There is no gain saying the fact that man depends on his environment for existence and sustenance such that man’s life is shaped by his environment and this underscores the need for the protection of the environment from all forms of degradation, especially those brought about by the activities of man.
Realising the significance and inevitability of the environment for survival of man, environmental experts have been arguing vociferously that without the environment man cannot exist since human activities are made possible by the existence of his environment.
Nowadays, environmental issues are receiving attention at global levels and the global communities are continuously making efforts towards ensuring that the world is a better place for human habitation. Of note in this regard is the CNN Television News Report of September 3rd, 2016 showcasing the signing of Paris Climate Change agreement by both United States and China which sought to cut carbon emissions by half within the next fifteen years. This endorsement is significant because the USA and China are said to account for about 40% global carbon emissions.
Undoubtedly, the world continues to be under the threat of climate change problems like global warming, greenhouse gas effects, flooding, acid rain typhoons, rising sea levels, rising sea temperatures resulting in depletion of marine organisms, earthquakes, wind storms, land and mud slides, desertification, tsunami, erosion, volcanic activities, hurricanes, pollution, deforestation among several others.
Climate change is principally a major problem caused by the increase of human activities if you like, call it human mismanagement of the earth leading to several direct and indirect impacts on health. These climatic changes have wide-range harmful effects including increase in heat-related mortality, dehydration, spread of infectious diseases, malnutrition, damage to public health infrastructure, migration of both man and animals among others.
Nigeria like other countries of the world has its own experience of climate change disasters like the one that struck 25 years ago in the north-eastern region presently comprising Borno and Yobe states, the southern part of Lake chad, the section of it that lies inside Nigerian territory dried up.
Some four decades ago, the Lake covered an area of over 40,000 square kilometers, whereas it now encompasses a mere 1,300 square kilometers. While the negative trend continues unabated and as land is laid to waste by the rising temperature leading to the rapid southward expansion of the Sahara Desert. Farmlands and surrounding villages became barren and were swallowed up by advancing desertification, which led to massive migration of people in search of more fertile terrain from the north east towards the greener plateau and middle belt regions.
Growing desertification forced thousands of Fulani herdsmen to move to the south and middle belt leading to clashes with crop farmers culminating in death of hundreds according to the reports of residents and activists.
Nigeria’s Guinea Savannah region is not spared either. Logging and over dependence on firewood for cooking have stripped a greater part of this area of its vegetation cover. The situation is similarly replicated in the south, where the forest around Oyo has long been reduced to grassland.
The south – eastern part of the country has been struck by a different ill. There, gulley-erosion has devastated many settlement areas and farmlands, leading to poverty among local populations.
And, it doesn’t stop there. Just as desertification is devastating vast areas of the north, rising sea levels are threatening Nigeria’s coastal regions. Although a source of oil wealth, the Niger Delta’s low-lying terrain and criss-cross of waterways make it extremely vulnerable to flooding, apart from being at the risk of rising sealevel, it has fallen victim of extreme oil pollution
Moreover, in the southern Nigeria, climate change is also reflected in the massive flood experienced in 2012, houses, farms, farm products, properties and even human beings were swept away . Also the statistics released by the southwest zonal office of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) about 2 years ago show that no fewer than 5000 persons were affected and 60 houses destroyed in a windstorm which occurred in four states in the south -west region.
Negligence and a failure to tackle the issue of climate change by successive governments have also contributed to the rise of insurgency groups across the country. Against this backdrop, if appropriate, preventive action is not taken and adaptation measures are not implemented in time, the results could be catastrophic.
No doubt, the need to preserve, protect and promote the environment constitutes a headache to many nations and dominate discussions and activities of government and non- government organizations across the globe. This is because the nature and prospects of the future are determined by the safety of the environment and this fact has increased the need for a healthy and functional plan to preserve and protect the environment.
