According to the United Nations (UN), climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, but the UN has reported that since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels (like coal, oil, and gas), which produce heat-trapping gases.
In Nigeria, when many people think of climate change, their thoughts often gravitate towards the visible consequences: floods resulting from heavy rainfalls in the South, Western, and Eastern regions, or droughts in the Northern part of the country. However, it’s essential to recognise that these events are just one facet of the multifaceted impact of climate change in Nigeria. The repercussions are far-reaching and all-encompassing, affecting various aspects of the country’s environment and society.
Climate change is significantly escalating the risk of violent conflicts in Nigeria, a fact often overlooked or attributed to unrelated issues. Take northeastern Nigeria, for instance, where drought, a prominent consequence of climate change, compels people to migrate to more hospitable communities in the northwestern part of the country in search of sustenance and a better quality of life. During this migration, desperate migrants, facing severe hardships, sometimes resort to aggression against the host communities. This aggression has, over time, ignited communal crises, leading to the displacement of members from these host communities. Consequently, these displaced individuals are compelled to reside in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, often set up in repurposed school buildings.
Residing in IDP camps presents a myriad of challenges, creating a dire situation worsened by climate change. These issues encompass not only the deplorable environmental conditions within the camps but also the heightened vulnerability of women and girls to gender-based violence. Moreover, the lack of access to education for children and students further compounds the difficulties faced by displaced families. Additionally, the loss of livelihood opportunities forces individuals into a state of complete dependence on external aid for survival.
Recognising that these distressing circumstances find their roots in climate change is crucial, highlighting the urgent need for a thorough understanding and proactive measures to address the multifaceted impacts of environmental shifts on vulnerable communities. This is where the media comes in for advocacy of climate climate action and climate change adaptation.
The role of media as a stakeholder in climate change adaptation.
Climate change adaptation involves making adjustments to cope with the impacts of climate change, whether they are happening now or anticipated in the future. The goal is to reduce or prevent harm to people and take advantage of potential opportunities. Additionally, human intervention may be necessary to assist natural systems in adapting to these changes.
UNESCO emphasises that in the face of climate change, three fundamental roles of the media hold particular significance– providing information to audiences, acting as societal watchdogs, and advocating for social issues.
More so, the National Sustainability for Media Training recently organised by the Sterling One Foundation highlighted the importance of the media in promoting climate action and climate change adaptation through proficient climate news reporting. The training underscored the critical role media plays in addressing these environmental challenges.
“The way we (the media) portray climate change and climate adaptation will greatly influence how people, stakeholders, and policymakers will respond to climate adaptation,” said Seun Akioye, Executive Director, Development Reporter.
The acclaimed journalist, who has received multiple awards, emphasised the vital connection between the effectiveness of climate change adaptation and the public’s interest. In this regard, the framing of climate-related issues by the media plays a crucial role.
Expanding on the art of framing climate news stories, Victor Emeruwa, the CEO of The Sun Media Foundation, underscored the importance of journalists establishing partnerships with scientific societies. This collaboration empowers journalists to access essential data and the necessary resources when crafting climate news stories.
Further touching on climate adaptation, Emeruwa said “Adaptation should start from an early age. For instance, teach your children how to put off all the water taps and electricity (when not in use). We need to start the training in behavioural change early enough to help their minds to shift and adapt to climate change.”