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Global Warming Batters Nigerian Ecosystems


Nigeria has a variety of ecosystems, from mangroves and rainforests on the Atlantic coast in the south to the savannah in the north bordering the Sahara. Whether dry or wet, those ecosystems are being battered by global warming. While excessive flooding during the past decade has hurt farming in coastal communities, desertification is ravaging the Sahel. Traditionally, desertification in the Sahel has been blamed on overgrazing practices of the local population. But it has been discovered that the real problem is climate change.

Rainfall in the Sahel has been declining steadily since the 1960’s. The result has been the loss of farmlands and conflicts between farmers and herdsmen over ever decreasing land. Many different communities, including fishermen, farmers and herdsmen, are now confronted with difficulties arising from climatic changes. Peoples' livelihoods are being harmed, and people who are already poor are becoming even more impoverished. Climate refugees are being created, as the changes make some land unlivable and affect water supplies.

Nigeria is not a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions when compared with industrialized countries, but it is a major supplier of oil and gas to countries with high greenhouse gas emissions. The exploitation of gas and oil for export from the Niger Delta contributes to global warming, damages the environment and hurts communities living near these projects. Oil fields in Nigeria’s Niger Delta contain crude oil mixed with very large amounts of gas. Major oil companies operating there separate the oil from its associated gas at flow stations, where the gas is simply burned off, serving no useful purpose and contaminating the air and lands of local communities.

For them the effect of gas flaring has been dramatic: continuous noise, continuous light from gas flares, higher temperatures, acid rain, retarded crop yield, corroded roofs and respiratory diseases. The gas flared in Nigeria contains high amounts of methane and carbon dioxide -- major greenhouse gasses – is also a major contributor to global warming. It produces more emissions than the rest of sub-Saharan Africa combined.

Dr. Samuel Adejuwon is chief negotiator for climate change for the Nigerian environment ministry. He tells what it will take to help the country reduce gas flaring and its impact on the environment. “We need the technology transfer and that is one of the key issues to us; then we need adaptation fund . We want the practical implementation of the adaptation fund. We don’t want [for the] adaptation fund…just [to] be talked about and be on paper; we really want to assess the adaptation fund.”