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Environmental Pollution and Climate Change Explains Recent Unstable Weather in Nigeria

31 December 2020


Haruna Adamu, PhD

The chaotic state of the environment today, caused by pollution and the changes it causes, such as climate change, are rising and evident even to the common man. Climate change is the shift in weather average conditions echoed in terms of changes in temperature and rainfall patterns.

The environment is particularly very sensitive when it comes to pollution exposure. This is why the planet earth today, which is the most hospital and richly endowed of the other planets within the solar system, is no longer as hospitable as it used to be. At present, the earth appears to be facing rapid warming. Most scientists believe results, at least in part, from human activities. All of earth's spheres― the biosphere (living things), hydrosphere (water), lithosphere (rock/soil), and atmosphere (air) ― work together to create and maintain the climate. Conversely, the biosphere, which consists of humans, in particular, has witnessed a progressively more significant impact on the environment in the last few decades.

Although natural climate fluctuations have been documented to occur on a geologic time scale (that is, over millions of years) throughout earth's history. However, present-day climate change trends are befalling at a frequency and pattern that exceeds the identified natural phenomena. From scientific evidence, as we have natural occurring phenomena, many human-made induced phenomena from man-industrial activities are predominant factors affecting current climate trends. This partly arose from undesirable materials added to the environment due to advancements in technology and our consumption style changes. For example, in Nigeria, people's lifestyle, consumption, and poor waste disposal have disturbed the environment's ecological balance. Today, the air we breathe in is polluted by the exhaust gases being released in the urban environment due to the increasing number of automobiles and industrial activities. In addition, because of the urban high demand for energy, the growing people's attitude of burning firewood and charcoals leads to a net addition to undesirable gases in the atmospheric space.

By now, most average literate Nigerians must have heard that greenhouse gases emissions caused by environmental pollution affects the climate, and this appears more severely in urban areas than rural locations. Indeed, the commonest greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and tropospheric ozone (O3). Because of the indiscriminate dumping of wastes, urban refuse in dumpsites is major sources of uninvited gas of methane, which has more heating effect than carbon dioxide. This does not only bring illness to humans but causes environmental havoc.

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Carbon absorption and climatic systems are also impacted by water pollution through decarbonisation of the water systems. Additionally, the soil is considered the second largest carbon reservoir after the ocean to lessen climate change effects. Human and ecological systems depended on soil for the supply of water and nutrients to bolster plant growth, regulate the water cycle, and serve as a carbon sink. However, the warmer conditions in urban areas accelerate the release of carbon dioxide and methane by the degradation of organic wastes facilitated by microorganisms. Therefore, it is important to understand that organic waste dumped on the urban's soil is potentially degradable to carbon dioxide and methane as is present in the atmosphere. So, the situation is a cyclic process where urban heat speeds up the rate at which degradation by microorganisms adds these gases to the atmosphere and in return disorders urban's climate.

Consequently, soil pollution affects its carbon absorption capacity and causes climate change though changing temperature, fetching heat with a burden of urban land aridity. The expansion of earth's normal surface temperature because of the impact of pollution, such as carbon dioxide outflows from smouldering fossil fuels or deforestation, trap heat that would somehow steer the urban environment. For this reason, environmental pollution and changed climate create a new framework for the manifestation of urban heat stresses, as the intensification of existing urban pollution problems is an important direct consequence of an experiencing warmer climate. So, the severity of air and heatwaves' dryness in urban areas are factors that contribute to urban heat island formation. On the other hand, urban heat islands also exacerbate the climate changes, so the problem feeds on itself.

With the destruction of plant life due to urbanisation and energy demand, the cooling system's efficiency through the interception of solar heat and absorption of carbon dioxide goes radically down, causing heat island creation. When such happens, it means that more energy is contained in the air and water at the earth's surface, and thus, more violent weather disturbances could result. This explains the tropical storm experienced in Bauchi capital in June 2018, which jolted people into panic and tears. It left people with hopelessness in its wake with properties worth millions of naira destroyed. In Nigeria, this has historically informed us that climate change aggravated by an increase in urban temperature can cause unprecedented socio-economic upheavals, especially in the fragile and densely populated urban societies.

To make matters worse, most areas in the urban that currently suffer from dryness are likely to become drier because of rapid dehydration of surface dampness. Due to urban heat, scarcity of surface and groundwater is one of the most serious problems resulting from climate change resulting from greenhouse warming. Water shortages would be aggravated, not just because of decreased rainfall, but from increased evaporation as well. Increased evaporation can also result in reduced runoff of water, thereby reducing surface water availability for municipal use and shortage of water for urban irrigation practice.

In conclusion, it is evident that the amount of greenhouse gases has increased and are still rapidly growing. This helps to explain the occurrence of climate change. It also points to the fact that human activities cause turbulent weather being experienced. Accordingly, if greenhouse gases emissions continue unabated, this unpredictable and harsh weather condition will continue to worsen. Therefore, there is a need for public awareness campaigns to help mitigate this problem.

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