Nigeria: Citizens See Climate Change As an Act of God -BBC Survey

Abuja, Nigeria - A British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service Trust research has revealed that many Nigerians think that climate change is caused by God. The reason cited for this view was that divine punishment was being meted out for the basket of sins of the world.

The finding shows the pervasive influence of religion on the perception of the environment. It will be recalled that Pope John Paul was progressively 'green'. His successor, Pope Benedict, has been speaking up for environmental protection. The Vatican under him has hosted a scientific conference and discussed global warming and climate change, which are blamed on human use of fossil fuels.

The findings of the BBC survey fitted into the 'God-frame' thinking. Religious leaders and groups as well as local people said since change in the whether pattern had been ordained. The logic of what had been planned and set on course by divine agency naturally led to an iron-cast fatalism. People saw themselves as powerlessness and could do little or nothing to change events.

Outside the God-frame, the report also notes that the understanding of climate change is hazy among every segment of society. The knowledge of private sector people spoken to linked impacts from their own activities on the environment only in terms of waste disposal and pollutions. They did not link climate change to carbon emission.

In general, Nigerians understood climate change in terms of change in weather pattern. And this was limited to their sensual awareness of abnormal increase in the level of heat and effect it had on farm yield in a rain-fed agriculture.

However, Nigerians are taking actions to actions to address its effects although such measures are not taken as conscious and direct attempts to fight climate change. "Respondents from local religious and community associations are actively addressing weather-related impacts affecting their communities," the report noted. "They are not linking these impacts to global climate change."

The survey noted that the awareness of climate change was highest at the federal level. This dropped sharply at the state and local government levels, where real action is needed. This meant that governmental action was ahead of individual action, which also reflected the findings of the research. A federal official was cited as summing the total level of awareness of, and perhaps action on, climate change as around a minuscule one per cent.

The survey, done in collaboration with the British Council in Nigeria, sampled the perception of Nigerians on climate change. It was done by communication experts and not by scientists to determine on the level of national preparedness and capability on climate-change related issues. The public presentation of the survey in Abuja last week was made before a panel of experts and scientists and other stakeholders.

Director of programmes of the British Council, Mr. Ben Fisher, said at the presentation that climate was bringing unprecedented changes to the international environment. "Climate change is pervasive and will impact on all sectors of society globally," he said. "Human activities are responsible for this. The effects are already here."

Special assistant to the President on external communication, Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa, said that the main work in climate change was creating awareness. He said the President has a better awareness of the challenges after his international pronouncements on them, including an address at the UN General Assembly in September 2007.

According to him, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua was a scientist and hailed from Katsina State; so understood the danger climate change posed to the nation. Katsina is one of the northern states that are threatened by an encroaching Sahara Desert. Entire villages are buried in sand dunes and with this comes a slow but steady stream of internally displaced persons.

Southern Nigeria is not immune to the claws of the wrath that has come. The Atlantic Ocean is washing away the shores of the commercial city of Lagos and a great part of the hydro-carbon drenched Niger Delta. It is as the poet said: the sea is eating our land. Meanwhile, erosion has changed the topography of the eastern states forever.

Therefore report was right in identifying Nigeria as both a victim and a villain of climate change. The global energy sector is estimated to contribute 60 per cent of greenhouse gas that contribute to climate change. Without any check or control, gas flaring in Nigeria is contributing to this pool on auto-pilot.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, said recently that the house will fix a 'final' deadline for gas flaring in the country. He spoke when he inaugurated the House Committee on Climate Change in the National Assembly in Abuja. He directed the committee, headed by Mr. Eziuche Ubani, to work to ending the flaring of gas in the country.

The speaker said that the provision in the 2009 budget was not enough to tackle the challenges of climate change. He promised to secure more money in the supplementary budget to fight climate change.

Also, Environment Minister John Odey said climate change will not only take a toll on the country. Measures being taken worldwide to fight it such as the introduction of consumption tax will affect the country's earning from oil and gas exports.

British High Commissioner, Mr. Bob Dewar, said at the launch that Nigeria needed to get an administrative and legal structure in place urgently to fight climate change. The country could in this way gain from the adaptation funding and technology transfer.

Mr. Peter Krogh Sorensen, a climate change counselor for the government of Denmark, praised the house for setting up the committee. In his view, if countries waited for others to take action on climate change, the world will be seriously endangered. The UN conference on climate change is taking place this year at Copenhagen, Denmark.

Nigeria's response to climate change is still at the elementary stage. A bill to establish a commission, sponsored by Senator John Shagaya, is in the Senate. A corresponding bill is also being pushed at the House of Representatives. Both have gone through the second reading.