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Academy Begins Rescue Mission

Nigeria
This Day
19/10/2010

Climate Change has become one of the most difficult challenges ever faced by the world. As terrifying as the problem is however, the world has failed to agree on a way out. All stakeholders are therefore fashioning solutions that meet their peculiar needs. This is probably why a Nigerian initiative is being championed by the Nigeria Academy of Science. Steve Dada writes

Scientific and technological developments have been causing both positive and negative changes in different spheres of human endeavour. The industrial revolution which led to the transformation of crude tools to modern technological equipment is a good example of the kind of positive change caused by science and technology. It is technology that has made it possible for man to replace human labour with automation, making operations and performance more accurate, precise and effective.

However, from the industrial revolution of 18th century, changes from wood (bio fuels) to fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas have caused dramatic rise in earth surface temperature and scientific data has shown that the world has reached its hottest ever point in recorded history indicating negative climate change and potentially dangerous global-warming.

There is a general observation that in the last five to ten years, there had been longer summers with temperatures above 90 degrees in the months of September and October. That never happened prior to 2000. So something has definitely changed and the whole world should be concerned.

For those that may not know, the effects of carbon are significantly accelerating warming of the globe to a point where life may become unsustainable. Scientists suggest that this has happened before. The theory suggests that this was what wiped out life on earth (including dinosaurs). Although it says natural progression is very slow, man made carbon can bring about massive change in less than 50 years. It is a problem that should concern all. This is probably why the Nigeria Academy of Science (NAS) decided to intervene. The Academy organised a roundtable to explore ways to save the country from the negative effects of global change.

Former President of NAS, Professor David Okali, while exploring the link between climate change and agriculture in Nigeria in a paper titled 'The Science of Climate Change', noted that evidence of climate change and global warming can be felt in melting ice, sea level rise, changing weather patterns, extreme weather events and weather-related disasters.

He said the main consequence or knock-on effect is disruption of agriculture and hence livelihoods. Climate change, according to him, can be as a result of change in radiation balance in the earth and atmospheric system known as radiation forcing. He listed some of the factors as greenhouse gases, aerosols, land cover, solar activity and volcanic eruptions. Explaining further, Okali said Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the most important greenhouse gas, which causes the most of the change in the balance between incoming and outgoing radiation in the atmosphere, while others are methane, nitrous oxide, halocarbons, ozone, and water vapour.

He noted that throughout the world, the prevalence of some diseases and other threats to human health depend largely on local climate. "Extreme temperatures can lead directly to loss of life, while climate-related disturbances in ecological systems such as changes in the range of infective parasites can indirectly impact the incidence of serious infectious diseases. In addition, warm temperatures can increase air and water pollution, which in turn harm human health.

"Human health is strongly affected by social, political, economic, environmental and technological factors, including urbanisation, affluence, scientific developments, individual behaviour and individual vulnerability (e.g. genetic makeup, nutritional status, emotional well-being, age, gender and economic status). The extent and nature of climate change impacts on human health vary by region, by relative vulnerability of population groups, by the extent and duration of exposure to climate change itself and by society's ability to adapt to or cope with the change. "Human beings are exposed to climate change through changing weather patterns (for example, more intense and frequent extreme events) and indirectly through changes in water, air, food quality and quantity, ecosystems, agriculture, and economy. At this early stage the effects are small but are projected to progressively increase in all countries and regions", he said.

Given the complexity of factors that influence human health, assessing health impacts related to climate change poses a difficult challenge. Furthermore, climate change is expected to bring a few benefits to health, including fewer deaths due to exposure to cold. Nonetheless, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that, overall (globally), negative climate-related health impacts are expected to outweigh positive health impacts during this century. The panel argues that climate change may directly affect human health through increases in average temperature. Such increases may lead to more extreme heat waves during the summer while producing less extreme cold spells during the winter. Rising average temperatures are predicted to increase the incidence of heat waves and hot extremes. Climate change may increase the risk of some infectious diseases, particularly those diseases that appear in warm areas and are spread by mosquitoes and other insects.

Okali explained that these "vector-borne" diseases include malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis. Also, algal blooms could occur more frequently as temperatures warm - particularly in areas with polluted waters in which case diseases (such as cholera) that tend to accompany algal blooms could become more frequent. He also explained that higher temperatures, in combination with favourable rainfall patterns could also prolong disease transmission seasons in some locations where certain diseases already exist. In other locations, climate change will decrease transmission via reductions in rainfall or temperatures that are too high for transmission. For example, temperature and humidity levels must be sufficient for certain disease-carrying vectors, such as ticks that carry Lyme disease, to thrive. And climate change could push temperature and humidity levels either towards or away from optimum conditions for the survival rate of ticks.

The IPCC, he stated, has noted that the global population at risk from vector-borne malaria will increase by between 220 million and 400 million in the next century. While most of the increase is predicted to occur in Africa, some increased risk is projected in Britain, Australia, India and Portugal. "Climate change is expected to contribute to some air quality problems. Respiratory disorders may be exacerbated by warming-induced increases in the frequency of smog (ground-level ozone) events and particle air pollution. "Ground-level ozone can damage lung tissue, and is especially harmful for those with asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Sunlight and high temperatures, combined with other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, can cause ground-level ozone to increase. Climate change may increase the concentration of ground-level ozone, but the magnitude of the effect is uncertain. For other pollutants, the effects of climate change and/or weather are less well studied and results vary by region.

Another pollutant of concern is "particulate matter", also known as particle pollution or PM. Particulate matter is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. When breathed in, these particles can reach the deepest regions of the lungs. Exposure to particle pollution is linked to a variety of significant health problems. Particle pollution also is the main cause of visibility impairment (haze) in the nation's cities and national parks. Climate change may indirectly affect the concentration of PM pollution in the air by affecting natural or "biogenic" sources of PM such as wildfires and dust from dry soils."

Also speaking, the current President of the Academy, Professor Ibidapo-Obe noted that temperature rise generally is man made and is caused by pollution, stressing that coal burning also leads to negative climate change. He disclosed that NAS decided that the Global Changes for the 2012 ASADI conference should be held in Nigeria, stressing that the issues to be discussed would include climate change impacts, mitigation and adaptation for human security and so on, with the hope that the academy will have a fruitful meeting.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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