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Flooding: Nigeria’s coastal regions endangered, as scientists predict multiple rise in global sea levels

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Seas may rise twice as much as previously predicted, warn scientists

Lagos a disaster away as its flooding problems worsens

 

Jude Johnson 

The Nigerian coastal states, especially Lagos could be submerged as scientists predict that rise in global sea levels could have ‘profound consequences’.

Last year, the country suffered one of its worst flood disasters for years with over a dozen states affected and national emergency declared in over five of them by Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). But things may even get worse as recent scientific studies have shown.

Read:Flood In Numbers: Over 70 deaths, 327,000 displaced, N12.1bn required to tackle disaster- NEMA

Stakeholders have feared that when it comes to disaster management, Nigeria is one of the most prepared as events has shown that natural disasters have birthed in the African continent like in the case of cyclones Idai and Kenneth that ripped through South East African countries of Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Already, Lagos is flooded with every rain and heavy downpours. The residents who are fed up with the perennial flood disasters have started complaining of government’s failure to handle the situation.

Nigerians on Monday expressed this flood disaster fears and displeasure with the government.

According to recent BBC reports, scientists believe that global sea levels could rise far more than predicted, due to accelerating melting in Greenland and Antarctica, The long-held view has been that the world’s seas would rise by a maximum of just under a metre by 2100.

Read:Flooding: NEMA declares national disaster in five more states

This new study, based on expert opinions, projects that the real level may be around double that figure. This could lead to the displacement of hundreds of millions of people, the authors say. The question of sea-level rise was one of the most controversial issues raised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), when it published its fifth assessment report in 2013. It said the continued warming of the planet, without major reductions in emissions, would see global waters rising by between 52cm and 98cm by 2100. Many experts believe this was a very conservative estimate.

 

Global rise in sea level outpacing predictions

Matt McGrath
Ice sheetImage copyright-GETTY IMAGES

Scientists believe that global sea levels could rise far more than predicted, due to accelerating melting in Greenland and Antarctica.

The long-held view has been that the world’s seas would rise by a maximum of just under a metre by 2100.

This new study, based on expert opinions, projects that the real level may be around double that figure.

This could lead to the displacement of hundreds of millions of people, the authors say.

The question of sea-level rise was one of the most controversial issues raised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), when it published its fifth assessment report in 2013.

It said the continued warming of the planet, without major reductions in emissions, would see global waters rising by between 52cm and 98cm by 2100.

Many experts believe this was a very conservative estimate.

Ice scientists are also concerned that the models currently used to predict the influence of huge ice sheets on sea levels don’t capture all of the uncertainties about how these are now melting.

Judgement day

To try to get a clearer picture, some of the leading researchers in the field carried out what is termed a structured expert judgement study, where the scientists make predictions based on their knowledge and understanding of what is happening in Greenland, West and East Antarctica.

In the researchers’ view, if emissions continue on the current trajectory then the world’s seas would be very likely to rise by between 62-238cm by 2100. This would be in a world that had warmed by around 5C – one of the worst case scenarios for global warming.

“For 2100, the ice sheet contribution is very likely in the range range of 7-178cm but once you add in glaciers and ice caps outside the ice sheets and thermal expansion of the seas, you tip well over two metres,” said lead author Prof Jonathan Bamber from the University of Bristol.

Ice sheetImage copyright-JONATHAN BAMBER. Image caption-A small boat in the Illulissat Icefjord in western Greenland, dwarfed by icebergs that have calved from Greenland’s largest glacier, Jacobshavn Isbrae

The IPCC report in 2013 only considered what is “likely” to happen, which in scientific terms means they looked at 17-83% of the range of possibilities.

This new study looks at a broader range of results, covering 5-95% of the estimates.

For expected temperature rises up to 2C, Greenland’s ice sheet remains the single biggest contributor to sea-level rise. However, as temperatures go beyond this, the much larger Antarctic ice sheets start to come into play.

“When you start to look at these lower likelihood but still plausible values, then the experts believe that there is a small but statistically significant probability that West Antarctica will transition to a very unstable state and parts of East Antarctica will start contributing as well,” said Prof Bamber.

“But it’s only at these higher probabilities for 5C that we see those type of behaviours kicking in.”

According to the authors, this scenario would have huge implications for the planet.

They calculate that the world would lose an area of land equal to 1.79 million square kilometres – equivalent to the size of Libya.

Much of the land losses would be in important food growing areas such as the delta of the Nile. Large swathes of Bangladesh would be very difficult for people to continue to live in. Major global cities, including London, New York and Shanghai would be under threat.

“To put this into perspective, the Syrian refugee crisis resulted in about a million refugees coming into Europe,” said Prof Bamber.

Ice sheet AntarcticaImage copyright-JONATHAN BAMBER. Image caption-A German supply ship moored at the edge of an ice shelf in West Antarctica.

“That is about 200 times smaller than the number of people who would be displaced in a 2m sea-level rise.”

