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CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE CHURCH IN NIGERIA

BY

GEMADE, COMFORT KAMIMI


PG/PHD/12/63813

BEING A PAPER PRESENTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE


REQUIREMENTS FOR THE AWARD OF Ph.D IN THE DEPARTMENT
OF RELIGION AND CULTURAL STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA,
NSUKKA

SUPERVISOR

REV.FR.PROF. H.C ACHUNIKE

4TH MARCH, 2016.

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Abstract

Climate change generally refers to a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution
of weather patterns over periods of time ranging from decades to millions of years. It is also a
change in average weather conditions, or in the distribution of weather around the average
condition of a particular geographical location. African continent has long been faced with the
phenomenon of climate change which usually occur in the areas of temperature, drought,
evaporation, rainfall, and rise in sea levels, humidity, wind speed, and direction solar radiation.
Adopting a qualitative method of research this paper has identified some of the factors
responsible for climate change in Africa. They include; Industrialization, Gas Flaring, Fossil
Fuels, Urbanization, Deforestation, and Depletion Ozone layer. Despite several efforts by
successive governments in addressing environmental problems in Nigeria through the
establishment of Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA), Environmental Impact
Assessment (EIA), and National Environmental Standard Regulatory Agency (NESRA), the
problem still persists. The paper recommends that in order to minimize the impact of climate
change, the Nigerian Government should work closely with the church as a major stakeholder to
create awareness through Environmental Education (Symposiums, seminars, evangelical
outreaches, and sensitization programmes), disaster relief and small scale projects such as water
management and agricultural reform projects, Advocacy and Practice of Green Culture.

Introduction

The condition of the physical environment has always been of paramount concern to

humanity. From the tune of man`s early civilization, the settlement and resettlement of early

societies, as well as the predominant economic activities of such societies have largely been

determined by ecological condition. This is explained by the economic model that portrays man

as a rational being whose actions are geared towards maximizing benefits in this case, from his

environment. Thus, man`s environment –climate, topography wields a very heavy influence on

his socio-economic activities.

However, there is a twin paradox, firstly the developed nations appear to have been more

worried over the declining ecological fortunes of the world, and their actions especially through

green gas missions- more than any single factor aggravate the problem. Secondly, while the

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developing nations of the world especial African countries appear indifferent about the declining

state of the world’s ecology, the impact is increasingly becoming heavier on the continent.

Here in Nigeria, the incidence of desertification/deforestation in the north, erosion

/landside in the east, and flood in the south- south and south- west is on the increase. Even more

excruciating across the country, is the reduction in humidity resulting in intense heat, which has

been attributed to the depletion of the ozone layer or global warming. The fact is that Nigerians

are now suffering the impact of man`s failure to preserve the world`s ecology than ever

imagined. Onouha (2009) examined the threats presented by changes in the climate all over the

world with particular reference to developing countries like Nigeria where agriculture is the

dominant sector and depends on weather and climate (48).

There is therefore no doubt that like other parts of the globe, the ecology of Africa has

experienced dreadful condition as a result of man`s actions. The situation has assumed a

frightening dimension as both the national environment and the resource base of the economy are

endangered, leaving a bleak economic future for the continent.

Pope Francis expressed his thoughts about the total neglect of the environment, the poor

human and health condition of third-world countries like Nigeria where people are exposed to

atmospheric pollutions that produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for poor,

thus causing millions of premature deaths, (Vanguard News July 15, 2015). He further asserts

that the earth, our home is beginning look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many

parts of the planet, the elderly lament that the once beautiful landscape are now covered with

rubbish. Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyles and changes in

methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes

that produce and accentuate it (Vanguard News p 12).

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The crux of the matter is that man wants to dominate nature. This is because man has

either refused to understand who he is and what constitute his relationship with his natural

environment or he has over affirmed his superiority over other creatures of the earth. Man has

misapplied the knowledge he acquired from sciences, which in themselves are not evil. The

problem rather concern man`s approach and application of scientific knowledge that has become

secularized and harmful to modern man. It is however, sad that not everyone seems to know that

the havoc of the environment is as a result of the disharmony between man and God. That there

is need for man to reform himself, which means a spiritual rebirth or re-education to attain a new

harmony with the world of nature around him, is not only necessary but also urgent (Lynn, 1967;

1203-1207).

