Global Emissions and the available solutions to tackling the hazard for developing countries

An abridged version of the article below was submitted for the first Feature Article Writing Competition organized by Oando Marketing Plc in 2016. The article was subsequently adjudged as the 1st runner up in the competition. Please take time out to read and share your thoughts.

 

The world, as we know it, has come a long way since the industrial revolution which started in the 18th century. Prior to the industrial revolution, people were self-sufficient; relying on their abilities and capabilities to provide basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing. Most of these activities were done individually in homes or small workshops using basic tools. This system resulted in a poor standard of living for the average person. Incomes were meager, malnourishment and disease were common.

Britain was the birthplace of industrialization largely due its politically stable climate. Her status as the world’s leading colonial power (guaranteeing a steady supply of raw materials from its colonies), and substantial deposits of coal and iron ore required to fuel the factories didn’t hurt either. This sparked the Industrial Revolution in other parts of Europe leading to a transition from hand production methods to machines and the development of the factory system. Time freed as a result to focus on areas other than farming has led to inventions which have resulted in better transportation, communication, and health delivery consequently improving man’s standard of living.

These improvements, however, have come at a colossal cost to our planet. Owing to advancements in food production and the quality of health services, the world population has more than quadrupled to 7.3 billion over the past 100 years {¹}. The sustenance of this burgeoning population has led to a significant reduction of our natural resources. A clear example is the deforestation of lands for non-forest use such as settlements, factories, agricultural plantations, fuel etc. Another case is the consumption of non-renewable fossil fuels to generate electricity, power factories and various forms of transportation.

Currently the energy consumption of fossil fuels increases by about 2% {2} annually, in addition to being depleted a lot faster than they are made. The burning of these fuels produce carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming). About half of the carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels which is conservatively pegged at 10 billion tons {3} per annum is not absorbed by vegetation and the oceans, thus remaining in the atmosphere. This has increased the warming of the climate. As the temperature increases, ice glaciers in the arctic region are retreating and oceans are rising.

The impact of this phenomenon is evident in extreme weather (fewer/warmer cold days and nights) currently experienced across the globe, the resultant effect of this sharp variation in weather being floods and droughts. According to Scientists ,  the Paris floods in May 2016, that saw extreme rainfall swell the river Seine to its highest level in decades, were made almost twice as likely because of the man-made emissions driving global warming {4}. Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated across the country, as artworks in the Louvre were moved to safety and Paris’s cobbled walkways were submerged.

At nearly 12 million square miles, Africa covers 6 percent of the world’s surface area and at least 20 percent of its total land space. The continent’s size and unique weather patterns make it particularly vulnerable to the severe consequences of global warming. Rising sea levels and coastal storms have destroyed parts of Kenya, with some streets turned to virtual rivers. The floods have contaminated drinking water storage, leading to shortages and disease. Severe drought was experienced in East Africa in 2011, slashing crop yields, triggering food shortages and a refugee crisis {5}. The average temperature in South Africa increased by almost 1°F (0.56°C) over the past century resulting in extensive fires along the coast in the Western Cape Province. Statistics show that the surface area of Lake Chad has reduced from its initial 25,000 km2 to less than 2,500 km2 over the past 50 years largely due to its waters drying up. Environment experts attribute this to increasing temperatures from global warming {6}.

Global warming has significant effects on future human existence owing to the massive reduction in arable land, thereby posing a serious threat to food security from decreasing crop yields and the likely abandonment of populated areas due to rising sea levels {7}. Indeed a 2015 study {8} showed that vertebrate species—animals with backbones, like fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles—are disappearing 114 times faster than they should be, a phenomenon that has been linked to climate change, pollution, and deforestation.

These dire forecasts have not been taken lightly by the world powers. In 2013, the United States budget for global warming was $22 billion, almost double the $12 billion earmarked for customs and border enforcement {9}. The entertainment world has also stepped up to the challenge to tackle global warming. A few celebrities who have taken up the mantle to reduce global warming include Oscar frontrunner Leonardo DiCaprio who produced a film on global warming, Sting who established a charity dedicated to protecting rainforests. {10}.

Climate change due to global warming is one issue in which all nations, developed and developing are united in resolving, as the effects are far-reaching and not restricted to one geographical zone. In December 2015, after close to 20 years of meetings, representatives of 195 nations for the first time signed a legal agreement in Paris which commits nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help eliminate the most drastic effects of climate change {11}{12}{13}. Tagged the ‘Paris Agreement’, it is expected to be enforceable in 2020 and has an ambitious target of ensuring that annual greenhouse gas emissions are net zero (human-caused emissions should equal what natural sinks i.e. plants and oceans can absorb). Countries are expected to meet every 5 years to review and set more ambitious targets as required. Also developed countries will continue to collectively set aside $100 billion every year for a ‘Green Climate Fund’ which will be utilized to help developing countries adapt to effects of climate change.

Unfortunately this agreement is at a significant cost to developing countries. There is an opportunity cost of leaving fossil fuels in the ground i.e. not utilizing or exporting it. Most of these poorer countries in Africa and Asia are at the dawn of their industrial revolution, therefore they require the use of fossil fuels to transform their economies. Also some of these countries (Algeria, Botswana, and Nigeria) sit atop large fossil fuel resources like coal and gas which can generate massive export income. This begs the question, do we have to halt our economic and social development to fix a problem caused by the developed countries who have little to lose economically? Also take into consideration that the developing countries won’t be compensated for this economic loss. It’s clear that appending a signature on a piece of paper won’t cut it for the poorer countries.

