Together We Can Stop Climate Change
Climate change is due to the activities of major companies, mainly those based in the industrialised countries. In 2012, it was estimated that around two thirds of carbon dioxide emissions come from companies based in China, US, Europe, Japan and Russia.
Only 90 major companies are estimated to be responsible for nearly two thirds of climate change gas emissions. However, it is the poor across the world who are suffering the effects of climate change.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Paris, from 30 November 2015. The weekend before demonstrations are being held in many capital cities to demand their governments act to reduce climate change.
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is currently taking up the issue of climate change with a renewed passion. Between September and November, several meetings have been held to popularise environmental justice within the trade union movement and come up with a policy document of NLC on climate change. The trade union federation will also lead Nigerian workers to join working people across the world in demonstrations to drum up support for concrete actions to be taken at the Paris conference in the interests of the poor and the planet.
According to the World Bank, around one sixth of global gas flaring takes place in Nigeria – more than any other country except for Russia. So far around three quarters of the natural gas emitted in Nigeria has been flared causing great harm to local people, their environments and increasing the impact of climate change. This has reduced in recent years, but hundreds of gas flares continue to burn.
According to a website supported by the Federal Ministry of Environment – http://gasflaretracker.ng/ – the power generation potential of the flared gas is approximately equal to the current level of electricity generation. Over 75% of current power generation depending on natural gas. So, if the government was prepared to force the oil companies to do so, the amount of electricity generated could be doubled.
Three quarters of back-up generator use in sub-Saharan Africa is currently in Nigeria – creating more green-house gases. This could be significantly reduced if the oil companies stopped gas flaring and increased electricity generation.
Gas flaring is supposed to be subject to fines, but December 2014 the Department for Petroleum Resources decided to drop all fines for gas flaring – giving up an income of around N200billion – about the annual budget for Kano State. Remember this when the government claims the need for austerity!
About 60 per cent of Nigerians live literally in the dark without electricity and over 72 per cent depend on the traditional ‘three-stone fire’. According to the World Health Organization, smoke from these fires causes 95,000 deaths annually, ranking as the nation’s largest killer after malaria and HIV/AIDS. It also results in the cutting down of trees which is directly harmful to the environment and also contributes to global warming. More efficient stoves could save 80% of the trees, but these are expensive and not popular.
The easiest option for many people is kerosene – where this is available. So fuel subsidy should be continued to improve peoples’ health and reduce climate change.
In the Niger Delta, small-scale gas-to-power generation could be used to provide power or cooking fuel to local communities. Giving local people a stake in continued oil production would reduce the harm they currently suffer from gas flaring and increase oil production. Interrupting this production (through damage to pipelines for illegal refining) would immediately impact on the power available to these communities.
In Britain about a third of carbon dioxide emissions are from transport. In Nigeria it is probably higher as so many of the vehicles are older ones from Europe. These emissions could be significantly reduced if the government provided an efficient and subsidised public transport system. As well as reducing the impact on climate change this would be greatly beneficial to many workers, reducing their travel time and saving considerable costs.
The reduction is unnecessary travel by air and in large convoys by the corrupt politicians would also reduce the emissions which cause climate change.
Together we can stop climate change
These are just some of the ways in which the emission of climate change gases could be reduced – if the government was prepared to take action. Other examples include making use of methane from rubbish dumps and insulating new buildings to reduce the need for air conditioners.
Ultimately, it is estimated that to reduce the impact of climate change, 80 per cent of fossil fuel reserves will have to stay in the ground. If oil production was reduced, especially in conjunction with other OPEC countries, the price would go up and oil producing countries could gain the same income from a reduced level of oil production. This is why Environmental Rights Action, for example, has been supporting local communities in their call for ‘leaving oil in the soil’, and they are demanding that no new oil fields should be developed.
We need to be campaigning in our trade unions now to ensure that the UN Paris conference does not become another lost opportunity. It is great that the NLC is taking this issue seriously, it is the collective power of the working and popular classes that can force the oil and other companies to take action over climate change and immediately improve the lives of common people.