It was in line with this, amongst several other factors, that two-day South-south regional intensive training workshop to strengthen stakeholders capacity towards mainstreaming climate change into state development plans was held in Calabar, Cross River state, recently. It was organized by Department of Climate Change under the Federal Ministry of Environment and the National Planning Commission (NPC) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
After the overall plenary, a communiqué was issued as the collective minds of all the participants present According to the communiqué, the climate change has become a threat to the environment and economy in ways that will affect and impact the various sector if left unchecked.
The communiqué stated that climate change is a development issue that should be mainstreamed into various sectors of national, regional and state development plans.
That climate change has disastrous consequences which Nigeria has began to experience especially in the southern Nigeria as reflected in the massive flood experienced in 2012. Indeed, television reports only recently showed vast areas of Niger and Kano states experiencing massive flood tending towards the type experienced in 2012.
Some of the solution proffered were the need to mainstream climate change into national, regional and state development plans, adapt policies needed to be an integral part of government initiatives, given the cross-cutting nature of the impact of climate change, as well as provide an important intersection between development and climate change adaptation and remediation in that they both aim to reduce the root causes of vulnerability.
Others include raising awareness on issues of climate change which is presently at low ebb especially amongst vulnerable groups like women, children, even at the grassroots, especially rural dwellers, as well as revive the tree planting program by raising awareness for individuals to plant trees. “
As part of the efforts to mainstream the climate change,, the Federal government has proactively taken steps in addressing environmental problems. These include effective management of waste, flood and coastal erosion. It has also built up our advocacy programmes through workshops, seminars, public lectures, media campaign, climate change and waste water summits, tree planting land reclamation, landscaping and beautification, campaign against desertification through the desert warriors, and control of land, water, noise and air pollution.
Allied to this, the Great Green Wall of the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative is a planned project to plant a wall of trees across Africa at the southern edge of the Sahara desert as a means to prevent desertification . It is to be implemented in Nigeria in eleven frontline States of Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno. It will cover 43 LGAs in the frontline states to be covered to rehabilitate 225,000 Ha of lands. It involves establishment of green wall or shelterbelt from Kebbi State to Borno State, a distance of 1,500 km and 15 km wide, Community Sensitization & Mobilization, Promotion of alternative sources of energy, promotion of alternative means of livelihoods, Promotion of dry land agricultural technology and promoting alternative water source for human, plant and animal use through solar powered boreholes, with over 300 functional boreholes in operation as at early September 2016.
Apart from the suggestions encapsulated in the communiqué, and steps taken by government so far, there is also the need to adopt appropriate technologies to mitigate the scourge at all levels, while there should be strengthening of the weak human capacity and infrastructure for mainstreaming climate change in national development.
Similarly, as part of the science of climate change the curriculum planners should ensure that they put in place core knowledge of, and information about, climate change as part of compulsory education for students at all levels. Students should learn about the potential impacts of unmanaged climate change, as well as options for adaptation and mitigation, in order to enable a complete and robust understanding
Additionally, University lecturers should be financially motivated to carry out research in various fields of knowledge related to climate change, so that innovative research can contribute to practical solutions.
Furthermore, policy makers, school administrators, teachers, parents, and students should embark on raising awareness of climate change in Nigeria.
Also, appropriate technologies for adaptation and mitigation should be deployed at all levels, while there should be strengthening of the weak human capacity and infrastructure for mainstreaming climate change in national development.
Furthermore, it is presently being argued that there is paucity of data for mainstreaming of climate change in development issues, and there is an urgent need to reverse this trend by generating abundant data and statistics that will enhance the application of key performance indicators for the purpose of effective monitoring and evaluation.
One is very positive and hopeful that with adherence to the solutions proffered during the two- day south-south regional intensive training workshop contained in the communiqué issued after the overall plenary that were discussed elsewhere in this feature, coupled with my personal suggestions in this story will go a long way in taming climate change disasters thereby enabling both government and the people to concentrate on programmes, policies, projects and activities that will eventually enhance the determination of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration to move the nation forward thereby achieving the desired change.