As part of this edition’s “Rising Tides, Rising Tensions” series on the front lines of the ecological crisis around the world, we hear from writers about the geopolitics of climate change in Brazil, Morocco, Nigeria, Serbia, and Turkey. Nathan Awuapila outlines the effects and challenges climate change is creating in Nigeria.

Global warming has risen to the forefront of concerns worldwide, accompanied by dire predictions of catastrophic consequences for humanity. Sub-Saharan Africa has been identified as the region most likely to be hit by the negative consequences of climate change. Experts at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have identified Nigeria as a climate change “hotspot” likely to experience major shifts in weather in the 21st century. Temperature rises, variable rainfall, rising sea levels, flooding, drought, desertification, and biodiversity loss are all signs of Nigeria’s changing climate.

Moving Targets: Geopolitics in a Warming World
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Agriculture is the primary occupation and source of income for a large percentage of the country’s population. As a result of climate change, evidence shows that farmers are finding it difficult to plan their operations due to unpredictable rainfall, given that the majority of Nigeria’s agricultural produce is rain-fed. Droughts, desertification, and rising temperatures reduce farmland and lower agricultural productivity. Agricultural production is also harmed by increased rainfall intensity in the coastal region, sea level rise, flooding, and farmland erosion. According to a 2009 study¹ by the UK’s former Department for International Development, climate change will cost Nigeria between 6 and 30 per cent of GDP by 2050, representing 100 billion to 460 billion dollars, unless strong action is taken.

Climate change has also resulted in severe resource shortages in Nigeria. The first issue is land scarcity. More heat combined with less rain raises the risk of widespread desertification, particularly in northern Nigeria. Flooding caused by sea level rise is contaminating freshwater aquifers, rivers, and stock-watering points in parts of southern Nigeria, leaving them with high salinity and with higher levels of sediment and sewage pollution, affecting the ability to fish. Conflicts over scarce resources have been a depressingly common feature of Nigeria’s social order for a long time. Communal violence, the majority of which involves contested resources, is thought to have killed at least 10,000 Nigerians in less than a decade, according to one estimate. Nigeria’s frequent farmer-herder conflicts are an example.

Temperature rises, variable rainfall, rising sea levels, flooding, drought, desertification, and biodiversity loss are all signs of Nigeria’s changing climate.

Nigeria is Africa’s top crude oil producer, ranking 13th in the world with a daily production capacity of 2.4 million barrels. Crude oil-based products currently account for 90 per cent of Nigeria’s exports and roughly 80 per cent of the country’s revenue. Despite a slew of policies aimed at harnessing Nigeria’s abundant renewable energy resources, the country’s excessive reliance on oil has slowed the development of alternatives and the country is completely off track. To attract private sector investment and boost the renewable energy subsector, policy coordination and institutional reforms are required.

Nigeria requires and deserves assistance from more developed countries in the area of adaptation. It has received only a small amount of multilateral support for climate change from the United Kingdom, the EU, and other countries such as Canada. The availability of investment capital and external assistance will be critical for achieving Nigeria’s necessary energy transition and adapting to climate change.

1 – DFID/ERM (2009). Impact of Climate Change on Nigeria’s Economy. Abuja: DFID.

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