Climate Change: Communicating without Communicators
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” this quote often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, but few people know this. Hence, this might be because Gandhi authored a passage that evokes the sentiment in a 1913 journal article for Indian Opinion: “We but mirror the world.”
I’m not here to bore you with his quote but to express the reflection of what the words mean in socio-economic development.
The quote has made me understand the philosophy of change in life. Human being relies on changes over time, yet the change doesn’t come at once. Climate change is one of the circumstances that require actionable behavioral change.
Despite directly impacting our communities, health, and livelihood, climate-related reports usually take a back seat to dominant news beats like politics and business. Climate change is a global phenomenon that is causing significant environmental, social, and economic challenges. It’s referred to as the abuse of the environment through the anthropogenic activities of man such as the burning of fossil fuels and other industrial activities of man.
Nigeria is not exempt from the impacts of the climate crisis, as it is experiencing increased temperatures, extreme weather events, sea level rise, and rainfall over a long period.
Reports of the 2022 Afrobarometer survey found that 85% of Nigerians have heard of climate change, and 30% of total respondents believe the government must do “a lot more”. A sizeable 71% say the “government must take action now to limit climate change even if it is expensive”.
In Nigeria, climate action is coordinated by the federal government while the impacts have severe implications on the country’s agriculture, water resources, and energy systems.
In 2021, Nigeria’s Environment Ministry through its Department of Climate Change introduced the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) for the 2021 to 2030 period. The NCCP sets out Nigeria’s climate change policy direction, addressing conditions required to attain Nigeria’s vision to be a climate-resilient economy.
During the COP26 held in Glasgow (Scotland), in 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Climate Change Act, 2021 (the Act), which was passed by the National Assembly in October 2021.
The Act provides a framework for achieving low GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions and to mainstream climate change actions into national plans and programs, a commendable move on the part of the government.
It has also moved to reduce the gas flaring through the implementation of the Energy Transition Plan (ETP), the first of its kind among many African countries, to use natural gas as the transition foil for Nigeria’s energy source, which also helps to close the energy or power or electricity gap that we’re experiencing in the country.
A group, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) in the Niger Delta region, advocated for the democratization of energy in Nigeria, insisting that it is cheaper and will be affordable by all Nigerians irrespective of their status and background.
Last year, Nigeria witnessed a high rate of flooding, several regions have been devastated by floods, as other areas confront deadly drought and desertification. These challenges will only increase, raising the prospect of economic shocks, food insecurity, widespread displacement, and increased insecurity.
Aside from deploying several policies and plans, communications can be used to promote economic growth and environmental protection as a mutual reinforcement mechanism.
A professor at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information, Melissa Aronczyk has rallied for accountability for fossil fuel companies outside of the New York Supreme Court in 2019.
He calls on the public relations and marketing consultancy to drop its fossil fuel clients and discontinue all work that obstructs climate legislation.
Meanwhile, public relations can play a crucial role in mitigating the impacts of climate change in Nigeria.
Communicating climate change information for advocating change – a reason to shape different experiences, cultural contexts, and underlying values.
Experts can help to educate the public on the causes, effects, and possible solutions to climate change. This can be done through media campaigns, community engagement, and education programs.
I recalled when I participated in a virtual gathering for PR & Marketing Communication experts and Scholars in Nigeria. When one of the Nigeria state –Lagos state suffered reoccurrence floods that ravaged many parts of the urban centers. A large number of houses were submerged and residents were trapped in their homes by rising flood water.
Experts called on the Lagos State Government to adopt PR tools to tackle flooding, a recurring phenomenon in the state.
They suggested steps be taken to address the issue rather than shying away or resorting to the blame game. By raising awareness, Nigerians will be more likely to adopt behaviors that promote sustainability, such as energy conservation, waste reduction, and the use of renewable energy sources.
Communicators can deploy their tools for advocating policies that promote climate change mitigation and adaptation while supporting policies that promote clean energy, energy efficiency, and carbon pricing. There is need not I relent on this to achieve a formidable success gerned toward environmentally friendly society.
As Nigerian witness new government, I solidly believe that Nigerian communicators can help the new government to re-register collaborations between government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and businesses, to facilitate the development of sustainable solutions to climate action in Nigeria. This appeal will be used to promote use of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, which can significantly reduce Nigeria’s carbon footprint.
Kabir Abdulsalam, a Climate Change Activist. Can be reach via [email protected].