The authors emphasise that there is still time to avoid these type of scenarios, if major cuts in emissions take place over the coming decades. They acknowledge that the chances of hitting the high end of this range are small, around 5%, but they should not be discounted, according to the lead author.

“If I said to you that there was a one in 20 chance that if you crossed the road you would be squashed you wouldn’t go near it,” said Prof Bamber.

“Even a 1% probability means that a one in a hundred year flood is something that could happen in your lifetime. I think that a 5% probability, crikey – I think that’s a serious risk.”

The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

Lagos: A disaster waiting to happen

Nothing exemplifies what a vicious cycle is than Lagos during the rainy season with its ubiquitous flooded roads and canals earning it the mocking moniker of ‘state of aquatic splendour’.

This is actually paradoxical because there is definitely nothing splendid about the grisly sight of humans heaving up their clothing just to waddle across pools of dirty water in a bid to get to their various destinations.

During the run-up to the recent governorship elections, none of the candidates jostling to govern the state talked about what needs to be done to stem the annual flooding menace which claims lives and properties worth billions.

One would think any right-thinking leader should have this situation at the forefront of his agenda considering the sea level of the state and its proximity to the seas.

Read:Flooding: NEMA Declares 12 Worst Affected States

However, thinking has never been the forte of our leaders which is why the rainstorms of Monday, May 20 in Lagos which flooded major roads in the metropolis whilst damaging electrical poles is just a gloomy prognostication of hell to come if the Lagos State Government refuses to be proactive about solutions to curb the issue.

A former President of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Remi Makinde during an interview in 2017 linked the perpetual flooding to the lack of adherence to the city’s masterplan especially in highbrow areas like Victoria Island and Ikoyi.

According to the environmental impact analyst and assessor, the master plans provide drainages, which have not been fully dredged probably because of the huge financial implications.

Makinde also questioned whether the grandiose Eko Atlantic City project ensured a strict adherence to its masterplan as contained in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is supposed to address all the environmental issues, including flooding.

This may not have been constructed due to financial constraints, when it is done, it will provide a solution to the environmental problems on the island.

The main point here is that both the government and people of Nigeria should bear it in mind that flooding, which is a worldwide phenomenon, is an annual ritual which should never take us unawares, whether or not Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) or other government agencies issue their routine warnings.

Our preparation for the floods should no longer be a fire brigade, a panic measure which we resort to when the danger is upon us.

It is highly pertinent to this discourse to take a cue from countries like the Netherlands — most of its cities are under sea level — who successfully combated the flooding menace after years of repeated flooding especially in the 1990s which led to the concept of “room for the rivers.”

This concept, according to a professor of flood resilience of urban systems at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands, Chris Zevenbergen is a ‘paradigm shift’.

“The room for the rivers concept is a turning point in our approach,” he explains.

“The old paradigm is confining rivers and building and strengthening the dykes along the rivers, but we decided to explore a new approach, in which we give more space to the water.

“We allow the river to expand when large volumes of water are entering our country. It’s not fighting against water; it is living with water.”

Akin to Lagos, the majority of the Netherlands consists of what are called polders — low-lying areas of land that have been reclaimed from the sea and are protected by dykes.

These polders contain some of the country’s biggest cities.

The country is considering ways to dampen the development process in those low-lying areas and develop better early warning systems so the public and local officials are fully prepared in the event of a real flood.

The Netherlands have built their flood protection systems to the point that the chance of failure in any given year is one in 10,000, which Zevenbergen says is the most stringent system on the planet.

Although this probability may sound low, the consequences are huge,” he points out.

Two-thirds of our economy is in those low-lying areas.”

Transposing this technology to Nigeria is a matter of willpower, rather than know-how and it is just a matter of time before something gives.

For a very long time, the measures put in place by the authorities have been criticized by experts as ad-hoc, nongeneralizable and not well established.

In the light of ‘best practices’ in flood risk reduction and ‘lessons learned’ from other countries’ experiences of flooding, it can be argued that such stakeholders’ efforts are at best limited most probably due to lack of quality data, which among other things are needed to systematically tackle flooding, poor perception of flooding among the general public, lack of funds and improved technology as well as poor political will power.

Arguably, given the growing number of flood victims and the constrained sustainable development caused by flooding in Lagos and within the country, researches into solutions to widespread flooding in the city are weak towards flood risk reduction.

Other vital tools needed to address flooding are community-based early warning systems, humanitarian aids from government and private sectors and appropriate level of preparedness and capacity building.

However, the question: “what is the remedy to the recurrent flooding in Lagos?” remains unanswered.

It is well known that the success of flood risk reduction depends to a large extent on a knowledge-based decision, robust institutional framework and flood risk communication but these factors are missing in the country and where they exist they are poorly addressed.

In summary, the Lagos State Government in collaboration with the Federal Government needs to brainstorm ideas tailored to our clime in a bid to battle this menace before the citizenry gets buried in a deluge sometime in the future.

 

Credits| BBC, 1stNews


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