Conceptual and Theoretical Literature on Climate Change and Insecurity Nigeria


Conceptual and Theoretical Literature on Climate Change and Insecurity Nigeria



Climate change is a global source of insecurity. This is because there is virtually no country across the word that is not affected by the devastating effects of climate change. It is even speculated that by 2050 there would not be any glacier in the world. This presents a gloomy picture for human lives and suggests a need to examine the specific impact of climate so as to make provision for adaptation and mitigation. This paper examines climate change as a source of insecurity in Northern Nigeria. The paper posits that climate change has brought about livelihood insecurity, food insecurity, health insecurity, agricultural insecurity as well as competition for resources and migration among others. The paper recommends the creation of awareness and the creation of adaption policies and measures by leadership and followership respectively.



Climate change has in recent times become a global source of insecurity. This is because there is virtually no country across the word that is not affected by the devastating effects of climate change. It is even speculated that by 2050 there would not be any glacier in the world (Nelson, West and Finan 2009; Adger 2005; Leary, 2008)). This presents a gloomy picture for human life in terms of survival and suggests a need to critically research into this to be able to arrive at adaptive measures as well as measures to reduce the devastating effects of climate change. Previously the climate change discourse focused more on the physical or natural environment but recent research shows increased focused on the social dimensions of climate as a result of the sweeping changes it has brought to human existence across the world.

Ever since the industrial revolution which took place over 200 years ago, human activities have added very large quantities of gasses into the earth‟s atmosphere (Barnett and Adger 2005;Adger 2001). This has resulted in the warming of the atmosphere over time. Specifically, there has been rising fossil fuel burning as well as land use changes and these have been emitting quantities of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen dioxide into the atmosphere (Hulme 2001). A rise in emission of these gases has resulted in the amount of heat from the sun withheld in the earth‟s atmosphere and increase in this heat over time has led to the greenhouse effect resulting in climate change (Barnett and Adger, 2005). Climate change generally has led to changes in cloud cover and precipitation over land, the melting of the ice caps and reduced snow cover, increase in ocean and acidity due to sea water absorbing heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Over the last century atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from a pre- industrial value of 278 parts per million to 379 parts per million in 2005 showing that an increasing rate of warming has taken place over the last 25 years(IPCC, 2007 and African Union 2007). Also the IPPC (2007 and 2013) projection for the 21st century shows that global warming will continue and even accelerate. This will happen even if greenhouse emissions reduce.


Carbon dioxide is responsible for the greater amount of the warming. And over the years the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere has been increasing steadily. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (2016), carbon dioxide accounted for 82% of human caused emission in the United States of America in 2015. Carbon dioxide is released mainly from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels – coal oil and gas – used for electricity production, transportation and industrial processes. These activities account for more than 60% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere (Heyd and Brooks 2006, Brauch 2009). The other gases that enhance climate change such as methane, nitrous oxide, black carbon and various fluorinated are emitted in smaller quantities than carbon dioxide but trap  more heat in the atmosphere that carbon dioxide does (Brown and Funk 2008, African Union 2007). The emission of these gases leads to increase the warming of the earth surface. According to IPCC (2007, 2014), the earth has warmed at a rate of 0.130c per decade since 1957, almost twice as fast its rate of warming during the previous century.

Climate change has had far reaching consequences across the world. There have been changes in the global water cycle and changes in the total annual precipitation. Some parts in the world experience drought while others experience increased annual rainfall. There is also the declining of glaciers across the globe are decreasing in area, volume and mass. The warming of the atmosphere has also led to the warming of water hence ocean warming leads to sea level because of the increased volume of water. According to IPCC (2013), the extent of climate change and effects on individuals and regions will vary over time and with the ability different societal and environmental systems to mitigate or adapt to change.