How Climate Change is Already Destroying Lives in Nigeria
Climate change is often thought of something that may occur in the future – but it already has, and is, destroying the lives of thousands of people in Nigeria. The rich, of course, can escape its affects, so it is invariably the working class and other poor people that are bearing the brunt of climate change.
Data collected by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency and others over the hundred and five years from 1901 show that mean temperatures increased by 1.1°C and rainfall decreased by 8.1 cm. There has also been drying up of surface waters, desert encroachment, coastal indentations, changes in rain fall patterns and shifts in crops cultivated overtime.
The global climate is warming because humanity has been burning a great deal of coal, oil and natural gas over the last 200 years. Call, oil and gas contain a lot of carbon. When they burn, the carbon joins with oxygen in the air to make carbon dioxide (CO2). The more carbon dioxide in the air, the more it stops the heat escaping into space and the warmer the world grows.
Not only is the world becoming hotter, but the seasons are changing, so not only do some areas suffer from lack of water, but others are now suffering from floods and tropical storms (like hurricane Katrina that devastated Mississippi in 2005).
Lake Chad was one of the largest fresh bodies of water on the African continent and its disappearance is having a tremendous impact on the population surrounding it. One of the main reasons for poverty in the north east and so the rise of Boko Haram is climate change.
According to the United Nations, Lake Chad shrank as much as 95% from about 1963 to 1998. As parts of the lake dried up, most farmers and cattle herders have moved towards greener areas, where they compete for land resources with host communities with resultant clashes around Jos and other places. Others have gone to Kano, Abuja, Lagos and other big cities for menial jobs or to scrap a living in the informal sector.
Those who remain in Lake Chad shoreline communities such as Doron Baga are haunted by the speed with which the lake is vanishing. The Doron Baga settlement, which used to be by the lakeside, is now 20 kilometers from its edge.
The decline of Lake Chad is also associated with the southern march of the Sahara and declining yields across Nigeria. The Sahara is moving south at up to 10km a year and and sand dunes are now common features of desertification in states like Yobe, Borno, Sokoto, Jigawa and Katsina.
The southern urban markets of Onitsha, Enugu, Lagos, Ibadan, Ilorin, Benin and Ondo, took the bulk of the fish products from Lake Chad. As the catch reduced so prices increased and workers in all these cities suffer as well as the predominantly women traders. In 1993 the Lake Chad basin contributed over half the production of millet and over a quarter of the production of sorghum in Nigeria. Reduced production means again means higher prices and greater poverty.
Change in seasons and flooding
There is change in the timing of rainfall and farmers can no longer predict the rain and know precisely when to plant their crops. This is already having impact on food security especially in southern Nigeria where rain-fed agriculture is mainly practiced. Because of the change in rainfall pattern, farmers who traditionally plant after the first or second rain in March or April run into huge loss when the rains are delayed beyond the usual due to climatic change or the short dry season (August break) comes early.
The hydropower plants in Kanji, Jebba and Shiroro now produce significantly lower energy as a result of excessive drought leading to reduced water volumes. This has impacted on up to a third of the electricity generated in the country.
The number of rain days dropped has dropped by 53% in the north-eastern Nigeria, rainfall has increased in the South South with flooding and gully erosion destroying many communities especially in Edo and Anambra States. One of the greatest impacts of climate change is the worsening condition of extreme weather events like drought, flood, rainstorms, windstorms, thunderstorms, landslides, avalanches and tsunamis. One estimate is that the frequency and magnitude of wind and rainstorms did not only increase, they also killed 199 people and destroyed property worth N85billion in Nigeria between 1992 and 2007.
Between 1960 and 1970, a mean sea level rise of nearly half a metre was recorded along the Nigerian coastal water. Flooding of low-lying areas in the Niger Delta region has affected 3,400 square kilometres uprooting many communities. The Niger Delta could lose over 15,000 square kilometres of land by the year 2100. This could result in 80% of the population or 14 million people being displaced.
But these changes are not inevitable, they are caused by the priorities of the society we live in and so can be changed. Demonstrations around the Paris climate conference at the end of November 2015 are a start.