Since 2010, over a hundred Small Islands, developing States including Nigeria and the least developed countries have been calling for limiting global temperature rise to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Placing the 1.5°C limit alongside the legally binding goal to hold global temperatures “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” in the Paris Agreement was a major victory for vulnerable countries. The 1.5°C limit in the Paris Agreement goes significantly further than the previous 2°C goal adopted under the UNFCCC. The Paris Agreement also contains long-term global emissions goals to peak global emissions as soon as possible and then reduce as rapidly as possible, according to the best available science, to reach zero emissions globally in the second half of the 21st century.

Comparing the state of the world at 1.5C and 2C. Source: CarbonBrief

The global emission pathway issues and carbon budget are particularly important, in order to fulfil its climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, Nigeria’s present and future actions on emission reductions will need to fit within these limits. Nigeria’s initial nationally determined contribution (INDC) is inadequate even for the former 2°C goal. At present the overall globally aggregated effect of INDCs and current policies put the world on a 3°C or close to 4°C pathways respectively, much above the previous 2°C limit. The first review, or stock take, of the aggregate effect of all INDC commitments that countries have put forward in relation to the 1.5°C limit in the Paris Agreement and the long term global emission goals will occur in 2018 as part of facilitative dialogue agreed in Paris. The 2018 facilitative dialogue process will be informed by a specifically requested IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C impacts and on how to close the gap between current policies, NDCs and emission pathways consistent with the Paris Agreement in 2025 and 2030. Based on this, by 2020 at the latest governments need to submit updated NDCs for 2025 and 2030 that effectively close this gap. There is therefore an expectation that Nigeria improves its emission reductions pledge to be consistent with the Paris Agreement and its enabling decisions.

What does it take to reach the 1.5C mark ? Is it a little more than the requirements for the 2C mark ? Source: Climate Analytics

 

At present global warming is about 1°C above preindustrial levels. The world is already experiencing substantial impacts and damages, including for agriculture, human livelihoods and natural systems such as the Great Barrier Reef. Concerns that sustained global warming of 2°C above pre-industrial would lead to large impacts, damages and risks led many vulnerable countries to express concern that the former 2°C limit was too unsafe. These and other concerns led the world to adopt the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal, which includes a 1.5C limit, as opposed to the earlier 2°C goal adopted by the international community. The question of why this has come about has been demystified.  Recent scientific literature shows that there is a significant increase in impacts and risks as global-mean warming moves from 1.5°C to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. This seemingly small difference in global average temperature represents a large addition of energy into the global climate system and turns out to carry large consequences. If the world warms by 1.5°C, currently rare climate related extremes (extreme heat waves, unusual dry spells, extreme rainfall and massive global coral bleaching events) would become the new normal. If global mean warming were to reach 2°C, the climate system would move into uncharted territory. For example, in a world that is 2°C warmer than pre-industrial levels, the typical annual length of warm spells would be up to 60 days longer than today across northern parts of Nigeria and around 20 days longer across the southern region. This increase would be reduced by at least 30%, if global warming is limited to 1.5°C. The 1.5°C limit would mean smaller increases in temperature of the annual hottest days, reduced impacts on water availability and a smaller increases in length of dry spells.

 

In light of all these, the need to embrace renewable energy is therefore keen for continuity of the human race. Recounting the words of Karl Burkart, the Director of Media & Technology at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, who said:  “We are pushing the limits of ambition, because we must! We just reached 1˚C in global warming and already we are seeing disastrous consequences. It is a moral imperative to keep the world below 1.5˚C, and we believe 100% renewable energy, combined with natural climate solutions, could get us there.” It is therefore no lie that renewable energy stands as a light in the tunnel of climate change and a warmer world.