All across the world, there is the melting of ice especially at the earth‟s poles. This includes mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering West Antarctica and Greenland and in Artic sea ice. The melting of ice has contributed to sea level rise. Global sea levels are rising 0.13 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year (African Union 2007, Döös 1994). This rise is becoming faster in recent times. The rising temperature has implication for plants and animals. Rising temperature has affected wide life and their habitats. Some have disappeared while others are migrated to cooler areas. Rainfall and snow has increased across the globe, while some regions are experiencing more severe drought, increasing risk of wild fire and water shortages, others are experiencing flood. Pests such as mosquitoes, ticks, and jelly fish as well as crop pests are thriving in other areas over the world. There has been flooding hurricanes, drought, epidemics that are all attributable to climate change.

The threat of climate change is real as ocean temperatures over the years have increased causing expansion of the areas in addition to melt water from the land-based ice resulting in rise in sea level. All these have increased the volume of water across the world and this has implications for life and existence (Bindoff, Willebrand, Artale, Cazenave, Gregory, Gulev and Shum, 2007 and

; Brauch 2002). Climate change has resulted in the intensity of extreme events such as tropical cyclone, hurricanes and typhoons, floods and drought (O’brien, O’keefe, Meena, Rose and Wilson 2008). These events in turn have consequences on the environment, individuals, survival and sustainability of life. This is because of its effect on water resources, agriculture and food security, human health, ecosystems and coastal areas (Collier, Conway & Venables, 2008; Malic & Smit, 2012; Attaner & Masseti, 2015).

Though climate change is a global issue, its impact and vulnerability to it vary across continents of the world. According to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC, 2008) Africa is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change. The African continent is one of the continents that will be most affected by climate change but contributes the least to it. The United Nations (UN) estimates that nine out of every ten disasters are climate change related (Holmes 2002). Garcia (2008) also argues that climate change has the capacity to disrupt states capacity to generate wealth, to decrease Gross National Product (GDP) and affect human and ultimately national security in Africa. Africa‟s vulnerability is both a function of the continents climatic system and the system‟s interaction with socio-economic challenges like



endemic poverty, poor governance, limited access to capital, and global markets, ecosystem degradation, complex disasters and conflicts, urbanization – which may undermine the continents ability to adapt to climate change (Boko et al 2007). Furthermore, Garcia (2008) posits that African‟s warm climate and exposure to inconsistent rains with poor soils as well as African economies are dependent on sectors that are susceptible to climatic fluctuation such as fisheries, forestry, and tourism make the continent more vulnerable to the effects of climate change in addition to Africa‟s cocio-economic sectors which are characterized by lack of  good  governance, persistent and wide spread poverty, poor economic and social infrastructure, conflicts and limited human institutions and financial capacities. This suggests a need to examine the specific impacts and vulnerabilities.

The Nigerian state is one of the African countries that is said to be very vulnerable to climate change (Huq and Ayers 2007). This is because agriculture which is the most important sector of the economy, employing more than 70 % of the population is rain fed making it vulnerable to weather and by extension climate change ( ERM/DFID 2009; NBS 2012). Odjugo (2012) in his study found an increase in temperature and decrease in the amount and duration of rainfall. His finding is also corroborated by Uyigue and Agho(2007) and Odekunle and Adejuwon (2007). It  is also believed that Northern Nigeria is likely to have more negative effects of climate change than Southern Nigeria (Oyakale 2009, Odjugo 2010)

The extent of climate change has the capacity to create a sense of insecurity in all spheres and sectors of life. As such this paper examines the various „insecurities‟ caused by climate change. It is the argument of this paper that no matter how general social issues are, individuals and groups have specific realities have to be examined so as to arrive at an understanding of the impact. This paper examined the climate change situation in Northern Nigeria as well as the insecurity implications it has for individuals and groups within the area.


Conceptual and Theoretical Issues

Climate change has been defined variously by scholars. IPCC (2007) defines it as a change in the state of climate that can be identified by changes in the variability of its properties and persists for an extended period typically decades or longer. Climate change could occur as a result of natural variability or as a result of human activity. Either way there is usually a change in the earth‟s energy balance. According to UNFCCC (2011) climate change refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods. It also be defined as a statistical description of weather and of related condition of  oceans land surfaces and ice shed. It refers to the alteration in the pattern of climate over a long period of time due to a combination of natural and human induced caused (Australian Academy of Science, 2015). It is a change in the pattern of weather and related changes in Oceans, land surfaces and ice sheets occurring over time scales of decades or longer. Weather is the state of the atmosphere, humidity, wind, rainfall over hours to weak weather is influenced by the oceans, land surfaces and ice sheets. These together with the atmosphere form the climate system. In essence climate is the statistical description of the climate system. It refers to a change in the statistical properties of the climate system that persists for several decades or 35 years at least. Climate change may be caused by natural processes such as sun‟s radiation, volcanoes or internal variability in the climate system or due to human influences such as burning of fossil fuels.

