‘The Consequence Of Global Warming Is Climate Change’
Acting Head of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) Operational Headquarters in Lagos, Mr. Francis Adefuye, a meteorologist with sub-specialisation in Climatology, explains in this interview why some Nigerians may be experiencing intense heat and why there is an increase in the number of cockroaches and mosquitoes.
SOME Lagos residents have been complaining of upsurge of mosquitoes and cockroaches. Could it be as a result of climate change?
We know that there is global warming. The consequence of global warming is climate change. But I will not ascribe the increase of cockroaches to climate change. However, we know that the condition for cockroaches to survive include heat and high rate humidity, or more water in the air. Once those conditions are there, cockroaches find it easier to breed and multiply. In addition to heat, dirty environment encourages breeding of cockroaches. The same phenomenon is responsible for the breeding of mosquitoes. We have what we call hot season. Hot season in Lagos is between February and April. During that period, there is likelihood of having more mosquitoes and cockroaches which probably we are experience right now.
Probably in November or December, there may be reduction in number of mosquitoes and cockroaches. But between the month of February and April, we are likely going to have the peak of mosquitoes and cockroaches in Southern part of Nigeria. Experience in the North will be shifted by a month- from March to June. Therefore, we need to keep our environment clean.
There is no doubt that we are having higher temperatures these days. The early morning cooling temperature in Lagos area is gradually disappearing as a result of global warming. In those days, we used to have as much as 75 per cent of minimum temperature going below 23 degree Celsius. But right now, we are having the reverse. We are having below 70 to 75 per cent of minimum temperature. That means that early morning temperature is going above 23 degree Celsius, which in turn means that the number of days the minimum temperature value will be less than 23 degree Celsius has reduced to about 25 or 30 of the days of the year.
So, we can see that the cool morning temperature is gradually disappearing in Lagos area. But Lagos is highly populated. While vegetation is reducing, industries are increasing. Therefore, we are having more carbon dioxide and more heat in the atmosphere.
What is the likely effect of the gradual disappearance of early morning temperature on human health?
It has to do what with we are currently experiencing: Discomfort and the disappearance of poultry farming, especially for birds. We are aware that poultry farming has its conditions. Birds need certain amount of hours and temperature for them to recover from the heat they suffered during the day. But if they are not able to recover from the discomfort they suffered, they are likely going to fall sick and die fast because they are not able to recover from the heat stress. Humans use machines like air conditioners and fans to overcome the discomfort. So, people may experience discomfort as a result of this gradual disappearance of this early morning cooling temperature. But the outcome of that discomfort may not be the same for everyone.
What are we doing wrong that may be contributing to global warming?
People worldwide are doing one thing or the other that is affecting the composition and the characteristics of the atmosphere. In composition, we talk about percentage of nitrogen, oxygen, inner gasses, including carbon dioxide. Nature is so good that it makes this composition sustainable for us. But any slight modification on that composition has a lot of implications. Nature makes it that the system will gradually recover itself, except we go beyond certain thresholds.
Over time, we have polluted the atmosphere too much, particularly with a lot carbon dioxide and some other kind of gasses like chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) group, which disturbs the ozone layer. There are a lot of human activities that are disturbing the composition of the atmosphere. We know that CFC depletes the ozone layer. But the world has been able to tackle that challenge by changing the type of gas we use in air conditioners and fridges so that we now have reduction in the ozone layer destruction. That means ozone layer is healing up. We have more or less overcome that.
But this other challenge has to do with carbon dioxide. Most of the things we do with the use of engines in energy generation process release a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And that has slightly changed the composition of the atmosphere, consequently the properties and characteristics of the atmosphere. What are the properties of the atmosphere? They include conduction, convection and radiation. Every form of sun that comes into the earth must automatically return to the space by 100 per cent. If 100 unit kind of energy comes into the earth, it is expected that 100 unit of energy will be radiated back. But since we have disturbed the composition of the atmosphere, the properties have equally changed. In other words, if 100 unit of energy comes, the percentage that goes out is now less than 100 per cent, although people may not notice it. It may even be 99.95 per cent that goes out (or 00.01 less that is retained). But it goes a long way to accumulate over time. Consequently, this result into changes in the characteristics of the atmosphere.
The conduction and convection pattern is changing. We now have more water evaporating from the surface of the sea as result of slight increase in temperature. The re-arrangement of water is equally affected. That is why we usually have extreme weather; that is why we are having heavy rainfalls more than before. Instead of spreading itself for three days, it just falls once. It therefore creates more dry days with the same amount of rainfall. If you calculate the number of days that rain may fall in a year, it may amount to about 220 days. But over time, you see gradual decrease. The amount of rainfall is not increasing, and the number of days producing these rainfalls has reduced. But then, there are fluctuations in onset days. These are the kinds of chain reactions that affect the properties and characteristics of the atmosphere, as a result of the fact that we have disturbed the composition of the atmosphere.
We disturb the composition with our activities. We cut down trees which are supposed to absolve the carbon dioxide. And we produce generating plants. Nigeria is short of energy. But we expect electricity companies to generate more energy; we are not comfortable with 4,000 megawatts; we want to produce 20,000 megawatts. What that probably means is that we want to multiply the number of carbon dioxide we emit. Instead of using petrol-driven generators, we should use gas -driven generators, sustainable energy system, sun and wind.
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