Climate change or global warming has become a new reality, with deleterious effects: seasonal cycles are disrupted, as are ecosystems; and agriculture, water needs and supply, and food production are all adversely affected.
Global warming (climate change) also leads to sea-level rise with its attendant consequences, and includes fiercer weather, increased frequency and intensity of storms, floods, hurricanes, droughts, increased frequency of fires, poverty, malnutrition and series of health and socio-economic consequences. It has a cumulative effect on natural resources and the balance of nature.
The impact of climate change can be vast. In Nigeria, this means that some stable ecosystems such as the Sahel Savanna may become vulnerable because warming will reinforce existing patterns of water scarcity and increasing the risk of drought in Nigeria and indeed most countries in West Africa. As well, the country’s aquatic ecosystems, wetlands and other habitats will create overwhelming problems for an already impoverished populace.
Preliminary studies on the vulnerability of various sectors of the Nigerian economy to Climate Change were conducted by NEST. The sectors evaluated were based on seven natural and human systems identified by the IPCC, and condensed into five. They are:
• Human settlements and health;
• Water resources, wetlands, and freshwater ecosystems;
• Energy, industry, commerce, and financial services;
• Agriculture, food security, land degradation, forestry, and biodiversity; and
• Coastal zone and marine ecosystems.
The study determined that virtually all of the sectors analyzed manifested some evidence of vulnerability to climate change. None were unaffected, nor will remain unaffected in future by changes to climatic conditions. In fact more recent assessment, although in regional and global scale, not only corroborate the patterns established by CN-CCCDP reports but captured more disturbing scenarios using more embracing and sophisticated approaches (IPCC, 2007). Indications are that the climate system is more sensitive that originally thought.
Today we are going to be looking at Human Settlement and Health
There are many ways that climate change could affect human settlements and health. Some of the impacts will be direct, others will be indirect. Urban populations are growing and contributing to environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, environmental decay, and water/air/environmental pollution
Human settlements in Nigeria will be affected by climate change in a variety of ways. Urban and rural population concentrations will be disrupted, particularly along the coastline due to sea-level rise and related phenomena. Some settlements are known to have already relocated farther inland from their original sites in response to sea incursion over some decades. Population displacement and migration from, and to, various human settlements will arise from either or both of drought incidence in the Northern states of the country and accelerated sea level rise in the coastal regions. Rises in sea-level will also threaten urban and rural infrastructure facilities in low lying coastal regions
Extreme climate conditions such as high wind, heavy rainfall, heat and cold can result in wide-ranging scenarios such as tropical storms, floods, landslides, droughts and sea-level rise. Climatic catastrophes induce populations to be displaced (or decimated by death), which in turn can lead to conflict and civil unrest. As well, the public health infrastructure would be eroded if resources are diverted from its maintenance to disaster recovery. Communities and government would be burdened with having to make reparations to individuals for property damage and loss, unemployment, clean-up, and reduced socioeconomic viability of the communities affected.
Pests and diseases are implicated in climate change. Significant climatic conditions such as temperature, precipitation, sunshine and wind can affect and accelerate their dispersion and their increase. Food crops are affected by their presence (creating economic problems because of low agricultural yields and food shortages, as well as human population problems such as malnutrition). Pests and diseases can adversely affect animal husbandry; it also cause human suffering (for example, malaria, cholera, typhoid and dengue fever) which in turn affects the effectiveness and productivity of Nigeria‘s labour force.
A number of indirect impacts of climate change on human health were identified. As Nigeria‘s inhabitants already suffer from nutritional imbalances (poor nutrition and malnutrition), climate change will only have a deleterious effect on food security. A shift could occur in the location of some vector-borne diseases, such as malaria (mosquitoes), sleeping sickness (tsetse fly) etc. In response to shifts in the patterns of rainfall and temperature; mosquitoes currently thrive in locations where water logging and poor drainage typify the landscape. High flood frequency and water-logging due to climate change in ecozones hitherto unassociated with malaria will enhance the breeding of mosquitoes and thus the spread of malaria. Malaria will also increase due to the preponderance of stagnant pools of water resulting from sea-level rise related flooding. New evidences with respect to micro-climate change due to land-use changes such as swamp reclamation and deforestation suggest an increase spread of malaria to new areas (Munga et al, 2006; IPCC, 2007).
Direct impacts include health problems induced by increasing incidences of heat waves. These could lead to more cases of cerebro-spinal meningitis (CSM), which today is found to correlate positively with the highest maximum temperature of the northern winter season, and inversely with absolute humidity to a lesser, although still significant, extent. Currently, this health condition is a feature of Nigeria‘s dry belt represented by the Sudan Sahelian region of the country, and occurs in the peak of the dry season. The occurrence of skin cancer from direct ultra-violet radiation could become more common, as could increase incidences of cardiovascular respiration disorders.
On the whole, a 2005 evaluation of Nigeria, along side other 23 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa projected that meeting of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), particularly with respect to child and maternal health, will elude the country because of climate change and other multiple stresses (UNDP, 2005; IPCC, 2007).
There are gender considerations in assessing vulnerability. Women do most of the farming in some parts of the country (rural Anambra, Benue, Cross River; urban Lagos; urban and rural: Kwara, Ogun, Imo, Ondo, Oyo and Rivers), as well as fishing. Recent studies (Folorunsho, 1992 and Ojo and Folorunsho, 1993) found that 90% of women involved in fish processing in urban areas use firewood or wood products in their activities. Fuel wood is also used extensively in food processing, and in domestic activities that are dominated by women. Collection of firewood under conditions of heat stress could impact more on the health of women and children who are more involved in this activity than men.
Tomorrow we will be looking at Water resources, Wetlands and Freshwater ecology