The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change defines climate change as a change of climate (air temperature, windfall, wind speed) which is attributable directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over a comparative time period.
Other scholars view climate change as a long-term shift, alteration or change in type of climate prevailing over specific location, region or the entire planet. Unmitigated climate change can result in a decrease in welfare correspondent to a fall in global per capita consumption in an average of about five per cent.
The human factors that cause climate change are industrialisation, technical development, urbanisation, deforestation, and burning of remnants, among others. These factors have been observed to alter the climatic conditions of different parts of the world resulting in climate change and devastating extreme weather conditions like global warming, drought, desertification, flood, sea-level rise, wind and rainstorm and thunderstorm.
During these periods of climate change, the weather would no longer be predictable because of changes in directions and a number of sectors like livestock, forestry, fishery (as there will be a rise in sea-level and salt water intrusion which causes aquatic species to die), energy, construction, tourism, insurance and recreation industries would be affected. Roads, airport runways, railway lines and pipelines including oil pipelines, sewers, all these may require increased maintenance and renewal as they bear subject to great temperature variation due to their exposure to weather that they were not designed for.
Floods, droughts and storms are now both more severe and more frequent in areas where they were previously either unknown or rare, causing forests and famine to increase and deserts to expand hence, desertification.
In recent times, we have come to witness an increase in water level resulting in flooding in some coastal areas. Also increase in rainfall washes away bridges, houses, destroys properties and settlements as was witnessed in some states in Northern Nigeria like Sokoto, Kebbi and Jigawa and such southern states like Lagos, Ogun, and Bayelsa in 2010. The money spent by the governments to bring relief and succour to victims of these excess rainfall would have been channeled towards effective programmes to benefit the people.
Concerning its consequences to the health sector, climate change affects the dynamics and resurgence of infectious sicknesses such as malaria, cholera and meningitis in a key fashion since areas with less rain are now prone to severe heat, which is the main cause of meningitis. There occurs also, the melting of the ozone layer and because rainfall and warm climates also influence the availability of mosquito habitats and the size of mosquito populations, malaria increases. The spread of cholera which is transmitted through consuming contaminated drinking water or food made possible by environmental temperature is also paramount. Besides, there is a doubling in atmospheric carbon-dioxide from pre-industrial level which negatively affects the health of people, eco-systems and market transactions directly affecting the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. An insight into the huge economic impact of climate change could be got from the period in April 2010, when there was an ash cloud in Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland, creating phenomenal lightning displays, coloured sunsets red across much of Europe, and forced flight cancellations for several days.
In realising the implications/cost of climate change and reflecting on the aftermath of the flooding which destroyed lives and properties worth billions of Naira last year, the National Emergency Management Agency has acted on the warning of the Nigeria Meteorological Agency on early and heavy rainfall this year by embarking on sensitisation campaigns on climate change and disaster risk reduction management.
At one of such programmes, the Director General of NEMA, Alhaji Muhammad Sani-Sidi, pointed out that disasters wipe out hard-earned development gains and force the government to divert scarce resources in disaster management from various communities, local, state, and federal governments. He reeled out statistics which showed that 23 states in Nigeria were affected by the devastating flood disasters last year with serious consequences on socio-economic well-being of the affected communities.
The damage caused by climate change is enormous if not prepared for, which is mainly evident in the increasing destruction caused by wind and rainstorms. The cost of damage to buildings, cars, electrical installations, health, market, among others, takes enormous resources from the nation’s treasury for relief and rehabilitation.
The seasonality in the destructive pattern of rain/windstorms follows that at the beginning and towards the end of the raining season, the rain becomes more devastating. This calls for the attention of the federal, state and local governments to join forces and come up with adequate developmental policies and plans that would focus on awareness and preparedness to curtail disasters. But they should support agencies and parastatals like NEMA, set up for this cause, and should be empowered for prompt rescue mission in case of hazards and assistance to victims financially and materially in order to alleviate their suffering.
The Federal Government could also control the cause of global warming like greenhouse gases emission and afforestation programmes for safer environment. Buildings and other infrastructure should be designed in such a way that they can withstand wind, rain and storm, and should carry concrete parapets to protect them from hostile storm effects.
There are many strategies that could be deployed to address climate change induced-disasters. In a recent seminar organised by NEMA, it was resolved that there should be effective and efficient early warning system to provide relevant information to all stakeholders and sensitisation on the dangers of the challenges of climate change.
New technologies in the area of water management for domestic and agricultural development should be developed, or acquired as new improved agricultural practices are essential. The use of fuel wood efficient stoves and renewable energy should be promoted in the region.
It is also necessary that all tiers of government, NGOs and community based organisations should help the people with appropriate poverty reduction programmes to assist in increasing their adaptive capacity to impacts of climate change.
It is also necessary to strengthen the National and state meteorological agencies for reliable climate data and increase research and development at all levels for improving adaptation to these challenges.
– Adetola, a youth corps member and promoter of Youth Against Disasters in Nigeria, Abuja, wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org.