Let’s bring it home to Nigeria, which currently has the 8th largest population in the world with over 180m people {14} and is projected to overtake the United States in 2050 to become the world’s third largest country. Making a switch from the consumption of fossil fuels to cleaner and renewable energy sources is a tall order for a country which has over 70% of its population living below the international poverty line {15}. Nigeria despite its wealth of petroleum, agricultural and human resources is plagued by inadequate power supply, lack of basic infrastructure etc. Herein lies the challenge, how can Nigeria meet the needs of millions of people who can’t access basic, modern energy services while participating in a global conversion to clean, low-carbon energy systems at the same time?

Nigeria has the world’s highest deforestation rate, losing over 35% of its primary forests between 1990-2005{16} due to logging, subsistence agriculture and the use of firewood. In most third world countries like Nigeria, firewood and charcoal accounts for at least 50% of deforestation {17}. Reasons for the widespread use of firewood/charcoal despite the relative abundance of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (a cleaner and easier energy source) range from it being perceived as unsafe to being expensive {18}. The reverse is actually the case, as firewood smoke has been quoted by the WHO as the third highest killer in Nigeria right behind malaria and HIV {19}Also the coal/firewood stoves burn 90 per cent more wood than is necessary, thereby costing poor families money that could be put to better use on other basic necessities.

Oando Marketing has put in place effective initiatives to bridge this awareness gap. An example is the O-Gas Teens can cook competition which started in 2015.The competition which is currently targeted at secondary schools in Lagos is geared at ensuring that the next generations of households are hooked on to cleaner sources of energy. Another example is the nationwide market storms targeted at major markets in the country. During the storms, myths on the cost and safety concerns of LPG usage are dispelled. Practical demonstrations on the usage of LPG for cooking are also carried out at the market storms to educate people on how safe cooking gas is. This sensitization has also been extended to NYSC camps. Lagos and Ilorin camps were activated last year, and 9 states are scheduled to be brought on board in 2016.

The set up cost of using LPG has been identified as a deterrent. To ameliorate this discomfort to affected families, Oando Marketing has partnered with Micro Finance Banks to deliver cylinders and cooking gas to the end users. This system affords families the opportunity to pay in instalments. These initiatives are geared at ensuring that in the near future over half of Nigerian households will have transitioned to a cleaner and less damaging source of energy, thereby significantly reducing the rate of deforestation and global warming

It has been proven that the use of quality lubricants reduces fuel consumption thereby resulting in fewer carbon emissions {20}. Nigeria has over 5 million vehicles {21} roughly over 10% of the cars in Africa.  At least 60% of these cars use poor quality lubricants which affect the performance of the engines subsequently impacting negatively on the environment. The reason for this choice of lubricants isn’t farfetched, mechanics are the key influencer of the type of lubricants to buy with over 67% input.

Oando Marketing commenced the Mechanic Village Project which is designed to empower blue-collared workers. Under this scheme, mechanics undergo various courses in different fields targeted at improving their current knowledge, and updating them on current trends in the automobile industry. They are also educated on the long term effects of the usage of low quality lubricants on the climate thus spurring a paradigm shift in the purchase decision of Lubricants. The cost of this training is fully borne by OMP. The first batch of 100 mechanics graduated in December 2014, another set of 200 graduated in January 2016 and a further batch of 500 graduates are expected in December 2016.

Admittedly Nigeria has a long way to go before she can transit to the use of energy from non-fossil fuels. However in the interim we can make a significant impact in reducing Co2 emissions by adopting lifestyle choices that will nip deforestation in the bud and reduce fuel consumption. In the words of Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, we owe it to ourselves to leave this planet in better shape for the future generations than we found it. We need to walk the talk, keeping in mind that global warming is a challenge we must rise to.

 

Appendix

{1} http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51526#.VsYem_krLtQ

{2}http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld_Statistics_2015.pdf

{3} http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html

{4}https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/10/paris-floods-made-almost-twice-as-likely-by-climate-change-say-scientists

{5}http://www.ibtimes.com/climate-change-africa-african-global-warming-role-small-crucial-crisis-solution-2008048

{6}https://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/article/lake-chad-a-living-example-of-the-devastation-climate-change-is-wreaking-on-africa-15129

{7} https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/legislative_reports/fcce-report-to-congress.pdf

{8}http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/5/e1400253.full

{9}http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/politics/item/16836-govt-to-spend-twice-as-much-on-global-warming-than-border-security

{10} http://www.ecopedia.com/lifestyle/10-celebrities-taking-action-global-warming/

{11} http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/paris/index_en.htm

{12} http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/world/europe/climate-change-accord-paris.html?_r=0

{13}http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/12/paris-climate-deal-200-nations-sign-finish-fossil-fuel-era

{14} https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2119rank.html

{15} https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ni.html

{16}http://news.mongabay.com/2005/11/nigeria-has-worst-deforestation-rate-fao-revises-{17}figures/http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/80-percent-tropical-deforestation-caused-agriculture.html

{18} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO81isPIVM4

{19} http://thenationonlineng.net/93000-nigerians-die-annually-from-firewood-smoke-iceed/

{20}http://www.machinerylubrication.com/Read/401/oil-engine-fuel-consumption

{21} http://knoema.com/atlas/Nigeria/topics/Transportation/Road-transport/Passenger-cars-per-1000-people

 

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