IPCC report: Action needed to curb climatic impact

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released the second of its three-part report on climate change, at a conference in Yokohama, Japan. In this article, ETTA MICHAEL BISONG, writes on the awful revelations of the study and why Nigeria must act urgently to respond to the threats outlined in the report.

The new Fifth Assessment Report is the IPCC’s biggest report since 2007. The first part was released in September 2013. The third report is due for release this April in Berlin, Germany. The Synthesis Report of the Fifth Assessment will be considered in Copenhagen, Denmark, from October 27 to 31, 2014.
The report warned that the increasing magnitude of global warming would have severe, pervasive and irreversible impact on the climate. It expressed fears that at present the impact is being witnessed or suffered by the natural systems, but this growth would also have worse impact on humans. The report in its summary claimed that this rise in temperatures would also threaten health, homes, food and safety, while predicting that climate change impacts will include shrinking GDP, food shortages, and a rise in violent conflicts.
The released document has highlighted the fact that the amount of scientific evidence on the impacts of warming has also doubled since the last report in 2007. The document presented facts like the melting of glaciers and warming of permafrost as palpable evidence before us today.  It states that the impact of global warming has affected all the continents and oceans along with the impacts on natural and human systems in recent decades. It outlined the impact of warming on the seas as well as on the freshwater systems and said that the oceans will become more acidic, which threatens the coral and other species that they habour.  The most significant area that has been highlighted is food security as this change in climate will hamper the production of crops like wheat, rice and maize by 2050.
The groundbreaking scientific and technical assessment on the impacts of climate change was published after a weeklong intense discussion of scientists and officials in Yokohama, Japan. The meeting was held from March 25 to 29, 2014 and this report is based on more than 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies.
The panel’s first report in September 2013 warned that primarily, humans are responsible for the warming, which had led to rise in sea level than it was predicted earlier. The third report that will focus on mitigation of climate change will be released later this month in Berlin, Germany; the Synthesis Report of the Fifth Assessment Report will be the subject of a wide spectrum consideration in Copenhagen, Denmark, later in the year. A similar summit in 2015 will be held in Paris with a focus on creation of a new international climate treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The first phase of the summit came to an end in 2012.
The IPCC is the leading scientific international body for the assessment of climate change and was established under the auspices of the UN. It was established by the United Nations Environmental Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation in 1988 with an aim to providing the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. In the same year, the UN General Assembly endorsed the action by UNEP and WMO in jointly establishing the IPCC.

What does this mean for the world? It means that we are in trouble, pure and simple. And the world needs urgent help. But in more practical terms, it means that we shall experience more severe weather changes and climate related disasters in the years ahead. The natural disaster in Tacloban, Philippines, last year was as a result of this; and in many parts of the world, hundreds of millions of people have been washed off their land as a result of coastal flooding – experts say crop yields have dropped by two per cent. Even Peru, the host of the next climate talks, COP 20, is currently suffering from intense flooding. But the pathetic part is that poor countries, which are worst hit, cannot stem the menace on their own. They need help from the rich nations, both to adapt to and to mitigate the impacts, but these well-to-do countries continue to make empty promises and refuse making robust commitments.

The poses a lot of challenges to Nigeria. Starters for instance, whether we like it or not, some of the violent conflicts in some sections of the country are actually caused or worsened by climate change. For instance, climate change-induced desertification is driving Fulani cattle herders further down the southern trail where the grasses are still lush, and then spurring more conflicts between them and the host communities.
Ironically, unlike other developing nations where climate change is mainstreamed into development strategies at all levels, our government refuses to come to grips with the threat. There is low level of awareness about climate change in Nigeria and the way it is presented to the public. There is also no robust policy framework or institutional structure to face the global menace head-on.

The Climate Change Commission Bill that has been passed by the National Assembly since 2010 still lies on President Goodluck Jonathan’s desk, gathering dust and waiting for his signature, four years after his Transformation Agenda notwithstanding.
The nation’s focal point in the fight against climate change has no bite because it is not empowered, which makes it an ineffective fulcrum that lacks capacity to drive the other climate-allied ministries of agriculture, transportation, aviation, and water resources. Recently, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on  Climate Change, EziucheUbani, revealed that “in its budget last year, the Department of Climate Change in the Ministry of Environment had a budget that was under N500m, and the whole country was to be managed climate challenge-wise from the microscopic budget.” So, considering that we have also not summoned the courage to stop gas flaring, a major culprit in global warming, one wonders whether the alarm bell just sounded by the IPCC is strident enough to wake us all from a deep “climate slumber.’’

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