12 December 2012

Nigeria 'Must Close Climate Change Communication Gap'

Lagos — Nigeria must close a "communication gap" to ensure that vital information on climate change-related events reaches all those who could use it to help minimise their impact, the head of the country's meteorological body has warned.

Speaking at the yearly meeting of the African Science Academies, held in Lagos last month (12-14 November), Anthony Anuforom, director-general of the Nigerian Meteorology Agency (NIMET), said that a 'national climate service policy' would ensure greater management and use of data on events such as flooding, prolonged droughts and heat waves.

"Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity. We have evidence of an increasing frequency of thunderstorms. We need to think of establishing a national framework for climate service," he said.

Anuforom said the framework would ensure better public communication of climate issues such as rainfall, flooding, drought and rising temperatures.

"Users would include farmers, policymakers, health workers, environmentalists and universities in Nigeria," he said.

According to Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency, 363 people died and a further 2.1 million were displaced between July to October because of flooding.

Anuforom said that inadequate information on disaster risk reduction and the lack of a framework to ensure that climate data are passed between agencies such as NIMET and policymakers was partly responsible for the damage and deaths caused by these floods.

"Part of the problem of the recent floods was due to a communication gap. There is no formal policy connecting service providers like us with the users of the information," he explained.

In 2009, the World Meteorological Organization adopted the global framework for climate service, which aims to ensure effective use of climate information in global decision-making.

But Anuforom said Nigeria should create its own national system to guarantee that climate service providers are connected with service users. "If we had a proper framework, we would be on our way to ensuring proper mitigation of climatic effects," he said.

In a statement read at the meeting by minister of science and technology Okon Ewa, Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, said: "It is estimated that 90 million to 220 million Africans will be exposed to increased water-related stresses induced by climate change by 2020. Without adequate study and timely actions, the manifold effects of such occurrences will undoubtedly worsen environmental problems in our continent."

The country's minister of health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, told the conference that the Nigerian population's vulnerability to climate change health impacts such as flooding and disease meant that better management and use of climate data was needed.

Chukwu said: "Climate change is expected to increase the burden of climate sensitive diseases, such as heat-related illnesses, vector-borne and diarrhoea diseases, injuries from extreme events and respiratory diseases," he said.

Public health institutions need to modify their approach in anticipation of these impacts, he said.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.

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