Let Us All Be Generation 7

Chinwendu Obed*

Growing up in the city of Lagos, it was commonplace to hear the phrase “the ozone layer is breaking”, thrown around in response to the almost unbearable heat in my city. This seemed confusing to my fourteen-year-old self at the time, but years later, I have come to understand that due to global warming, weather and seasons have become very unusual and inconsistent globally. This phenomenon has come to be known as “shifting seasons”. Most countries in the western world now experience hotter summer seasons in Sub-Saharan African countries, especially Nigeria, the rainy and harmattan seasons have become increasingly erratic.

These shifting seasons are directly linked to the gradual increase of temperature in the earth’s overall atmosphere. It is generally attributed to the effect caused by the rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), methane and other greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Greenhouse gases possess the properties of absorbing infrared radiation emitted from the earth’s surface and reradiating it back to the earth’s surface. The most significant GHG according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, are water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitro oxide (N2O).

Sources of these GHG, such as methane are, through agricultural practices, especially from livestock manure. Another source of GHG is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is largely derived from human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, mining, as well as, deforestation. Carbon emission, in particular, has taken over 0.041% by volume of the atmosphere negatively impacting the environment and the health and wellbeing of people around the world. In 2010, the nature education knowledge project published an article on the effects of rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide on plants. The article mentioned the steady rising of carbon dioxide atmospheric concentrations and its profound direct effects on the growth, physiology and chemistry of plants, independent of any effect on climate (Ziska 2008). Photosynthesis is seen as the heart of the nutritional metabolism of plants, and increasing the availability of CO2 for photosynthesis can have profound effects on plant growth and many aspects of plant physiology.

In 2021, an analysis from NOAA Global Monitoring Lab, the global average atmospheric carbon dioxide set a new high record of 414.72 parts per million. The 2.58ppm in 2021 amounts tied for the 5th highest annual increase on NOAA’s 63 year-record.

The current atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased to over 400 parts per million and has gotten to 421 parts per million as of May 2022. Each part per million by volume represents approximately 2.13 gigatonnes of carbon or 7.82 gigatonnes of CO2.

The primary by-product of fossil fuel combustion is carbon dioxide (CO2). Common fossil fuels include coal, petroleum, natural gas, bitumens, tar sands and heavy oils. All these products were formed as a result of geologic processes acting on the remains of organic matter produced by photosynthesis.

These GHGs are emitted directly or indirectly through our interaction with the atmosphere and the end products of some components and activities.

Direct emission is further divided into two scopes;

  • Scope 1: They can be emitted from sources that are owned and controlled by individuals, companies and organizations referred to as reported entities. Some relatable examples include gas flaring and factory fumes.
  • Scope 2: Direct emission on the other end is from the generation of purchased electricity

Indirect (scope 3) emissions are from activities that are not owned or directly controlled by individuals, companies, organizations or reporting entities but are related to their activities, however, owned and controlled by another entity. This form of emission is also regarded as an outsourced form of emission. Some examples include air travel, commuting, waste disposal, and water waste treatment, amongst others.

Others are from organic waste sent to landfills (CH4), water waste treatment plants (CH4 and N2O), anaerobic digestion at biogas facilities (CH4) and hydrofluorocarbons used in home appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, fluorescent and others.

In the 2019 Carbon emission ranking, Nigeria was ranked 43rd. By 2019, GHG emissions from Nigeria had increased by 2.86% from 2018 amounting to 308,179.99 kt of CO2 equivalent. This is linked to oil and gas being the country’s largest economy. The production of oil and gas has been the highest rate of environmental disasters, the exploration activities including gas flaring, combustion, burning of fossil fuel and others are examples of direct emission.

In 2020, 13% of total U.S GHG emissions were from homes and businesses. Africa accounts for the smallest GHG emissions, at just 3.8%. Despite Africa’s low contribution to global GHG emissions, the continent faces exponential collateral damage and risk and is the most vulnerable continent to climate change impact. Seven out of ten countries that were vulnerable to climate change are in Africa. In 2015, four African countries ranked among the ten most affected countries; Mozambique, Malawi, Ghana and Madagascar.

In 2019, according to the Global climate risk index 2020, by Environmental and Development Organization Germanwatch analysis. The report noted some countries that were most affected by extreme weather events in the year 2018 and places to be most vulnerable to climate change. The African countries among the top 10 include; Madagascar, Kenya and Rwanda.

On the 12th of December, 2015, the Paris Agreement which represents a legally binding International Treaty on Climate Change was adopted by 196 countries and was entered into force on the 4th of November, 2016. Countries are expected to submit their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs) which is to communicate their actions to be taken to reduce GHG emissions in order to reach the goal of the agreement. As of 2019, 49 out of 54 African countries had ratified their (NDCs) some of which include; Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire Uganda, and Ethiopia, amongst others.

The negative effects of these increasing gas emissions are enormous, and in addition to shifting, seasons can be directly linked to worsening air quality, respiratory infections; economic loss, environmental effects, flooding, an increased drought that leads to poverty and displacement due to destruction of houses and livelihood, poor agricultural yields amongst others. The Carnegie Institute estimates that around 5 billion dollars in crop loss per year are due to global warming. There has also been a decrease of 40 million metric tons of cereal grains like wheat, barley and corn annually.

