Lagos flooding: A Climate Change Issue or Irresponsible Urban Planning?

Posted by FN Editor | 2 years ago | 1,384 times


By Emenike Vincent Onyembi
I am passionate about climate change because I strongly believe it is a looming crisis we are not fully appreciating. At least, not at the moment. I have been following some researches on the issue for a couple of months now and I have come to the conclusion that it is a serious global challenge. Yet, it sounds unfathomable that a score of people, especially notable leaders across the globe are not so passionate about it and so, downplay its seriousness. I anxiously wait to see what perspectives they have as to their docility or disinterest in the impending world threat.  

When people fail to see it as a looming crisis, I often find myself trying to understand what they are actually thinking of it. They even go to the extent of asking the question: “A crisis compared to what?”, that is quite amazing. Perhaps, most ridiculous. We believe mankind is bedevilled with a lot of crises, and all of these threaten the existence of mankind one way or the other. And it behoves humanity to resist these threats before they reach a point of maximum impact. 
Yes, we are often not dealing with each threat per se rather we are dealing with the imminence of each threat. For instance, we have a lot asteroids flying around the earth. We are not in control of the flight paths of these asteroids, so we really do not know for certain when these bodies will impact the earth. 

We have the threat of the rise of machines/Artificial Intelligence, which I personally think should not be seen as more imminent. We also have rising inequality of wealth and access to resources. The concern should be about ‘what exact threats climate change pose and how imminent is this crisis’.
Meanwhile, I think one of the issues about climate change is that there is a direct causal link between the ways our planet and its environment has changed and the choices that we make (energy generation and use). And for the most part, it is a deterioration. It is probably not the worst thing taken all together, but it is certainly one of the few we have direct measurable control over – If we change our choices. I would make a big issue about something going wrong that I can control but have failed to control, than something probably worse, for which I have little or no control over.

Now this has put Lagos, our own Lagos on my mind. Then, I ask, is Lagos’ imminent submergence really a climate change issue or a capitalism/irresponsible urban planning issue? We know there will be a significant drop in carbon dioxide emissions over the next 50 years. We also hear that there has been rising sea levels, and these have been attributed to thermal expansion and melting ice glaciers. Now, this is where I get curious, the temperature in our oceans is said to have risen by 0.4 Fahrenheit in the last 50 years.
Is that not huge compared to the other issues we are dealing with as mankind? I am not asking that we only consider the facts of the evolution of how we will be generating and consuming energy in the next couple of years and the impact that this might have in dropping global CO2 emissions, but I am only of the opinion that we don’t dismiss climate change discourse. 

With the infrastructural deficit in Africa and the estimated three fold rise in population of the region by 2100, are we not concerned about the future of mankind in this part of the world? Spain and Italy’s populations are estimated to drop by as much as 60% by 2100 respectively. China is estimated to shed almost half of its population. Are we preparing our black nations to step into office then? Are black nations equipping themselves for this future?

In Lagos, Apapa is still bearing the burden of the entire nation-state. Most of the import for over 180m Nigerians come through this route. We are just not thinking strategically. No rail. No diversification of Ports development so imports could land in other Ports. Why are our importers, most of whom are based in the South-East and South-South still using Lagos ports? Do we think they just like stress? The information is that there is some collusion to keep other ports sub-optimal or defunct in order to favour Lagos, something I find rather awkward. Probably, Lagos is going to collapse under the weight of its ‘own greed’.

If, as they predict, Lagos becomes completely submerged by 2100, because of its low coast lime and rising sea level caused by global warming, it will be really terrible. Of a truth, we are improving profoundly in the area of clean energy and energy efficacy. But one would ask if these improvements are forced by climate change campaigns or general cost efficacy (plus increased opportunities for value creation). Personally, I think the two are not mutually exclusive.

The other day, a Nigerian Senator was advocating that it is high time we started promulgating electric cars in Nigeria to reduce the burning of fossil fuel which has become hazardous to our health as a people. That initiative did not sell because of reasons obvious to all of us — “we are not ripe for such level of development as we lack the capacity to evolve it into our system”. So, when are we going to go total green as a people? I feel that alternatives like renewable energy should be implored.

From my own understanding, renewable energy does not require anything to be burned and destroyed. But burning of fossil fuels brings about the emission of carbon dioxide which prevents heat from escaping from the earth’s atmosphere. It does produce greenhouse effect like we were taught in high school back then. That traps heat reflected by the earth's surface, hence the description of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The greater the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the more heat is trapped. Consequently, this sets up its own self-reinforcing cycle; the more carbon dioxide there, the hotter the planet becomes; to the hotter the planet, the less ice there at the poles, the less heat is reflected, and the hotter the planet becomes and so on. 

The world’s population is currently rising, global consumption is soaring, energy supplies are declining and climate change is accelerating, meaning we are literally on the verge of a global struggle for resources. This is very disturbing. Climate change will not only bring about the degradation of ecosystems, it is also likely to result in the disintegration of the entire human society. That is to say if some of the more extreme climate change predictions are proved correct, we may find ourselves thrown into armed conflict. Such predictions warn not of a gradual warming of the planet that leads to a slow rise in temperatures, but of a climatic tipping point when the natural regulatory mechanisms of the planet break down irretrievably and widespread devastation results, on a scale with which humanity is ill-equipped to cope.

So what are we doing about it? Where are the environmentalists? What are the alternatives to fossil fuel-powered technologies? I am not an authority in this field but it has become so necessary to have some basic knowledge about this field as it all concerns us irrespective of our various areas of specialties.
I have come into conclusion that most of consumers in the world, when about to pay, take for instance, a £30,000 for a car are more interested in whether the seats are leather than how much a tank of petrol will cost or what the ecological consequences of burning that tank of petrol will be to the human race. The quantity of carbon dioxide emitted on daily basis have become very worrisome to me. We are really exposed to deadly atmosphere almost every other day.
The kind of dangerous discharges that we inhale everyday is really baffling to me. Perhaps it does not bother the elites in our system. When are we going all green? That's the most pertinent question!


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