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Much A Do About Climate Change

This week, the whole world watched in awe as the flooding catastrophe unfolded  in the middle east.  Severe floods inundated the United Arab Emirates this…

This week, the whole world watched in awe as the flooding catastrophe unfolded  in the middle east. 

Severe floods inundated the United Arab Emirates this week, as a storm dumped the largest amount of rainfall the country has seen in more than 75 years, the government said. A record 254mm (10in) of rainfall dropped in Al Ain, a city bordering Oman – more than the country sees on average in a year. Highways turned to rivers as drivers abandoned stuck vehicles, homes and businesses have been damaged, and flights at one of the world’s busiest airports have been significantly disrupted. According to Al-Jazeera, in neighbouring Oman, storms and heavy rain in recent days, killed 10 schoolchildren and an adult driver in a vehicle that was overtaken by floodwaters. So far, twenty people have reportedly been killed, and the recovery is expected to be slow: in a place known for its dry desert climate and hot temperatures where rain is rare, many areas lack drainage.

The question on everyone’s lips as we watched these horrific scenes on our screens is:

‘Did climate change cause this?’

The simple answer is Yes. Greta Thunberg has been vindicated.

The answer is however a bit more complex as Dubai has been involved in a cloud seeding project. Cloud seeding is a process in which chemicals are implanted into clouds to increase rainfall in an environment where water scarcity is a concern. Many are therefore wondering whether it was this cloud seeding that caused this catastrophe. Tik-Tok meteorologists have since decried that ‘Arabs brought it upon themselves’, but studies are showing that it is simply not true. Since parched UAE periodically conducts cloud seeding to increase level of its dwindling groundwater, extreme rainfall between Monday night and Tuesday evening raised questions on the artificial rain mechanism. 

Scientists are absolute that this catastrophe was a clear signal of climate change. The huge rainfall was instead likely due to a normal weather system that was exacerbated by climate change. A low pressure system in the upper atmosphere, coupled with low pressure at the surface had acted like a pressure ‘squeeze’ on the air, according to Esraa Alnaqbi, a senior forecaster at the UAE government’s National Centre of Meteorology.

That squeeze, intensified by the contrast between warmer temperatures at ground level and colder temperatures higher up, created the conditions for the powerful thunderstorm, she said.

The “abnormal phenomenon” was not unexpected in April as when the season changes the pressure changes rapidly, she said, adding that climate change also likely contributed to the storm. Climate scientists say that rising global temperatures, caused by human-led climate change, is leading to more extreme weather events around the world, including intense rainfall. With global warming there is now a tendency that if it rains, it will rain very heavily. Therefore, we should expect this kind of events frequently in any part of the world and at any time.

The rains have reduced significantly and the countries involved are now instituting damage control measures as best as they can, which begs the question: ‘What about Nigeria? How is climate change affecting us?’

Nigeria, much like other nations globally, has faced its share of climate change-related catastrophes, such as the one that occurred a quarter-century ago in the northeastern region, now comprising Borno and Yobe states. The southern portion of Lake Chad, situated within Nigerian borders, suffered a significant decline, with its area plummeting from over 40,000 square kilometers four decades ago to a mere 1,300 square kilometers today. This ongoing negative trajectory has been accompanied by the encroaching Sahara Desert, spurred by rising temperatures. Consequently, fertile lands and nearby communities have succumbed to desertification, prompting a mass exodus of inhabitants from the northeast toward the more verdant plateau and middle belt regions in search of arable land.

It is climate change that has caused growing desertification which has in turn forced thousands of Fulani herdsmen to move to the south and middle belt leading to clashes with crop farmers culminating in death of hundreds of Nigerians.

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 sea level, it has fallen victim of extreme oil pollution.

Remember the flood of 2012 in southern Nigeria where houses, farms, farm products, properties and even human beings were swept away? 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.

Climate change is our planet’s greatest existential threat. If we don’t limit greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, the consequences of rising global temperatures include massive crop and fishery collapse, the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of species, and entire communities becoming uninhabitable. While these outcomes may still be avoidable, climate change is already causing suffering and death. From raging wildfires and supercharged storms, its compounding effects can be felt today, outside our own windows.

When people ask how climate change affects our health, I tell them this:

Imagine a city experiencing a severe heatwave. The combination of high temperatures and humidity makes it extremely uncomfortable and dangerous for residents, especially vulnerable populations such as the elderly, young children, and those with pre-existing health condition. People working outdoors or without access to air conditioning may suffer from heat exhaustion. Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and headaches. Without proper intervention, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke. In extreme cases, prolonged exposure to high temperatures can cause heatstroke, a life-threatening condition where the body’s temperature regulation system fails. Symptoms include a high body temperature (above 103°F or 40°C), confusion, rapid pulse, and loss of consciousness. Heatstroke requires immediate medical attention and can result in organ damage or death if not treated promptly.

One hospital in Mali’s capital, Bamako, recorded 102 deaths within the first four days of April, close to the number of deaths recorded for the entire month last year! More than half of those who died were over the age of 60 the hospital said, and that the heat played a role in their deaths. 

Many of the respiratory problems that people are facing now is due to air pollution which is caused by the climate change crisis. Climate change worsens air quality. It increases exposure to hazardous wildfire smoke and ozone smog triggered by warmer conditions, both of which harm our health, particularly for those with pre-existing illnesses like asthma or heart disease.

Insect-borne diseases like malaria and Zika become more prevalent in a warming world as their carriers are able to exist in more regions or thrive for longer seasons. In the past 30 years, the incidence of Lyme disease from ticks has nearly doubled in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Ultimately, the way climate change impacts weather, the environment, animals, and agriculture affect humanity as well. But there’s more. Around the world, our ways of life—from how we get our food to the industries around which our economies are based—have all developed in the context of relatively stable climates. As global warming shakes this foundation, it promises to alter the very fabric of society. At worst, this could lead to widespread famine, disease, war, displacement, injury, and death. For many around the world, this grim forecast is already their reality. In this way, climate change poses an existential threat to all human life.

There is problem fa!


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