The church’s principal contribution is through the formation of consciences; that is

proper ordering of man in order to bring out the goodness in him to respect the inbuilt order in

creation. The church would give a Christian meaning to things that makes up man`s life and

emphasize that all beings are interdependent and important. It is another way of saying that in

caring for the earth and its vast riches; we also care for ourselves and assure our common future.

It is the church`s responsibility to educate the masses on the devastating effects of climate

change in Nigeria as a result of human technology in use. There is need for a dialogue between

science and morality. The church must be in the fore front in emphasizing this need and in

ensuring that it becomes possible. This can be done through preaching, education, socialization,

and civil advocacy.

In this paper, the terms climate change and environment are used interchangeably.

Keywords: Climate change, Church

Climate Change

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This refers to a change in global or regional climate patterns; in particular a change

apparent from the mid to late 20th century on wards and attributed largely to the increased levels

of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels (Fatubarin, 2009:22).

Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather

patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of year. It may be a change in average

weather conditions, or in the distribution of weather around the average condition (Wikipedia,

2013). The above definitions point to the fact that climate change is attributed mostly to the

effects of man`s activities. There are changes in climate over a long period which usually occurs

in the areas of temperature, evaporation, rainfall, humidity, wind speed, and direction solar

radiation etc. Gbenda (2010:4) argue that the melting of polar ice, rise in sea levels, oceans,

coastal water areas, heavy rainfall, drought, hurricane, tornadoes, earth quakes, landsides,

volcanic eruptions are results of effects of climate change.

Church

It is difficult to get one clear uniform definition of the word ‘church’ because a variety of

scholars in the field have different definitions. The word church originated from a Scottish word

‘kirk’, the Germans use ‘kirche’ for the term church, the Swedish refer to it as ‘kyrke’ and the

Dutch use ‘kerk’. Each of these words in their original forms means different things. The word

church is a derivative of the Byzantine Greek words; ‘kurike’, which is a combination of two

greek words ‘Kuriake’ and ‘Oikia’. The combination of both words literally means “the house of

the lord” or belonging to the House/household of the lord” (Anjov 2007:4).

Pope Benedict xvi (2012) describes the church in Africa to be a witness in the service of

reconciliation, justice and peace as salt of the earth and light of the world so that her life may be

a response to this summons; “Arise, church in Africa, family of God, because you are being

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called by the heavenly father (p 8). The central point from the above definitions of the church is

true congregation of God. Members are called Christians and Christ is the head of the church.

Causes of Climate change

Industrialization

Gas Flaring

Fossil Fuels

Urbanization

Deforestation

Ozone Depletion

The Impact of Climate Change

Affect both rich and poor. All sectors of socio-economic development, including the

natural ecosystem, are vulnerable to climate change. It will hinder government’s efforts to

eliminate poverty, hunger and promote environmental sustainability. Recent estimates suggests

that, in the absence of adaptation, climate change could result in a loss of between 25% and 11%

of Nigeria`s GDP by 2020, rising to between 6% and 30% by the year 2050 (Marbek, 2013).

McGuigan and others (2002) asserts that climate change may lead to significant

reductions in agricultural productivity in developing countries. In 2012 Nigeria witnessed the

worst flooding that had adverse effect on the food/crops across the country. The excessive

rainfall led to the destruction of arable land, impaired cultivated crops and increased growth of

weeds and greater harvest loss (Ozor, 2009). The implication of the above assessment is that

there was decline in production of food crops.

