This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Leveraging Science to Solve Climate Change Crisis

Climate change adaptation and responses present unique opportunities for multisectoral synergy and these came to the fore recently at a meeting in Lagos, writes Godwin Haruna

Science, it is reasoned, has come to redefine the world. Most developments known to man have come through the instrumentality of scientific research undertaken either as a collective or individually. Across the world, the manifestations of climate change in various forms have caused a lot of havocs to people. In the face of increasing destructions and discomfort caused by this phenomenon, the Federal Ministry of the Environment working in concert with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have conceived the idea of a scientific group to find solutions to the many negative variations of climate change.

To this end, a campaign aimed at leveraging experiences, knowledge and resources amongst research institutions to bridge the gap between science, technology and policy to tackle climate change has been adopted by the federal government.

The initiative has led to the creation of the Science and Technology Research Committee on Climate Change (STRCCC), a body of researchers that will act as a forum for dialogue and brainstorming within the scientific and technological community. The committee's duty is to devise concise, practical and implementable recommendations that will unearth climate change challenges and opportunities for economic development in the country.

This novel strategy, which manifested in ultimately setting up the committee is the brainchild of the Department of Climate Change (DCC) in the Federal Ministry of Environment and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The approach was given a life of its own during a two-day forum held recently in Lagos under the auspices of the Africa Adaptation Programme (AAP) in collaboration with the UNDP.

Implemented by the UNDP, the AAP aims at promoting an integrated approach to adaptation to climate change through building the governance system, empower children and women as change agents, and demonstrate adaptation benefits in the agricultural sector. It also aims to assist the vulnerable section of the society in building their resilience in combating the effects of climate change.

At the meeting in Lagos, the Department of Climate Change Acting Director, Dr. Samuel Adejuwon, said that the adequate response to climate change challenges needs to be aligned with science and technology towards national and regional strategies for development, poverty alleviation, economic growth and the enhancement of human well being, while increasing resilience to the physical impacts of climate change.

Represented by Mr. Peter Tarfa, a senior official of the ministry, Adejuwon said: "Climate change is indeed a serious threat to poverty eradication and sustainable development in Nigeria. This is because the country has a large rural population directly depending on climate-sensitive economic and development sectors (agriculture and fisheries) and natural resources (such as water, biodiversity, grassland) for their subsistence and livelihoods. In addition, the adaptive capacity of the rural majority to climate change impacts is very low. Unfortunately, most current development strategies in the country tend to overlook climate change risks. The costs of not addressing climate change or to adapt to it are very uncertain, but their welfare consequences are expected to be enormous."

Adejuwon, who doubles as the APP National Coordinator, stated that the responsibility for action on climate change-related problems does not fall solely on government.

"Government has commenced actions in taking legislative or regulatory measures, prepare economic policies or incentives or dissuasive measures for economic operators. However, every sector of the society has important roles to play, including science and technology, private enterprises, producers, and consumers who are encouraged to also stand out in the battle against greenhouse gases effects through insisting on sustainable and environmentally friendly product choices and production techniques," he stated further.

Adejuwon lamented that the status of Nigeria as an economy largely driven by crude oil export makes the country highly vulnerable to climate change and economic instability should major importers commercialise their investments in alternative energy sources.

"Nigeria could lose much future revenue unless efforts are made to diversify the economy through investing in enhanced human capacity building and developing technologies whose products can form the basis of future trade with other countries on carbon credit," the APP Coordinator stated.

Also speaking at the event, Mr. Muyiwa Odele, Head of the Climate Change Unit of UNDP said climate change adaptation and responses present unique opportunities for multi-sectoral synergy that could effectively reinvent how these institutions relate with each other.

"There is a popular saying that innovation is the lifeblood of sustainable economic development, so the overall vision of this dialogue is to celebrate the contribution of science and technology through the institutions over the years to Nigeria's development, provide a platform for exchange of ideas, and explore the possibility of evolving a framework for bridging the gap between scientific innovations and economic transformation in the country," Odele stated.

He stated that science has become the instrument of resolving most human problems across the world, therefore, it is quite urgent for Nigerian scientists to leverage on their scientific knowledge to solve society's problems as it relates to the climate change conundrum.

However, participants at the gathering, who came from research institutes, departments and parastatals of government, recommended that research, planning and implementation process should ensure that requisite expertise, adequate funding, capacity building and adequate infrastructure are in place. They urged government to also ensure there is a research-industry linkage through proper institutional and policy framework.

Additionally, they urged government to ensure that researchers embark on demand-driven research for development through a policy framework, even as the authorities should operationalise the recently inaugurated National Research and Development Coordinating Council (NRDCC) as a platform for sustainable research.

They further called on government to put in place incentives and a conducive environment to encourage synergy and networking among researchers on one hand and between research and industry on the other.

Divided into three groups, they canvassed for the establishment of atmospheric background observatories; (some significant findings can be made on GHG observations, especially CO2 concentration, Methane emission data from waste and dumpsites; Developing temperature change curve depicting climate change over a period of time; and development of climate change models; vulnerability study of Nigerian coastlines; research into ocean fertilization for increasing species.

The participants also stressed developing renewable and energy saving technologies in all sectors (building materials, steel, chemicals, construction, transportation, mining etc); research and development of renewable and new energies like wind power, bio-energy, solar energy, hydro power, thermal power and fuel cells.

They also called for developing biological and engineering carbon sequestration technologies and use modern biotechnology techniques to raise seedlings for carbon sink; desertification control and green shelter.

They called for a clean/efficient developed technologies of petroleum exploration, and natural gas

A number of the participants in their group discussion listed institutional challenges of scientific research on climate change to include the following; Translating research into core activities; Funding of R & D and capacity building; Poor data management and data sharing; Inadequate infrastructure and equipment; Lack of trained manpower and Lack of continuous time-series data. Others include weak coordination amongst institutions; lack of Public-Private-Partnership in research and lack of political will and continuity in governance.

Among recommendations on way forward by the participants, which included scientists and the media are that the Federal Government should ensure that researchers embark on demand-driven research for development through the policy framework.

They also want the Federal Government to operationalise the recently inaugurated National Research and Development Coordinating Council (NRDCC) as a platform for sustainable research. According to them, research planning and implementation process should ensure that requisite expertise, adequate funding, capacity building and adequate infrastructure in a conducive environment are in place. The government should also ensure research-industry linkage through proper institutional and policy framework and that it should put in place incentives and a conducive environment to encourage synergy and networking among researchers on one hand and between research and industry on the other. According to the group, a well-articulated strategy to bridge gaps between scientific research and policy making/ implementation as enunciated above is a sine qua non for sustainable development.

Quote: There is a popular saying that innovation is the lifeblood of sustainable economic development, so the overall vision of this dialogue is to celebrate the contribution of science and technology through the institutions over the years to Nigeria's development, provide a platform for exchange of ideas, and explore the possibility of evolving a framework for bridging the gap between scientific innovations and economic transformation in the country

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