Climate Change And Challenges Of Reducing Carbon Emission —Rasak Musbau

Opinion

Opinion

Climate change has become a new reality and a peculiar problem that has continually put world leaders on their toes over the years.

The threat of climate change is now being properly addressed as not a mere environmental concern but developmental issues that have effects on health, agriculture, water needs and supply, economic growth and sustainable human settlements.

According to the book, The Psychology of Climate Change Communication, climate change refers to the changes that are occurring in the earth’s climate system and the impacts such changes are having on ecosystems and society.

Climate change is considered as the cause of the many major disasters the world has experienced in recent times. Such calamities include flood, heat, mudslide, landslide, fiercer weather condition, increased frequency and intensity of storms, desertification, and shortage of water, to mention a few.

In other words, it has a cumulative effect on natural resources and the balance of nature.

Key natural factors in climate change include changes in the intensity of sunlight reaching the earth and in the concentration of volcanic dust, which reflects sunlight back to space. Both of these factors alter the amount of sunlight that is absorbed by the earth’s climate system. Since the Industrial Revolution began about 150 years ago, climate change due to human influences has increased significantly. These key human influences include changes in greenhouse gas concentrations, ozone layer depletion, air pollution and alterations in land use. Most of these influences alter the composition of the atmosphere and thereby affect the amount of heat energy escaping to space.

These influences are often difficult to see. For example, carbon dioxide cannot be perceived by the eye. Also the concept of the depletion of the ozone layer will sound like rocket science to a lay man on the street.

However, the consequences or effects of climate change are so perceptible and significant on people’s lives and their lifestyles. In Nigeria, adaptation and mitigation of this environmental threat is gradually ascending the list of government concerns. Governments, especially in Lagos state are progressively combating the effects of climate change through public awareness, legal and institutional framework. But much as this is the case, there is still disconnection between government efforts and understanding and adaptive capacity of the citizenry.

Lifestyles of our people in regard to our environment are still a pointer that we have a long way to go. Whereas governments are spending millions of naira to plant trees, people are moving to new sites and cutting every tree met at the sites including fruit trees that can serve as food supplement. When the trees are not cut, people opt for the worse; set the site on fire as an easier way of clearing the site.

In a state where government is providing modern and cheap way of waste disposal, our people are still burning refuse and even throwing them into the drains. It is a big problem people are refusing to learn from the Sunday July 10, 2011 rains. Our people still believe they are utilizing their PHCN bill to the maximum by turning on their light when not at home and when at home but not in need of it without recourse to environmental consequence of the act.

Though it is not our fault that generating set has become a necessity in our household but putting it on over-night with all the noise and poisonous emission is unwarrantable.

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The reality on ground is that more than fuel subsidy which the Federal government told us is unsustainable; to live beyond today is unsustainable with many of our lifestyles.

These lifestyles include those that contribute to build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Mitigation of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions is necessary as Nigeria is the biggest polluter in Africa after South Africa. A major share of Nigeria’s emission comes from vehicles. Unfortunately, every rickety, ‘fourth hand cars’(tokunbo) from Cotonou, Togo and other smaller countries from where our people smuggle cars to the country freely pollute and damage our air with drivers going scot free.

I wonder why this is the case with the presence of Federal Road Safety Marshals and Vehicle Inspection Officers on the road. I think if president Obama in America is already planning green-car i.e. vehicles that can consume both ethanol and gasoline to meet 2015 environmental goals, vehicles that pollute our air should be taken out of the roads. Pollution of air by road unworthy vehicles is worsened by the illicit adulteration of fuels by unscrupulous marketers and our road traffic situation. Lagos, Rivers, Ogun and Abuja record a high number of road traffic during different times and days of the week. Traffic is a big problem in Nigeria not just because of global warming but because it contributes to insecurity, it reduces the quality of air in the near environment and stiffen flexibility of engagements by loss of man hours.

This is why ingenuity of Lagos State Government in creating a traffic agency-Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, with responsibilities to manage the Lagos traffic situation will continue to be seen as a well thought out creation by informed minds. Shortcomings of some of its officials aside, LASTMA is an agency serving multiple purposes. What is not known to many people is that LASTMA as an agency besides being a major solution to road traffic problems in Lagos also plays a critical role in climate change mitigation. It could have been a serious setback if proponents of the idea of scrapping the agency in the run up to 2011 election have had their way.

A lot of opportunities are inherent in the work of LASTMA. Millions of tons of carbon are cut over a period through their work. As the International Agreement known as Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions expires this year 2012, the desirable thing is for us to start tapping into all available resources and structure that we have to achieve what we want environmentally.

What we desperately need as global citizens is to retool our efforts and reinvent our strategies towards achieving the desired result. Ensuring environmental sustainability is a task that should be achieved before 2015 as entrenched in the seventh Millennium Development Goal. As it is, governments, environmental experts, the media and international agencies are talking and working to regenerate our environment. But what is missing is adjustment of lifestyle from people to connect with enlightenment and institutional framework of the government. It is in the light of this that UNICEF B field office and Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy collaborative effort in targeting schools as centre for climate change adaptation is seen as a welcome development.

Building adaptive capacity of children when holistically done will yield both short and long term desirable results. Climate change will be great for students as debate and quiz topic. It integrates so many subjects: geography, chemistry, biology, economics, government and more.

Meanwhile, as Lagos state would be organising fourth major International Climate Change Summit soon, options of co-opting children for their input should be explored and more partners’ active participation should be sought. Climate change solution with Lagos is possible.

 

•Rasak is of the Features Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa.

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