The Phenomenon of Climate Change in Nigeria

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Nigeria`s climate is witnessing growing shifts in temperature, rainfall, storms and sea

levels throughout the 21st century (Aaron, 2013) It is already having an impact in Nigeria

.Weather related disasters have becomes more frequent in the past decades and the trend

continues. Nigeria`s natural and agriculture ecosystems, including fresh water and coastal

resources, are highly susceptible to the effects of climate change. The Nigeria Meteorological

Agency assessed the Nigerian climate over the period 1941-2000 and demonstrated the following

changes:

Rainfall: From the period 1971 to 2000, the combination of late onset and early cessation of the

rain in most parts of the country shortened the length of the rainy season.

Temperature: Evidence of long term temperature increase in most parts of the country was

experienced from 1941-2000. The only exception was in the Jos, Mambilla and Obudu areas,

where a slight cooling was recorded. In the extreme Northeast, North west , and southwest there

was significant increase where average temperature rose by 1 - 19o C (NIMET, 2008).

Weather: Related disasters have become more frequent in the past four decades and the trend

continues. In 2010, the National Emergency Agency (NEMA) reported that over 250,000

Nigerians were displaced by flood disasters that ravaged many communities across the country.

Statistics indicate that Nigeria is losing 350,000 square metres of productive land mass annually

due to desert encroachment affecting Sokoto, Jigawa, Kebi , Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Katsina,

Kano, Zamfara, Adamawa, and Gombe (Gbenda 2010:10) If the trend is not adequately checked,

the entire northern Nigeria might become un-inhabitable in the near future due to high rate of

desert encroachment . The story is not different in the southern parts of Nigeria where thick

forests are being cleared indiscriminately for commercial and domestic purposes.

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Pollution: refers to the contamination of water, air or land. Loud, injurious or irritation noise is

also a component of pollution. So far five broad categories of pollution have been identified in

Nigeria; these are (i) biodegradable, (ii) non- biodegradable, (iii) effluents, (iv) gaseous and (v)

chemicals (IPCC, 2007).

(i) Biodegradable pollution consists of all animal and vegetable decomposable residuals

of industrial activities such as leaves, papers, carcasses and faeces. They pollute the

environment where they are found.

(ii) Non-biodegradable consists of broken bottles, plastic products, abandoned electronic

gadgets (e.g. computers and refrigerators), water pipes, beer cans; foil papers, scrap

metals etc.

(iii) Effluents are liquid pollutants that come from slaughter house, spilled oil from wells

specially along the country`s water wells and lakes. Gaseous emanate from fumes and

smokes from combustion, carbon monoxide from automobiles and generators.

Chemicals are mercury and sulphur that are found in minerals. All above contribute in

no small measure toward climatic change in Nigeria. Oil spills: Nigeria`s Delta

Region, experiences serious oil spills and other environmental problems, which have

caused conflicts. Aquatic lives are threatened on daily basis with little or nothing

being done to address the problem. Even when the international court ruled in favour

of the Ogoni environment activists, no implementation of the judgement has been

carried out.

Insecurity: The current state of insecurity in Nigeria as result of the activities of kidnapping s,

Boko Haram terrorist activities and other criminal acts across the country is in connection to

climate change, which has affected the economic base of the nation .The presence of Fulani

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herdsmen and their cattle is becoming a common sight in urban areas, especially in the southern

parts of the country where they use to be scarce. The reason is that the northern pasture is

gradually disappearing as a direct effect of climate change. This has pushed those nomads off

their familiar grounds and into situations of armed crises. There are now frequent clashes

between herdsmen and farmers in Benue state with scores of people being killed.

Governmental efforts towards Environmental Protection in Nigeria

Federal Government has taken a number of steps to address environmental problems in

the country. Concerted efforts dates back to 1989 when the unfortunate accident of the dumping

of toxic hazardous wastes at Koko Port in the Niger Delta area. This led to the establishment of

the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) through decree No 58 of 1988 as amended

by Decree 59 of 1992 (Nwaigbo, 2011).

