Author – Babajide Oluwase
Submitted for Write for Change
Climate change is becoming an issue of rising importance around the world, and Africa is not left out in this. However, it seems many still do not understand the insidious nature of this phenomenon. One observable fact is that, many people won’t act on an issue unless they realise it has a direct impact on their lives and/or their communities. A recent prove of this is the case of Ebola outbreak.
Why are some people still sceptical about the reality of climate change, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence available today? It is natural to assume that many people do not accept the science of climate change, because they do not understand it, or perhaps need to know about it. Certainly, someone who knows very little or nothing about climate change is unlikely to care a great deal about its consequences. It is then important that facts about climate change should be widely circulated and well communicated to all and sundry.
Climate change is a long-term shift in weather pattern, especially a change due to increase in the average atmospheric temperature that is affecting the wellbeing of human and the environment. Several studies has shown that the burning of coal, oil, and greenhouse gases has led to warming up of the global environment, and it has even been projected to get worse in the coming years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
When we look around us today, apparently, our climate is changing, and attached to it are various environmental challenges you can think of right now. As opined by the popular Stem Review on the Economics of Climate Change, “climate change is liable to affect the basic elements of life of people around the world – access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages, and coastal flooding as the earth increasingly warms.”
Just imagine what we have done in the little time spent on the planet earth. I can confidently say the real crisis is not global warming, environmental destruction, or animal extinction, it is us. These problems are as a result of our unsustainable action overtime. Many of us might call this mistake, but future right does not accept it because an error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.
Simply put, human activity is causing the environment to get hotter than one can ever imagine.
In Nigeria for example, oil companies prefer to flare the associated gas due to cost. Nigeria flares more natural gas with oil extraction than any other country, with estimates suggesting that of the 100 million cubic metre of associated gas produced annually, about 70% is wasted via flaring. (Wikipedia, 2006) This equals about 25% of the UK’s total natural gas consumption, and is the equivalent to 40% of the entire African continent’s gas consumption in 2001.
Noticeably, the ripple down effect of this is evident in polluted water bodies, unclean air, and poor soil capacity due to soil acidification by various pollutants associated with gas flaring in affected communities across Nigeria. While air pollution in China, India, and other emerging economies has become a major area of concern for scientists and policy makers, it has gained little traction in Nigeria and even in Africa where it is a growing problem to sustainable living.
Fortunately, never in human history has there been a summit to negotiate and support a treaty as ambitious as the recent Paris climate deal. A summit that brought exactly 195 governments together. As listed by some agencies, that is the total number of independent nations on the planet. The scope of the treaty involves a total system overhaul to the lifeblood of the global economy: decarbonisation of energy. The best way to go is to significantly transit to renewable energy sources, and let it play a larger role in the supply of energy.
Regardless of whether the transition to renewable forms of energy will be easy or extremely difficult, sooner or later, we all have to face some major changes different from our current way of life. The challenge to adopting sustainable measures is not as a result of lack of knowledge, but because we are simply resisting such constraints, as many would call them. From a social perspective, the oil producing communities in Nigeria have experienced severe marginalization and neglect from concerned stakeholders (government and private oil companies).
A typical example of this scenario is the massive oil exploration in the Niger Delta, which has posed and still posing serious threats to human health, indigenous culture, and the environment. Whereas, the economic and political benefits are given more attention by the government rather than the resulting damage to our ecological balance. Sadly, this is the reality people in oil producing communities of a developing country like Nigeria have to deal with on daily basis.
“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and stroke”, said Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “Few risks have greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”
What then is the way forward? The solution is simply living the ‘green’ life. This can be achieved by reducing our dependence on fossil fuel products as well as decisively cut down environmental pollution in the society. Converting earth’s heat, sunlight, nuclear power, and wind could in the next century, meet most of our energy needs. Wind and solar do not create dangerous waste products and are secure, indigenous, and freely available in abundance.
Conclusively, we must realize that we are not apart from nature, we are a part of nature. To betray nature is to betray humanity, to save nature is to save humanity because whatever you are fighting for, be it racism, poverty, feminism, or any kind of equality, they won’t really matter because if we don’t work together to save the environment, we would be equally extinct someday. We all deserve air that is clean, water that is drinkable, and land that is free from contamination. Achieving this is not rocket science, but simply by commitment, political will, and collective action, it can be accomplished.