will double until 2030. A climate change projection map for Lagos shows how the megacity will be flooded: under a 2 degree global warming scenario, coastal areas such as Lekki Phase I will be totally submerged whilst Lagos Island and Amuwo Odofin will be partially under water. Under a 4 degree global warming scenario, a huge area of Lagos would be under water, from the Lekki Free Trade Zone and its new deep sea port (currently under construction) all the way north to Surulere and Lagos Mainland. The catastrophic flooding of 2012 will repeat itself many times over, as rivers suddenly swell with excessive rains.


Conflicts — Image Credits
Even before the violence in the North East spiraled out of control, young populations in northern Nigeria were facing an extremely devastated environment. Water shortages led to farmlands turning into sand dunes and the number of kidney patients was rising as people simply did not have enough drinking water. There is a steady and silent movement of thousands of people southwards, all the way from Lake Chad to Sokoto and Kebbi States, as the land does not feed its people any longer. The southward movement will soon be met by a northward movement of climate refugees from flooded zones in Nigeria’s coastal regions. When all of these internally displaced people converge in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, increasing conflict is the likely scenario, with a wide variety of manifestations such as farmer-herder conflicts, community clashes over access to water, tension between so-called indigenes and so-called settlers, legal action of landlords versus farm workers, and more.

Related Content

  • My farm fell into the gulley

    Gulley erosion has swallowed houses and entire communities in Nigeria’s East. As rains are getting more extreme and water ways are blocked by construction projects and blocked drainages, small gaps in the earth grow into deep valleys of sorrow. The economy of an entire region is affected and damage is counting in billions of Naira. Watch this video to hear how Chief Tony Nzelu lost his farm and livelihood to gulley erosion.

  • Farming in the desert

    The scientific language is clear: over the past 105 years, the amount of rainfall per year dropped by 81 mm. The trend of declining rainfall worsened after 1970 and continues to this date. Between 1941 and 2000, average temperatures increased by an alarming 1.4-1.9 degrees Celsius. But what does it mean to young Nigerians when the rains don’t come any longer? Hear Yusuf Darama from Yobe State describe his generation’s lack of perspective. Watch Video 

  • Paddling on the highway

    Nigeria has been hit by unprecedented flooding in October 2012. With large sways of land under water, the question of food security is being discussed afresh. Under increasing climate stress and with more extreme weathers, flooding is likely to increase over the coming years. Listen to Adamu Umar as he is paddling on the Lokoja-Abuja express road. Watch Video

  • Wrath of the Sea Goddess

    Sea level rise is damaging the Atlantic coast between Megacity Lagos and Calabar towards Cameroon, eating away up to 30 meters of coastline every year. Fishing communities have moved inland, but are now running out of options as they are encroaching on built lands and communities. Is it all the fault of humans angering the Sea Goddess? Watch video to hear the perspectives of residents of Alfa Beach community in Lagos.


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