Hydropower as an example of Renewable Energy. Source: Wikipedia

 

The transition to renewable energy will require a significant investment of capital, a point often made by critics of high-ambition energy scenarios. But governments are currently providing massive subsidies to fund the ongoing extraction, transportation and processing of fossil fuels, which are responsible for 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. A new study published in the journal ‘World development’, places total fossil fuel subsidies at $5.3 trillion in 2015 alone. Diverting just a portion of these subsidies to renewable energy would unlock a massive acceleration in clean energy supply, providing enormous societal benefits. A recent paper published in ‘Joule’ also estimates that switching to 100% renewable energy would create an additional 24 million long-term jobs; decrease more than 4 million pollution-related deaths per year; and provide annual savings of over $20 trillion in health and climate impact costs through 2050.

Even without subsidies, renewable energy is now becoming cost-competitive with conventional coal or gas-powered thermoelectric plants in many regions, and far less costly than new nuclear plants, making it an appealing option for both developing and least developed countries. In 2016, two-thirds of China’s 5.4% extra demand for electricity was supplied by carbon-free energy resources, mostly hydropower and wind. In the European Union, wind and solar made up more than three quarters of new energy capacity installed; coal demand was reduced by 10%. In the United States, almost two-thirds of the electricity-generating capacity installed by utility companies was based on renewables. This statistics is an indicator that changing the trending narrative of a planet at the brink of collapse is possible with renewable energy. Lowering the amount of carbon we pump into the atmosphere does not only mean burning less fossil fuels, it also means protecting and restoring the natural systems that take up and store carbon for us. Protecting and restoring our forests, wetlands and peatlands, as well as making our agricultural land-use more sustainable, help to reduce emissions and increase climate resilience.

 

Forests are the lungs of the world, capturing CO2 and turning it into oxygen. Yet many deforested lands are degraded, and are good candidates for reforestation. Research tells us that reforestation is the single largest nature-based climate mitigation opportunity we have. In addition, reforestation provides cleaner water, cleaner air, flood control, and more fertile soils, not to mention wood products and tree crops. Some great reforestation and aforestation efforts are currently going on, like Trillion Trees, Plant For The Planet, among others.

There is also a need to conserve forests and natural habitats. Each year, more than 7 million hectares of forest are lost – an area larger than Yobe state. Avoiding most of that deforestation would prevent the release many millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. Forests are cleared in order to create other land uses, including urban development, croplands, grazing lands and tree plantations. In the process, most of the organic carbon stored in the trees is lost to the atmosphere. Most deforestation is driven by commercial agriculture; there are lots of opportunities to improve production on existing agricultural lands, so that we can avoid unsustainable forest conversion. Forest protection is particularly important in the tropics, which have the highest rates of forest loss. This further reiterates the need to revisit the Nigeria Forestry Act of 1937 which will go a long way in ameliorating climate change impacts if implemented.

Mass Deforestation in Africa  Source: MacmillianDictionaryBlog

 

The clarion call for sustainable agriculture is filled with sounds of urgency. Agriculture is responsible for about 13 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, making it the world’s second-largest emitter, after the energy-sector. As populations grow and the demand for food increases, grasslands and shrublands around the world continue to lose its place because of agriculture. When natural grasslands are tilled for planting, nearly half of the carbon stored in the soil surface is lost to the atmosphere. Making agricultural practices more sustainable is an important natural solution to climate change.

 

The need for negative emission technologies by itself is not a differentiating element between the 1.5°C limit and the previous 2°C limit. This situation means that in the longer term (post 2030) technologies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere play a key role, even with very rapid GHG reductions in the next 10 to 15 years. The scientific literature on emission pathways points to bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) as the most viable option at present, with the potential for large-scale deployment at limited economic costs. Though the BECCS has a great prospect of tackling this problem, its feasibility is still doubted. There is therefore an urgent need to pummel resources into renewable energy and natural solutions to revert the coming doom; if not for ourselves but for our generation unborn who contributed nothing to its existence.

Chart showing the 30 year trend of increase in global temperature. Source:NASA

 

Borokinni Joshua is a climate activist and Journalist with keen interest in sustainable development reporting. He is a final year medical student and a fellow of the Federation of Science Journalists. He believes a nation without climate action is like a body with a diseased heart who is slowly walking to her grave.