Climate Change in Nigeria: The Ecosystem, the Laws and the Nigerian Future – Terinwa Adesipo

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I

Shelter is essential for every living human; even the dead, it is one of those indispensable necessity needed by man to survive in the course of his existence. Deservingly, its pre-eminence has purely secured for it an everlasting position in the hall of life’s basic necessities. In all sense of factuality, no living human can possibly exist without it. With this incontrovertible establishment, humanity was blessed with a shelter, one where he can choose to do whatsoever he desires, whenever he desires, whichever way he desires and however way he desires; this freedom showered on man is in itself illimitable, but for the goodness and protection of his shelter, he was left with a golden rule; a sacred commandment he must always ensure abidance. What could this be?

This hallowed rule is plainly that he must never befriend the foes of his environment; the prime reason of which was ascribed to what can be termed the green eyed nature of the Mother Earth. Even without this, it is only through the religious abidance to this scared rule that the pure and pristine nature of the environment is guaranteed. Thinking about this, one would have thought that the abidance to this rule should be a cinch, inextricably having in consideration the resultant effect that will be occasioned by the violation of what can be termed the eleventh commandment. Prime among which is homelessness for humanity; which in my view is to empirically witness the greatest of any existential tribulation, noting fully well that without it, man cannot even realistically exist in the first place.

Let’s get down to brass tacks, it is a well-worn axiom that the only thing constant in life is change, to which end, man was necessarily fashioned out to adapt and adopt any fabric of change, but a deep examination of existential factuality reveals that man was not really fashioned out to adapt to all form of change. In the process of creation, man evidently was not fashioned out to adapt to what is now simply today christened Climate Change. Let me clearly state that the nature of what is today referred to as Climate change was absolutely absent at the genesis of human existence, but, it began to germinate and manifest dominantly the moment man began to seek delight in befriending the foes of its environment. This was the incipiency of a changing change humanity cannot possibly live with.

It is sad to state the distasteful but obvious fact that this deleterious change is more present with us than at any time in history. Sadly, it is fast becoming the environmental buzzword of the 21st century strictly associated with any form of environmental ruination, one whose identity are dominantly characterized by nothing but existentially destructive as well as environmentally hazardous effect such as dangerously hot weather, scarcity of water, hurricane, heat waves, sea level rise, depletion of the ozone layer, legions of newly birthed deadly diseases, among innumerable other pernicious attributes that defines this change. At this point, let me quickly dispel one popular misconception wrongly bandied around by cynics that this catastrophic change is a fact of life and as such it is inevitable. From all viewpoints, this position is utterly untrue. In reality, it is dishearteningly the resultant effect that germinated out of man’s contravention of the only and basic rule that guides his ecological existence, one which has now resulted into the gradual destruction of his only abode. As against the claims of these cynics, this is not or by any means a fact of life or just another act of God, it is a man-made creation.

II

Maybe a bit of jargons is needed to understand or aptly express what is being referred to as climate change. Technically, it is a natural phenomenon inseparably accompanied by an effect of rising global temperature which produces issues such as changes in cloud cover and precipitation, overland melting of icecaps and glaciers, reduction of snow cover, increase in ocean temperatures due to sea water absorbing heat, and concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Furthermore, a combination of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydro-fluorocarbons, and sulphur hexafluoride makes up what is baptized greenhouse gas (GHG).  These five important gases have been observed to amplify the natural greenhouse effect. As observed by pundits, this Greenhouse effect has been there for billions of years of earth’s history, one which is fundamentally required for the ecosystem to function effectively.  However, they begin to arose great concern when, due to industrialisation, man-made effects started contributing catastrophically to the natural effects.  As a result of this, its total effect became over whelming for nature to maintain the equilibrium, the product of which is now what is now hunting the universal ecosystem.

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In addendum to this, the effect of the increase in the global temperature can also be appreciated for the depletion of the ozone layer.  Such further increase in elements of N2O and CFCs greatly contributes in reducing and depleting the ozone layer.  Historically, immediately after the birth of industrialization, there came the shortage of fuel which therefore led the people to start reaching for non-renewable fuels.  With this, the use of gas, coal and petroleum greatly increased.  Today, with the way more and more countries are becoming developed and industrialized, the total fuel consumption keeps on increasing. Corroboratively, geological studies have furthermore shows that the Earth’s climate system actually resists change until pushed beyond some limit.  Therefore, these occurring changes indicate that the world has reached it limits.  Moreover, since the causes are many and increasing concomitantly, each of them began to accelerate the effects of others.

Concretely, the major contribution to climate change keeps coming from the use of fossil fuel in industries, agriculture and deforestation. Whilst deforestation reduces photosynthesis that could reduce the global warming; falling of timbers, bush burning and decayed plants release more CO2 to the atmosphere.  In addition, deforestation deprives humanity of the water evaporated from trees which removes heat from the atmosphere.  Consequently, deforestation also limits the earth’s ability to recycle carbon dioxide and destroys the ecosystem thereby gradually descending the universe into the abyss of climate change.

Due to these rapid changes, there has been gradual rise of sea level and Shore line erosion; both of which reduces the available land required to inhabit the increasing population; one which  greatly portends manifold terrible fate for the Global world.  Fundamentally, one of the major effects of this is the reduction in the agricultural land and food production which resultantly portends famine for humanity. Such other effects are changes in the pattern of precipitation, flood and storm activities, imbalance in the ecosystem, increased salinity in the coastal area and scarcity of fresh water, among many others man-made action that is gradually brewing an apocalyptic human ecosystem.

III

 Nigeria as a country is apparently blessed and geographically favoured, but it seems like the ignorance of this has led to our ingratitude, one which has absolutely resulted into the treatment of our environment with all forms of levity and contempt.  In this part of the world, environmental hazard is on the highest rise, this is not only due to industrialization or modernization, the reason lies in what can be termed hyper-synthetic activities, those activities that are overly man made which results from the country’s deficient national structure. This forbidding activities as clearly revealed by realism are forcefully contributing to the gradual destruction of a once upon a time environmental paradise.

As a reality check, the Nigeria ecosystem is incessantly pervaded by assorted grave activities, many of which are occasioned by evitable happenings. For instance, a society invaded by security threats such as robbery menace take solace in what can be termed societal security measures. With this measure, certain members of the community keep vigil at night, burning tires in every nooks and crannies armed with assorted offensive weapon. Of course apart from being evidently risky, this measure is catastrophic to the human ecosystem. But sadly, this is what is obtainable in a milieu where the citizens are not guaranteed security protection by their government, a milieu where what is known as police force or security operation is ill structured and ill existing – if ever existing at all-. In these types of circumstances, one surely cannot morally succeed in heaping blames on those who put up the courage to save their lives and those of their fellow neighbour by adopting this societal security measure which although is damaging and threatening to the environment. Afterall, what deserves this sort of protection and action if not life?

Just as the task of security protection is the duty of every man in Nigeria; it is also the same with every other aspect of their existential life. Oddly, the inhabitant of a community in Nigeria provides for themselves water, power supply, healthcare, education and every other basic amenities of life. Ludicrously, such thing termed adequate powers supply has took flight from the territory of Nigeria even before its creation. With this in mind, the people are faced with no other option other than employ unfriendly environmental products such as Generators in producing electrical power. In Nigeria, this environmentally hostile product is possessed by nearly every household. In a territory where citizens cannot enjoy adequate, stable and reliable power, what more can be done?

 In addition to this environmental ruination, the countless presence of assorted auto mobile that lives on fossil fuels also terribly contributes to the gradual deterioration of the ecosystem. The epileptic transportation structure of the most populous black nation in the world without an effective train system or any other tangible mass transit system furthermore worsens the case. To this end, the average individual who must punctually get to work is constrained to possess for himself his own means of transportation. Hence, more insult added to the injury. This simply means the more the usage of such automobiles that rely on fossil fuels to work, the more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, the more catastrophic consequences will be occasioned on the ecosystem.

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When one must have thought that the malady of environmental hazard is a problem for the megalopolis and urban centers, it became surprising –although not totally- that activity that buoys environmental disaster are also occupiers in faraway rural setting. For example, the average woman who does not have access to alternative means of environmental friendly means of cooking seek culinary solace in firewood, to do this she must also inevitably cut down trees. This is evidently a double tragedy. Whilst firewood cooking is just one part of this tragic coin, deforestation is another.

Not only is this sort of environmental harmful modus guiltlessly employed by the unenlightened woman, who must cook to feed her family, it is also for some men in this type of setting, the major source of income. This particularly includes the cutting down of trees for commercial purposes. As far as i am concerned, this set of person cannot be blamed for this environmental disaster, they are all a product of a society pregnant with the twin disaster of poverty and lack of jobs. If this then be the case, what is the fate of the Nigeria ecosystem when such settings that ought to be a place of refuge in what can be termed period of environmental ruination are even great contributors to this pending disaster

IV

We all can see the pitiable fate that lay ahead for the Nigeria ecosystem if it continues to incoherently follow the path that leads to its environmental destruction, the dooming upshots are indisputable; which is that our once peaceful and livable paradise will ultimately transmogrify into an environmental hell. At this juncture of the country’s existence, it is not only reasonable but imperative to hold the credo that the issue of climate change and environmental hazard are dire and fundamental and as such should not be treated with levity. In my view, this is the point where everybody must be made to know that our environment remains a fulcrum if not the soul of our existence, hence, the major –if not ultimate- reason we must always shield it from the dangers and weapons of this eternal environmental destruction. In achieving this, we must mandatorily wave adieu to those years of burning bushes, deforestation, generator reign among innumerable other distasteful now wont actions and activities that contributes to this great environmental plague.

Also before this can be achieved, there must foundationally be a paradigm shift in the means and manners of governance in the country. Accompanied with this, it is also essential that the Nigeria government provides for its people the basic amenities of life which are vital to existence, this includes an effective security protection, a reliable source of income and adequate employment for its employable population, adequate power supply, an effective mass transit system, among innumerable others that must foundationally be in place before this monster of climate change can be tamed and annihilated. Having identified this, it becomes imperative to exigently birth the existence of an effective and enforceable Legislation, one that does not only preaches against this environmental hazard but also concomitantly sanctions any breach of this sacred rule.

It was John Austin, the great apostle of Legal positivism, who while attempting to establish his creeds on the essence of sanction to the force of law uttered that “it is only by chance of incurring evil, that I am bound or obliged to compliances”. In this connection, i also unhesitantly buy into the idea of an effective and appropriate comeuppance for the breach of any of this sacred rule that guides our ecosystem. Do not be mistaken, i am no legal positivist like Austin but I think such basic laws such as this that goes to the root of our continuing existence should not just be mere rules, they must necessarily be armed with the indispensable implement of enforceability, one which I obviously believe is impossible to achieve in this clime of the world without such thing Austin baptized “the necessary evil”.

On this note, the immeasurable importance of a well enforced legislation cannot be over emphasized. As Austin further intoned, “the existence of law is one thing; its merit or demerits is another; whether it be or be not is one enquiry, whether it be or be not comfortable to an assumed standard is a different enquiry”. Premised on earlier establishment, this legislation must necessarily be birthed to not only preach against environmental destructive activities, it must essentially criminalize actions and activities that endanger the well-being of the Nigeria environmental.

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In my view, basic things such as those which will eschew the incessant manifestation of climate change must be exigently addressed. From a deep examination, this will necessarily include crowning some currently non-justiciable right of man with the fundamentality and enforceability status. For instance in a world where there is a guaranteed right of employment or right to adequate power supply, it is generally expected that there will be a reduction in the rate of deforestation, generator use and all that jazz. Beseechingly, let us for the sake of posterity strongly unite to fight against the destruction that currently threatens our common humanity.

In doing this, there must foundationally be a public enlightenment which exist to exposes the deadly nature of climate change to the people. In this connection, the old woman in the remote village whose only means of cooking is firewood, and also the young hardworking man whose only means of livelihood is selling them must be fundamentally informed as to the menace occasioned by deforestation and release of carbon dioxide. But this also cannot possibly come alive when there is no provision for a better alternative. For instance, the young man whose only means of survival is trading firewood cannot balk the idea of deforestation when there is evidently no alternative source of income.

Furthermore, it is worthy to restate that only a fundamental solution is capable of addressing these ills. One of such method is the introduction of geography or environmental studies as a compulsory course in basic and secondary educational institutions. But this time around, the prime goal should not be to “test” knowledge such as those ones identifying of our deficient educational system which encourages “cram and pass” method but rather the ultimate goal should be the real McCoy acquisition of knowledge and understanding of what it takes to safeguard the environment from this destruction. As far as i am concerned, any nation that takes delight in befriending the foes of its environment will sure have itself to blame when the consequences comes visiting.

In these critical times, it is only dire and exigent that the Nigeria government must timely live up to its responsibility of creating and ensuring for her citizen a better and efficient security system, employing environmental friendly recycling means that generate waste and refuse, ensure efficient medium of transportation for all and sundry and all that jazz that limits the risk of climate change. Fundamentally, power supply should also not be left in the hands of incompetent electricity Distribution Company; those who are only in the business to generate undeserved profit and tax to death powerless consumers.

Foundationally, it is the apex time when certain sacred principles of International environmental law such as those embedded in the Stockholm declaration and Rio declaration are armed with the necessary force of enforceability. In all reality, it is and will forever remain an absolutely impossible, to achieve a universal ecosystem devoid of this disaster without the effective participation and co-operation of every state existing on planet earth. In achieving this, only an enforceable convention or a binding treaty is the sure fire.

Ultimately, I think if we cannot leave the world a better place, we are mandatorily under the inescapable obligation of leaving it the way we inherited it. Not only is this the basis upon which what will be the fate of the universal environment is analyzed, it is and will eternally remain the only foundation upon which the continuing existence of humanity is guaranteed. What we therefore do now will be an ultimate decider in whether humanity will continue to peacefully and happily exist in its only habitation or it will in few years from now be defeated by forces that are currently threatening its existence. Surely, this choice is ours to make.

Terinwa Adesipo is a third year law student of the Faculty of
Law,  Lagos State University.

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