The federal government in 1989, through FEPA formulated a National Policy on

environment with the goal of achieving sustainable development. In addition, the Environmental

Impact Assessment (EIA) Decree No. 86 of 1992 was promulgated. In order to demonstrate

serious commitment to the issue of environmental protection and conservation of national

resources, the ministry has published series of guidelines on the country`s environment and the

conservation of national resources through the implementation of the national policy on

environment. These guidelines are mandatory for compliance by business organizations as well

as individual project developers.

In order to ensure compliance of the guidelines, the federal government has established

the National Environmental Standard Regulatory Agency (NESREA) for more effective

monitoring of compliance within the ambit of the set standards. All organizations operating in

the country are to install, implement and continually improve on environmental management

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system in line with specifications contained in national requirements and guidelines towards

achieving environmentally sustainable development in the country.

Another major policy goal of the Government is to ensure sustainable use of our forests

and also to prevent desert encroachment. Government has embarked on elaborate national

tropical forest action plan, launch extensive reforestation programmes in the southern part of the

country , and aforestation programmes in the northern part of the country .Such programmes

including community- based tree planting programme, tightening control of fuel wood extraction

from reserves and development of more efficient wood stove. Within the African context,

Nigerian government has spear-headed the establishment of the great belt across the Sahara

desert from the Northern fringe of the Nigeria to Mauritania (Odey, 2011: 23). The goal is not

only to protect the sinks for carbon dioxide as one of the means of mitigating climate but also to

safeguard our biological diversities and reverse the ecological status of the area to a more

humane one.

Climate change is a global phenomenon yet, the manifestations of the consequences of

the change are largely local. It means each country is making concerted efforts to minimize the

impacts of the change through well-targeted adaptation and actions within its own environments.

The country is developing National climate change policy Response strategy that will provide

well-structured guideline for individuals and organization in each sector of the country`s

economy in order to minimize the impact of or reduce to controlling the factors of the anticipated

change.

For government to achieve the agenda of minimizing the impact of climate change, the

Federal Ministry of Environment is working closely with all stakeholders to create a conducive

environment for sustainable development.

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The Church’s efforts in Combating Climate Change in Nigeria

Environmental awareness has been created by the church in tackling climate change.

Pope John Paul II made significant contribution to the retrieval of stewardship ethics in the

church when he wrote on the World Day of Peace in 1990 on the topic “Ecological Crisis: A

Common Responsibility”. The aim was to bring the church into dialogue with environmental

problems. Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas Veritate advocates that the Catholics should take care of

the earth, the same way the promotion of justice for the human family is being pursued

especially when confronted with ecological devastation and societal globalization (Gbenda,

2010).

The interrelationship between the church and the environment in Nigeria is seen in

African Independent Churches (Aladura). They have great respect for nature and its implications

for the wellbeing of their members who make pilgrimages to natural sites like mountains, hills,

and forests as praying homes. The preferred spiritual environments of the Aladura movements

have been influenced by their appreciation of nature. They make the Christian faith more

relevant to their environment (Nobofa, 2012).

Still on the issue o climate change, the Lutheran Church of Nigeria was the first Faith

Based Organization in Nigeria to formally address and integerate its advocacy programme into

the teachings of the church. The church sees climate change as a justice, gender, human rights,

ethical and moral issues. They organizes conferences and seminars, creating awareness on

intervention and how to address the menace of climate change (LCN 2013).

The Catholic Church in 2011 flagged a campaign with the theme; “Sustaining our

Environment for Integral Human Development” (Enogholase, 2013). This was geared towards

preventing damage to earth particularly in Nigeria. Similarly, the Catholic Institute of West

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Africa (CIWA) organized a conference in March 2011 in Port Harcourt on environmental crisis

and the role of the church to care for God’s creation and the future of humanity. Pertinent

questions were asked about the work of the church which is to engage in salvation message and

also to create sustainable environment for the sanctification of the human family to attain its

dignity in the image of the creator.

There seems to be a little drop in the ocean concerning the issue of combating climate

change. The reality that confronts Nigerians about the devastating effect of climatic change has

called for sustained efforts by the church.

