The impact of climate change and global warming on Nigeria's political economy
In the news on December, 19, 2020, AFP reported that the "UN Chief Antonio Guterres called on governments to declare a “state of climate emergency” and make good on their promises to slash carbon pollution as they recover from the pandemic". What is so intimidating about climate change to warrant a call for a world-wide declaration of “state of climate emergency”? To understand the import of the call as well as the criticality of climate change and global warming to the survival of ecosystems and their biodiversity, some perspectives on them will be most appropriate and helpful.
First, it is necessary to state that climate change and global warming are not synonymous. Climate change on its part has been described as the complex shift in our planet's weather and climate systems, which impact the ecosystems negatively. To me, climate change is the manifestation of drastic or uncommon changes in weather. Such changes increase the average global temperatures, upset the ecosystem balance and manifest in adverse ecological impacts such as heavy rains, droughts, increasing demand for water, deforestation, desertification, rising sea levels, acidification of sea and other weather events such as storms and hurricanes, et cetera. On the other hand, global warming means the extreme and fastest increasing rates of average global temperatures. It is caused by carbon dioxide (Co2), atmospheric pollutants and other heat-trapping greenhouses gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases that trapped and prevented heat emitted by earth from escaping to the atmosphere; the heat is thus returned or re-radiated to the earth, resulting in the earth getting hotter and causing extreme weather events.
Sources of greenhouse gas emissions vary but they are not unrelated to human activities or natural phenomena. They include burning of fossil fuel (petroleum) by industry for economic production or by humans for heating residences; burning of forest; volcanic eruptions; respiration; carbonic acid in water that dissolves caronte rocks that in return releases Co2, and decompositions of dead animals.
It had been reported that in 2019 adverse weather events, due to climate change, caused global damage with a whopping cost of $100 billion. It was projected that by 2050, cumulative damages from climate change may reach a stunning $8 trillion. Further climate - induced future damages have been estimated to range from 2% to 10% or more of global GDP per year.
Yet, Eco-theologists insist on their' misinterpretation of Genesis 1:26. They believe that the biblical reference was a license for man to exploit the natural world without caution nor limits, hence mankind's destructive or damaging exploitation of the earth. Thank goodness, Pope Francis has come up with an alternative eco-theology that changed or recast humankind’s relationship with nature from one of reckless exploitation and unchecked dominion and control, to one of stewardship and responsibility. My own position however remains that man, by virtue of his higher endowment of intelligence and uncommon ability to subdue and subject other creatures and naturally occurring events to his will, he is equally placed to tame and mitigate the man-induced adverse and damaging effects of climate change on the planet earth.
In this regard, even the United Nations Organisation has been very active in coming up with mechanisms and framework to check, control or mitigate the damaging effects of climate change and global warming. Thus, we now have the United Nations Framework for Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) , otherwise known as Earth summit. The convention aims to control the emissions and concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in order to avert global warming and the consequent interference with the climate system. It also sets a time frame that will enable the ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change. This is to ensure that food production is not threatened and sustainable economic development is achieved. The Conference of Parties (COP). COP is the decision-making body for UNFCCC.
As a member of the global community, Nigeria is not immune to the adversity of climate change and global warming, their consequences and cost. Thus, it is in its interest to subscribe to the global mitigation initiatives of the United Nations. However, it should be stated unequivocally that, even, a religious adherence by Nigeria to the mitigation mechanisms, will not save Nigeria's economy from the catastrophic impact of the paradigm shift from fossil fuel-based industrial production to renewable energy-based sources such as solar, wind, hydro, geo-thermal et cetera by the advanced industrial economies of the West.
Meanwhile, the fact of Nigeria's monocultural economy/substantial dependence on oil gas resources, and the underperforming or uncompetitive non-oil sector of its economy will militate against weaning itself from the impact of the climate change mitigation mechanisms of the West. Such uncompetitiveness of the non-oil sector means that the country will continue to depend on oil that the West is striving strenuously to de-emphasise in line with the demand of climate change and global warming mitigation drives. That will not be, as noted earlier, without adverse economic consequence. The conclusion that could be drawn is that Nigeria cannot afford to be lackadaisical about climate change and global warming. This will become clear as we proceed.
In the meantime, the shift to renewable energy sources will however, have ameliorating effects on Nigerian political structure. How will climate change turnout be a blessing for Nigeria? This is a riddle that must be resolved. In resolving the riddle, I will start with Anthony Sani on Nigeria. Anthony Sani had aptly described Nigeria as, "A Trust Fund State that is fed by oil wealth that is not as a result of hard work". That is the soul or the heart of Nigeria's problems; it explains the love of a section of Nigeria's political leadership for a unitary constitution- an aberration for a country with a potpourri of ethnicity, culture and religion. It further explains the deathly struggles, amongst the political leadership, to occupy and retain power at the center, which the unitary constitution had gifted with absolute power, as reflected in its control of 68 items on the exclusive legislative list. Such latitude provides the raison d'etre for Nigeria's misgovernance that places premium on ethno-linguistic solidarity and religious affiliation in national appointments, and finds expressions in corruption, lack of transparency and accountability. It is the reason why illegality and unconstitutionality thrive in the country.
Paradoxically however, the same oil, which feeds our voracious appetites without but compensatory hard work, which is now endangered by climate change and the mitigation mechanisms being emplaced by the West, may well turnout to be blessings for Nigeria. I explain. Nigeria depends, largely, on this wasting resource for its survival. For instance, oil revenue contributes more than 70% to total national revenues and 95% of Nigeria's exchange earnings. This dependence is, unfortunately, in spite of the fortunes of the oil sector being determined externally by the developments in the developed economies of the West and of East Asia. This means that whenever there are unfavorable developments in these economies, their consequences and impacts will reverberate more profoundly in Nigeria as well as in other underdeveloped economies. Of course we are not unaware that the fossil fuel on which Nigeria depends, powers the industries of the West.
The gradual paradigm shift of the West to utilisation of clean energy- the renewable energy- as a result of damaging effects of the use of hydrocarbons on the climate will be weighted drastically on Nigeria's economy. The reason being that reduction in the West's demands for our oil means less foreign exchange earnings; it means execution of less social and economic programmes that will impact the welfare of the citizenry positively.
Alternatively, the impacts of West's emphasis on renewable energy as well as its conscious technological strides towards the switch to environment-friendly products, such as electric cars that are being developed to replace internal combustion engine cars; solar panels that are being deployed increasingly to heat homes, and the wind energy that are being harnessed as alternative power source, will affect Nigeria national budgetary viability adversely.These certain outcomes of the climate change mitigation mechanisms of the West will force a rethink by our political leadership on controversial national issues. For instance, it might lead to an involuntary acquiescence to the popular demand for restructuring the country. The restructuring will replace the extant unitary constitution with a truly federal constitution in which the federating units control and exploit their resources; where the states or zones or regions are governed efficiently to achieve viability, and where the catch-phrase amongst the regions or zones are cooperation and healthy competition. Such restructuring will herald a less powerful center. The hitherto over concentration of power in the central government with its corrupting influence will end. As its replacement will be a responsive, accountable and transparent government, which will ensure a stable and secure polity. All of these positive outcomes represent the reason why oil which is a curse today will become the beacon of hope for Nigeria's transition to greatness.
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