World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) found that “2021 was the seventh warmest year to date, at 1.11oC (± 0.13) above pre-industrial (1850-1990) levels”. Since the 1980s, “each decade has been warmer than the previous one and this is expected to continue” according to WMO.
In its latest report published on May 9, 2022, the Secretary-General of WMO, Prof. Petteri Taalas, stated that, “For as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases, temperatures will continue to become warmer and more acidic, sea ice and glaciers will continue to melt, sea level will continue to rise and our weather will become more extreme.”
In Africa, the 2021 average temperature for the continent was 1.33oC (2.39oF) above average with West Africa seeing some of its highest annual temperature yet, especially in Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Togo and Nigeria. The sixth Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s second installment report (AR6) released on February 28, 2022 has warned of “irreversible” consequences for failure to at least stay below 2oC in order to stave off worst climate induced catastrophes. “Climate change has increased heat waves and drought on land, and doubled the probability of marine heat waves around most of Africa,” the report further warned.
Impacts of rising global temperature know no borders, race or gender except sadly, the disproportionate and vulnerable risks posed to those least responsible for causing it (e.g. Africa is responsible for less than 4% of total global greenhouse gas emissions) bearing the brunt of heat waves and drought.
Nigeria’s city of Lagos, second most populous city in Africa with population of 13.4 million (source: Lagos State govt, 2021), is grappling with eroding coastline and flooding attributable to “global warming and human-induced action over a prolonged period” according to Seyifunmi Adebote, an environmentalist and host: @ClimateTalkPodd based in Lagos. Global sea levels are predicted to rise up to two meters by the end of this century. A University of Plymouth, UK study from 2012 found that, “A sea level rise of 3 to 9 feet (i.e. 1 to 3 meters) will have a catastrophic effect on human activities” in Nigerian coastal environments.
The term “Nature-based solutions” was first coined in 2008 by the World Bank and adopted the same year by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to Carbon Brief, Nature-based solutions are the “protective actions, sustainable management and restorations of modified ecosystems in ways that effectively address community, societal and wild habitat challenges adaptively while providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”. Nature-based solutions were cited by nearly two-thirds of the 168 original NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) submitted to UNFCCC under the Paris agreement according to an analysis published in the Global Sustainability Journal.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuels is the single biggest contributor to heat trapping gases in the atmosphere escalating the planet’s temperature rise thereby intensifying extreme weather events across the globe. According to IEA (International Energy Agency), 2021 saw global energy emissions of carbon dioxide rose by six per cent to 36.3 billion tonnes making it the highest ever as global economies were recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Oil, coal and natural gas make up 80 per cent of the world’s energy demands and when burnt, they produce carbon dioxide (CO2). At the just concluded COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, several countries pledged to substantially reduce fossil fuel dependence while increasing investments in clean energy such as solar, wind, hydrogen and others. For a chance to meet net zero targets, solar, wind, geothermal, EVs, and hydrogen fuel must dominate the global energy mix by 2050 according to IEA.
Large concentrations of CO2 in the air can naturally be removed by planting more trees in our localities, towns and cities while protecting existing ones and preserving and expanding our forest cover. Besides mopping and sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere, trees cool off land surface temperature by up to 12oC from a study of 293 European cities according to Greenpeace. The Africa Great Green Wall (AGGW) afforestation project from Senegal stretching to Djibouti (about 8,000km) slated for completion by 2030 will substantially decelerate desert encroachment, cool the local temperature, increase annual rainfall, enhance biodiversity, recharge ground water and improve living conditions of local communities in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Enhancing green spaces in the cities through tree planting lowers temperature of the surrounding areas which also enhances mental wellness of the populace.
Mangrove conservation and reforestation
Nigeria’s mangrove ecosystem is the biggest in Africa and the 5th largest in the world presenting an opportunity to harness its immense benefits to shoreline protection, replenishment of sea water for rivers/estuaries, biodiversity conservation and source of livelihood for local communities around them. Mangroves are a massive storage for carbon (stores four times as much carbon as conventional forest) and equally acting as bulwarks against sea level rise, storm surges, floods, coastal erosion and natural habitat for a variety of species enhancing the health of the local ecosystem. Marine ecosystems thrive in mangrove forests and also act as shelter for migratory birds to and from Europe to Africa and the rest of the world. Conserving, protecting and restoring mangroves tackle both land and coastal temperature rise hence a veritable climate action to limit global warming.
Nigeria is also endowed with rich wetland areas spread across the Niger Delta, Sokoto-Rima, Lokoja, Jebba, Hadejia-Nguru wetlands, Benue, and Chad basins with eleven of them designated as Ramsar wetlands of international importance. Wetlands are a major storage and sequester of carbon dioxide (CO2) with an estimated storage of more than one-third of the world’s terrestrial carbon. However, their destruction often results in major release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere hence the need to protect and conserve them. As part of wetland conservation, about four hectares of tree/fruit orchard with economic benefits to the locals were recently reforested at the Hadejia-Nguru wetlands by the Jigawa State government early this year.
Yunusa Isa is the founder Green Habitat Foundation firstname.lastname@example.org