What can be done by the church to alleviate climate change in Nigeria

Creation of Awareness: The awareness that the environmental and ecological issues are

fundamental to the collective survival of human beings and the earth needs to be constantly

reawakened and deepened in the consciousness of the people in order that the future generations

will inherit an environment that is healthy and liveable (Anyanwu, 2011 :160). The church

should be in forefront in the creation of this awareness. This can be done through environmental

education, disaster relief and small scale projects such as water management and Agricultural

reform projects. Such efforts will be channelled to the grassroots to promote environmental

consciousness, responsibility and other behavioural solutions.

Again, the church can achieve awareness creation through its practice of preaching;

messages on environmental consciousness can constitute part of church sermons and inculcate to

Christians all over the length and breadth of Nigeria.

Adoption and Localisation of Papal Declarations on the Environment: The church can also

adopt Benedict XVI’s assessment on the environment that “it is God’s gift to everyone and in our

use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, future generation and humanity as a whole”.

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The church needs to demonstrate that this is a moral imperative or convictions of Christians to

the issues of climate change. The instrument at the disposal of the church is the ability to exert

moral pressure on the government to pursue the problem of climate change with renewed vigour.

Faith inspired action around issues of climate change is growing around the world. For

example, in April 2015, the Vatican invited representatives from the world religions including

Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and other Christian denominations to a symposium to discuss

climate science and the way religious leaders might lead on the issue. Thus the Nigerian church

can adopt and derive practicable strategies by which every diocese and parish can engender pro-

environment attitudes and behaviours.

Cooperation with other Non-Governmental Agencies: The church can liaise with other non-

governmental bodies to lead in areas like advocacy, awareness creation, and environmental

remediation. For instance, the church can cooperate with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation

on its on-going climate change enlightenment campaign strategies, especially youths and women

in rural environment who are most vulnerable groups to climate and its attendant impacts.

The church can also reflect on ecological issues in collaboration with the Catholic

Institute of West Africa (CIWA) to raise religious questions on the functions of the church as a

force to create sustainable environment where the family attains its dignity in imaging the

Creator, which will be critically discussed and solutions proffered. The church can initiate a

dialogue between science and morality. The Pontifical council aptly puts it thus, “while science

and technology have established themselves as ways of increasing people’s knowledge , power

and well being, their responsible use demands ethical criteria which they themselves cannot

provide” (Pontifical Council for Culture, No 13). The church must be in the forefront in

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emphasizing this need and in ensuring that it becomes possible through preaching, education,

and catechesis and through her theologians (Anyanwu, 2011: 168).

Practice of Green Culture: The church can formulate policies together with practical guidelines

directing its dioceses to engage in conservation, preservation, and protection practices. This will

encourage the Christian community to practice environmental friendliness at home, office, in

business, and in their churches.

Education: The church has hundreds of educational institutions spread across Nigeria. It

leverage on this by including environmental conservation, preservation, and protection on its

syllabi at all levels of education and thereby ensure that all that pass through the walls of their

schools are educated on such environmental issues.

Socialization: The church is an agent of socialization. It can leverage on this and inculcate

environmental friendly attitudes to its millions of members.

Advocacy: The Church in Nigeria as a corporate body can initiate and execute pro-environment

advocacy at various strata of the society. This can impact on the political class and engender a

political will to tackle environmental issues more fervently.

Conclusion

There is increasing evidence that climate change is not only happening but is as well

changing our lives. Declining rainfall in already desert-prone areas in Northern Nigeria is

causing desertification, the Food Basket State in central Nigeria is now almost empty and people

in the coastal areas who use to depend on fishing have seen their source of livelihood being

destroyed by the rising waters. Clearly, something needs to be done about global warming and

climate change. Several efforts by successive governments in Nigeria to tackle climate change

effects seem to yield little or no tangible results. One thing is clear that the void created by the

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disappearing of vital aspects of human existence as a result of the development of science and

technology demands a proportional development of morals and ethics through the awareness by

the church to constantly reawakened and deepened in the consciousness of the people of God so

that the future generations will inherit an environment that is healthy and liveable.

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