Climate Change in Africa: A Foreign Concept & A Daily Threat
In northern Nigeria, desertification plagues the land.
Lake Chad, the source of water for 50 million residents of this region lost 90% of its water mass in the last 45 years, shrinking from 25,000 km2 to 2,500 km2.
Drought leaves the fulani herdsman, who are dependent on the survival of their cattle to migrate east in search of food, water, and a new livelihood. Arriving in the east without resources or a stable source of income, former herdsmen are met with desperate conditions. Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups see these people as ideal prey for recruitment to their organizations.
In the west, erosion (exacerbated by deforestation, increased land use, and population growth) leads to landslides that sweep away children, homes, and entire villages. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one landslide took 40 children with it. With urban population growth, deforestation, and increased rainfall (all consequences anthropogenic climate change) these incidents will become more frequent.
But how do people who experience events like these in developing nations perceive the urgency of climate action? I thought that if people were seeing the consequences mentioned above every day, they would be mobilized to take action….right?
Wrong. What I learned from interviews and further research suggested an important consideration. Due to a lack of climate literacy in developing nations, few people are actually even aware of the concept of climate change. An obvious barrier to taking action.
Anthony Leiserowitz’s team at the Yale Program on Climate Communication found that education level is the strongest predictor of public awareness of climate change.
I had failed to think of the fact that experts and activists from the developing world who were in attendance at the Climate Conference in Germany are not an accurate reflection of the general public’s awareness of climate change!
Most Africans perceive climate change through noticing changes in temperature and weather patterns, impacts that affect seasonal growing cycles, agricultural productivity, and other impacts, but they cannot put a name to the phenomena causing these changes.
However, Leiserowitz confirmed that Africans are aware of climate change perceive it as a greater threat to themselves and their families than people in most other countries.
The impact it has on the livelihoods of Africans is both a salient issue and a daily struggle. This led me to conclude that the felt impacts of climate change may actually be a stronger influence to inspire action than the mere awareness of the human influence.
This idea was supported by my interview with Prince Goodluck Obi of Nigeria. Prince Goodluck is the head of two prominent organizations dedicated to protecting the rights of children; including United Nations of Youth Network-Nigeria (UNOY) and the Global Alert for Defense of Youth and the Less Privileged (GADYLP). He promotes climate education in Nigerian schools, by starting green clubs and offering tree planting opportunities for young students in order to make them responsible environmental stewards. He strives to educate youth about the challenges of climate change and inspire them to create a better future for Nigeria.
“My commitment as a climate action activist will help to make the world a better place to live in as we clear the challenges confronting climate action!”
Hear Prince Goodluck’s inspiring story in the podcast below: