Observations over the last 100 years has the instrumental temperature record showing an increased global mean temperature, commonly referred to as “global warming,” and this already has significant impacts on environmental and human life.
The effects of climate change on the biological or ecosystem is evident on the shifts in the range of plant and animal species to higher latitude and altitudes, increase in sea levels due to melting ice in the Artics, changes flown and fauna composition and abundance and in their life-cycle events.
Studies by the IPCC Fourth Assessment show that “most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in human greenhouse gas concentrations,” which could cause further global warming if the trend was not checked. Ecosystems have been observed to be completely destabilised, while human systems have various capacities of adapting to climate change.
Changes due to global warming include the release of terrestrial carbon due to deforestation and tree deaths, methane laserelease in the Artic and in coastal sediments, rise in sea levels, which is expected to reach between 18 and 59cm by the end of the 21 century, extreme weather conditions and changes in rainfall patterns.
There is also the possibility of global warming establishing favourable atmospheric conditions for disease carrying vectors making to possible for these organisms to spread diseases such as malaria dengne fever and viruses. What this means is that in poorer countries, this will lead to higher incidences of disease outbreak while the richer countries where diseases have been controlled would spend more money keeping these disease bearing insects out.
Climate change is largely due to anthropogenic activities of man and could be curbed only if these activities are reduced. Some countries have already began the process by implementing policies to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases.
Alarmed by levels of effect of climate change, heads of government, Ministers and Representatives of government most vulnerable to the impacts of global warming recently held a climate vulnerable forum in Copenhagen to find solutions to the menace of climate change, sadly the meeting tailed because it seemed some world leaders were not interested in reversing the activities that bring about increase in world temperature means or at least reduce it.
It has been established that the anthropogenic activities of the developed world actually contributed largely more than any other to the climate change that now threatens the developing world which has contributed only about 2 percent.
Experts say “low-latitude and less developed areas are properly at the greatest risk from climate change.
How has this change in climate affected the Niger Delta of Nigeria, being the oil and gas bearing region.
Experts at the Institute of Geosciences and Space Science Technology Rivers State University of Science and Technology (IGST), say “we have not started noticing the extreme effect of climate change in the Niger Delta. That is not to say however that the region is not affected.”
A lecturer in the IGST, spoke on condition of anonymity explained that climate change is as a result of anthropogenic causes. “Anthropogenic means things that resulted from human activities industrial activities such as green house effect,” he explained.
He said the greenhouse gases attack the ozone layer which now allow ultra violet rays which ordinarily would not adversely affect the earth now directly hit the earth’s surface causing the ambient temperature to be high. This increase in temperature causes “the melting of the ice in the poles,” he further explains.
According to him, “we’re seen visible changes in the sea levels because of what is called the albido heating of the atmosphere which causes the melting of ice in the poles thereby increasing the volume of water in circulation.”
This is one area where climate change affects the Niger Delta and indeed all the coastal areas.
Another effect, he observed is the movement in seasons and seasonal vanetion of winds, this is evident upon the length of the rainy season due to heavy moisture in the atmosphere resulting from increased evaporation. “The timely of the seasons, you begin to get a considerable amount of moisture content because of increased evaporation and that would result in the maritime air mass which controls wind movement in the Niger Delta becoming saturated and this makes the rain fall regime becoming longer than what we sued to see which resultant effect is the regional flooding which also affects agriculture and other human activities.
These climatic changes also affect the flora and fauna in the Niger Delta by changing their life cycles and causing increased migration to more conducive areas for the organisms, he further said.
Another effect is acid rain, which virtually destroys everything it comes in contact with and has also gone to pollute groundwater through seepage.
He suggests that if the environmental laws in Nigeria could be implemented especially the law on gas flaring, carbon emissions into the atmosphere would be minimal and this would have little effect on the climate.
Giving an insight into how much Africa and Nigeria contribute to climate, an environmental rights activist, Mr Mike Karipko stated that Nigeria actually contributes very little to climate while Africa as a whole contributes only 2 percent.
“Our contribution is not something we should be overtly worried about, but because the climate change is a global issue, it requires every hand to be on deck to address,” he noted.
However, he observed, “when we talk about climate change in Nigeria, the first thing that comes to mind is gas flaring, the next is deforestation (there is massive deforestation going on in Nigeria),” these he said contribute enormously to the carbon levels in the atmosphere. Particularly, he said deforestation poses a lot of danger in that, the “forest acts as a carbon sink so when the forest is destroyed, the carbon in there is released into the atmosphere.” He stressed that deforestation and gas flaring are the major contributors to carbon emissions in the country. He said, regrettably there are no laws protecting the forest in Nigeria.
Commenting on the effects of climate change in the Niger Delta, he said this is evident in the “ocean surge we’ve seen,” farmers not being able to farm effectively due to seasonal instability and fisher men no longer have big catches as there is massive migration of fishes.
On the way forward, he said, “people need to take responsibility for their climate challenge. Other low-carbon contributing nations are asking that the industrialised nations should help them develop differently from the way they did by providing funding for the development of renewable energy sources that would not contribute to the carbon build up and to “provide funds to help us build resilience that will enable withstanding climate change in our communities. He added that Copenhagen summit failed because “suddenly world leaders lacked the will power to act. There was no commitment that was specific. Under the Kyoto protocol, people were asked to reduce emission to 5 per- cent, on the basis of the 1990 levels of emission. But at Copenhagen nobody was asked to do anything or take responsibility to reduce emission.
The most vulnerable nations are asking in a draft declaration, that “developed countries bear the overwhelming historic responsibility for causing anthropogenic climate change, and must therefore take the lead in responding to the challenge across all four building blocks of an enhance international climate change regime-namely mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance-that builds upon the UNFCCC and its Kyoto protocol.
“They insist that “climate change poses an existential threat to our nations, cultures and way of life, thereby undermines the internationally-protected human rights of our people…”Chief Iranami Joseph, a paramount ruler in Bayelsa state a core Niger Delta state, at an energy roundtable by Social Action a non-governmental organisation, lamented that some species of fish and vegetation can no longer been in there communities while their structures suffer adverse degradation within five years of building them.
African leaders insist that “the fundamental principles and issues relating to the survival of peoples and preservation of sovereign rights are non-negotiable, and should be embedded in the Copenhagen legal agreement.