EFFECTIVE SOLUTIONS

The negative effects of global warming have resulted in increased global actions aimed at drastically reducing GHG emissions. As part of the Paris Agreement, countries agreed to pursue efforts aimed at limiting global warming to below 2oC. In Africa, most countries have pledged to achieve net zero by 2050–2060.

In order for this to be achievable, environmentally and climate-friendly alternative solutions must be adopted and encouraged to drive electrification efforts, cooking, transportation, and waste management among others. Some of these solutions include improved clean cookstoves, electric vehicles, renewable energy, and recycling.

CLEAN COOKING — Cooking is the most energy-intensive household activity. Most people, particularly those in rural and peri-urban communities use open fire and inefficient stoves such as fuel wood, and kerosene stoves which are harmful to their health and environment. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 68.3% of all Nigerian households still use solid biomass (firewood and charcoal) for cooking. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that smoke from the kitchen leads to 93,300 deaths annually in Nigeria and is considered a leading cause of death after malaria and HIV/AIDS.

There is therefore the need for a transition to the use of available cleaner and energy-efficient stoves. These alternatives reduce the amount of carbon emitted and reduce the excessive felling of trees for firewood.

Some of the Clean options according to WHO include: LPG stoves, electric stoves using hot plates or inductions, electric rice cookers, ethanol stoves, biogas and specialized biogas stoves.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES — Popularly known as EV is a vehicle that uses one or more electric motors for propulsion. It can be powered with electricity or by a battery that is powered by solar panels. In 2016, transport contributed 31.9% to the GHG emission in Nigeria. They include but are not limited to road vehicles, rail vehicles, surface and water vehicles, aircraft and spacecraft. Globally, transport has the highest reliance on fossil fuels of any sector and accounts for 37% of CO2 emissions from end‐use sectors. Globally, transport accounts for 17% of GHG emissions and 20.1% of carbon emissions with Asia as the highest contributing t 33% and Africa, as the lowest contributing 3%. The transport sector in Lagos, Nigeria accounts for between 23% -30% of Lagos’ annual emissions, transiting to electric vehicles for most forms of transport systems will be instrumental in enabling Nigeria and the other countries to achieve their net-zero targets

RENEWABLE ENERGY — The highest recorded volume of emissions from electricity generation in Nigeria, was in 2014. Nearly 12.8 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent were registered. In 2020, carbon emissions from the power sector in Nigeria reached around 11.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The transition from the use of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources could potentially reduce emissions in the country. These sources include:

  • Hydro, also known as water power is the use of falling and fast-running water to produce electricity or to power machines. This is by converting the gravitational potential or kinetic energy of a water source to produce power.
  • Wind energy is mostly the use of wind turbines to generate electricity. The wind turns the propeller-like blades of a turbine around a rotor, which spins a generator and then creates electricity. The wind is a form of solar energy caused by the combination of three concurrent events; the uneven heating of the atmosphere, irregularities of the earth’s surface and the rotation of the earth.
  • Solar- most African countries located in Sub-Saharan regions have abundant solar energy. Through radiant light and heat from the sun that is harnessed using a range of technology such as solar power to generate electricity either directly using photovoltaics or indirectly using concentrated solar power or a combination of both.

ACT OF RECYCLINGFor every 1 tonne of plastic waste burned 2.9 tonnes of carbon emissions are created. An astounding and potentially harmful phenomenon. Since the 1950s, mankind has produced over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic, out of which only 9% has been recycled. 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic are estimated to have become plastic waste. Approximately 70.2 million tons (29%) of plastic waste were burned without regulation worldwide in 2016, leading to 0.92 ± 0.53 million tons of toxic aerosols being released into the air, the majority of which occurred in developing regions.

The act of recycling is reusing already used items in a new way. This will help conserve resources and reduce waste and pollution. This will in turn reduce the number of plastics to be incinerated or wrongfully discarded, which in turn releases these harmful gases into the environment.

CONCLUSION

These GHGs may be inevitable, some are emitted naturally, and some are emitted through highly industrialized activities in sectors like maritime, manufacturing, and aircraft, amongst others. However, the unregulated emissions from these industrial activities and other human activities have negative health, climate and environmental implications. The global space is becoming more aware of the effect of these gas emissions and most government bodies, organizations and industries are making room for policy change, energy transition, and effective awareness to the general public. It is important to increase awareness in less developed communities of the effect of these gasses on human health, water bodies and to the food that we eat. The world is a global village, and the activities of one continent can have adverse effects on another. Thus, achieving net zero emissions globally is going to require collaboration to create a healthier and cleaner space for ourselves and our planet.

Chinwendu Obed* is a Junior Associate, Energy Access at Clean Technology Hub

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Clean Technology Hub is a hybrid hub for research, policy development, community engagement, & incubation of clean energy & climate resilience ideas in Nigeria.