According to IPCC (2001, 2007), global average land and sea temperature has increased by over 0.60c since mid-19th century. Patterns of precipitation have also changed. Arid and semi-arid regions are becoming drier while other wet areas are becoming welter. According to IPCC, if no specific actions are taken to reduce greenhouse emissions, global temperatures will increase to between 1.4 and 5.80c from 1990-2000.According to the Australian Academy of Science (2007), the following have been observed as changes in the climate system:



  • Mountain glaciers have been shrinking and contributing to global sea level rise since about 1850 (melting accelerated significantly in the 1990s).
  • The green land and West Antarctica ice sheets have lost both ice since 1990. There is increased discharge of ice into the ocean, and also increased surface melting in green land.
  • The amount of water vapour in the atmosphere has increased since the
  • The surface of the ocean in rainy parts of the world is becoming less salty which is consistent with fresh water dilution from increased
  • Increasing number of plants and animals, on land and in the oceans are undergoing shifts in their distribution and life cycles that are consistent with observed temperature Insecurity has also been defined variously by scholars. According to Achumba, Ighomereho and Akpor-Robaro (2013) insecurity is an absence of protection or safety. To them, insecurity entails peril, death trap, ambiguity, dearth of fortification and lack of security. Insecurity could be a state of being prone or vulnerable to danger or threat of danger. The state of anxiety as a result of inadequate security measures can also be regarded as insecurity. Beland (2005), defines insecurity as a state of fear or anxiety stemming from a concrete or alleged lack of production. It is a lack of or inadequacy of freedom from danger. This definition reflects physical insecurity and it is directly linked to other tourist security including, economic, social psychological, etc. Insecurity can be seen as the state of being subject to all forms of dangers of both natural and human activities towards society or individuals. Udoh (2015) sees insecurity as the state of being subject to danger and injury. It is the anxiety that one experience when one feels vulnerable, insecurity

and lack of confidence.

Insecurity can be explained using various theories such as Functionalism, Marxism and Elite theory. This paper adopts the functionalist perspective because of its value in explaining climate change as insecurity in Northern Nigeria. The functionalist perspective is a body of theory that adopts an organismic analogy in the explanation of societal issues. Functionalism sees society as a system with interdependent parts. Working towards society is seen as a structure with differentiated interdependent parts. These different parts work together to maintain equilibrium. This perspective has scholars such as August Comte (1998-1857), Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), Robert Merton (1920-2003) and Talcott Parsons (1902-1979). Talcott Parson further elaborated on the discourse of the parts making up the whole through his famous AGIL scheme. Parsons believes that there are four functional prerequisites in societies to enhance survival. These he described as:

  1. Adaptation:
  2. Goal attainment: a system must define its
  3. Integration: manage the relationship between other functional
  4. Latency: Renewal of the

Functionalist also argues that a society is always in a state of equilibrium and a disruption in any part of the system can trigger change and adjustment within the whole until a new equilibrium is achieved. Climate change can bring about change in the physical and social environment. Climate change in itself is brought about through man-made and natural activities. Climate change brings about changes in the social and physical environment of man causing insecurity. Climate change affects health, livelihood, food security, water security and environmental security in general. This insecurity is a threat to the survival of the social system and can affect the equilibrium balance of society. As such adoptive measures at policy and individual level can enable individuals cope and achieve a new level of equilibrium. Insecurity can also result from the failure of institutions to play their roles. The inability of social institutions to function properly brings about a dysfunction in society and as such adaptation is needed to bring society to a new level of equilibrium.

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