Experts urge halt in gas flaring as WMO confirms 2018 fourth warmest year


In a clear sign of continuing long-term climate change associated with record atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 have been confirmed as the four warmest years on record.

A consolidated analysis by the World Meteorological Organization of five leading international datasets showed that the global average surface temperature in 2018 was approximately 1.0° Celsius (with a margin of error of ±0.13°C) above the pre-industrial baseline (1850-1900). It ranks as the fourth warmest year on record.

The year 2016, which was influenced by a strong El-Niño event, remains the warmest year on record (1.2°C above preindustrial baseline). Global average temperatures in 2017 and 2015 were both 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. The latter two years are virtually indistinguishable because the difference is less than one hundredth of a degree, which is less than the statistical margin of error.

“The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one, “ said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years. The degree of warming during the past four years has been exceptional, both on land and in the ocean.”“Temperatures are only part of the story. Extreme and high impact weather affected many countries and millions of people, with devastating repercussions for economies and ecosystems in 2018,” he said.

“Many of the extreme weather events are consistent with what we expect from a changing climate. This is a reality we need to face up to. Greenhouse gas emission reduction and climate adaptation measures should be a top global priority,” said Mr Taalas. The globally averaged temperature in 2018 was about 0.38°C (±0.13°C) above the 1981-2010 long-term average (estimated at 14.3°C). This 30-year baseline is used by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to assess the long-term averages and inter-annual variability of key climate parameters, such as temperature, precipitation and wind, which are important for climate sensitive sectors such as water management, energy, agriculture and health.

Reacting to the development, the Director of the ecological think tank – Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey disclosed that Nigeria is responsible for about 1 per cent of global CO2 equivalent emissions annually. “The bulk of that comes from land-use changes and deforestation. A large chunk also comes from the use of fossil fuels in energy production and transportation.

“There has been recent reports fingering agriculture as the biggest culprit when it comes to greenhouse gases. We should note that wherever agriculture is blamed for Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emissions, it is usually from industrial agriculture and not from the smallholder farmers whose practices actually cool the earth.”

He said: “For a shift to occur in the direction of halting or reversing the trend, our energy sources have to move from oil, gas and coal to renewable energy sources. It is sad that at a time when coal plants are being shut down in many countries, Nigeria is proudly announcing plans to build such obsolete and polluting plants.

“Continued gas flaring is a sad case. It is an economic waste. It is harmful to the health of the oilfield communities and our environment. It will a big contributor of GHG in Nigeria. It is indeed shameful that Nigeria still condones routine gas flaring 61 years after commercial crude oil extraction began here. There are efforts to halt the trend, but we cannot trust shifting gas flare terminal goal posts. It was been declared by a High Court in 2005 to be an abuse of human rights and perpetrators ought to face trial for crimes against humanity.

Without any doubt, routine gas flaring is a the major cause of global warming. The Flare Gas Reduction (Prevention of Waste and Pollution) Regulation 2018, signed in early July 2018, is expected to lead to a government takeover of fields where flaring takes place and bid round of some of such fields before the end of 2018. I don’t think that owning crime scenes is a positive step. Stop the flaring.

Government has to wake up and accord top priority to the health of the people before profit. The continued dependence on petrodollars will definitely lead the nation to dead end. It is an indication of lack of foresight when the embark on searching for oil in Northern Nigeria at a time when the world has announced the terminal date for dependence on fossil. Government needs to invest in mass transit in order to curtail emissions from that sector. Massive investment in afforestation and special focus on building the Great Green Wall using indigenous tree species will also help.

The Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, blamed the trend on fossil fuel impacts, deforestation and persistent gas flaring in Nigeria. “The amount of carbon released from these into the atmosphere has contributed to this global warming,” he disclosed.

According to Ojo “there is need for energy transition from fossil fuel dependency to renewable sources of energy. This should be through divestment from fossil fuel to investment in research and development of solar lighting systems and energy saving stoves.“It should be  decentralised such that individuals and communities can produce and supply energy in an energy democracy model that is built on peoples power.”

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