Nigeria, like many other countries, grapples with the multifaceted challenges of climate change. These challenges span from extreme weather events, shifts in agricultural patterns, and drought to desertification in the Northern regions to the coastal erosion threatening communities in the South. Nigeria’s susceptibility to the impacts of climate change is glaringly evident. This vulnerability was starkly underscored by the devastating floods experienced in both 2012 and 2022, resulting in numerous casualties. For instance, during the 2012 flood incident, 7.7 million persons were affected, with over 360 recorded deaths, per data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Similarly, in 2022, the flooding incident that occurred affected over 4.4 million people and 665 lives were lost, according to the data from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)
Source: NEMA. (2022).
Despite these profound and disastrous effects of climate change and Nigeria being the 53rd most vulnerable country in the world to climate change, a significant proportion of Nigeria's population of over 226 million remains unaware of climate change. Thus, they are equally inadequately informed about the far-reaching consequences of climate change.
The results of a 2015 survey conducted by Nature Climate Change revealed that Nigeria ranked among the bottom ten out of 119 countries surveyed regarding climate change awareness. The climate change awareness rate in Nigeria was reported to be merely 27.8%, signifying that only a modest proportion —27.8%— of the country's adult population is aware of climate change.
Percentage of respondents saying they were aware of climate change: top and bottom ten countries.
Source: Lee et al. (2015).
Contrastingly, in numerous developed nations such as Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, the climate change awareness rate is over 95%. Similarly, several African countries, including Algeria, Mali, Kenya, and Rwanda, have awareness rates exceeding 50%.
Source: Lee et al. (2015).
Similarly, a 2020 survey conducted by Afrobarometer echoes the low level of awareness about climate change in Nigeria. Only 29.5% of the surveyed population indicated that they had heard about climate change. In stark contrast, 65.4% noted that they had not heard about climate change.
Source: Afrobarometer, (2020)
Expectedly, a higher percentage of individuals in rural areas, specifically 69.3%, lack awareness of climate change compared to the urban population, where the figure stands at 60%. This raises serious concerns particularly as Nigeria, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, ranks as the 53rd most vulnerable country to climate change. It is against this background that this article highlights some approaches and lessons Nigeria can glean from other countries to enhance awareness about climate change and its attendant effects.
Integration of Climate Change Education into Education Curriculum
Among other measures, Nigeria can enhance its population's awareness of climate change through the integration of climate change education into its educational curriculum. The effectiveness of education as a tool in tackling societal issues cannot be overstated, and climate change is no exception. And rightly so, the United Nations (UN) recognise education as a critical agent in addressing the issue of climate change.
To significantly increase climate change awareness in Nigeria and effectively address the associated challenges, Nigeria can take a cue from other countries by integrating comprehensive environmental education into its national curriculum. Even in circumstances where such integration already exists, there is a need for improvements, as existing data indicates that the current approach is falling short, given the country's low level of climate change awareness. The integration of climate change into the education curriculum is essentially to ensure that students at all levels are, at the minimum, exposed to the principles, causes, and consequences of climate change, which not only yields the result of awareness about climate change but also propel them to adopt eco-friendly behaviours. A number of countries have adopted this approach, which is partly responsible for the high rate of awareness about climate change among the citizens.
For instance, Sweden, since the 1990s, has integrated climate change education into its national curriculum, with schools conducting outdoor environmental activities and projects related to renewable energy and waste reduction. This measure, according to studies, helped greatly in educating students about climate change at an early age as well as instilling in them a sense of responsibility towards the environment. It is, therefore, not surprising that Sweden was ranked among the top ten countries with the highest level of awareness about climate change per the study by Lee and others in 2015.
Canada and Germany are examples of countries that have also adopted this approach of integrating climate change education into their curriculum, particularly in the early 2000s, to raise awareness about climate change and the role individuals play in addressing the global challenge. Likewise, Japan, Finland, and the United Kingdom.
The Nigerian government can draw lessons from the approach and experiences of these countries by looking into integrating climate change education into its curriculum. This approach may need to extend beyond just the formal educational setting, which can be achieved through proper collaborations between educational institutions, governmental bodies, environmental organizations and the relevant associations.
Leveraging Traditional and Digital Communication Channels
Currently, various studies indicate that media coverage of climate change in Nigeria is notably low, contributing to the country's position among those with the lowest awareness rates. For example, in a study by Evelyn Tagbo, analyzing 86,760 publications from two prominent newspapers (the Guardian and Vanguard) over six months period, only 79 articles (less than 1%) focused on climate change. Similar findings were observed by Nwabueze et al. in their study on the media coverage of climate change issues in Nigeria.
In discussions regarding the enhancement of awareness, whether concerning policies or any other issues, the media plays a pivotal role. This holds true for raising awareness about climate change, and Nigeria can adopt this approach, emulating successful examples from nations like Japan.
With a combination of traditional and digital communication channels, the Nigerian government, through the Ministry of Information, can collaborate with various media platforms/organisations to share information and raise awareness about climate change through announcements or jiggles on television and radio and articles in newspapers. Several countries, such as Brazil, France, Germany, India, Japan, Pakistan, the UK, and the USA, are reported to have adopted this approach in raising awareness about climate change.
The use of social media platforms like Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), TikTok and others can also serve as an effective platform for the dissemination of information and as well as educating the public. A significant share of the Nigerian population, especially the youth, uses the internet. According to DataReportal, in January 2023, internet users in Nigeria hit 122.5 million, with 31.60 million on social media.
While different individuals use social media for various functions, an article by Tolulope Adeyemo revealed that many, especially the youth, employ platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and YouTube for news consumption. Likewise, TikTok which is accessed by 56% of Nigerians aged 18–24. Given the large presence of youth on these platforms, the Nigerian government can equally leverage this and collaborate with social media influencers, content creators and celebrities who often have far reach to create awareness campaigns tailored to resonate with this demographic. By employing both traditional and digital communication channels, the government can effectively reach diverse demographics, fostering much-needed awareness and encouraging the adoption of eco-friendly behaviours. Notably, countries like the US, UK, Canada, and India have successfully employed digital media platforms for climate change awareness. Also, a study by Gómez-Casillas and Gómez Márquez highlights the use of social media in Latin American countries for similar purposes.
Community-Based Programmes through Partnerships with NGOs
In conclusion, the Nigerian government can explore community-based programmes in collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that specifically focus on environmental issues to enhance awareness about climate change. Given Nigeria's vast size and population, certain initiatives may require a community-centric approach to yield optimal results, and raising awareness about climate change is well-suited for such an approach.
Drawing inspiration from the Niger Republic, Nigeria can organize community talks and workshops in various local languages through existing community bodies in different local government areas. These events would aim to raise awareness about climate change and its impacts on communities and, by extension, the entire country. This can be achieved through partnerships with both local and international NGOs, along with other relevant stakeholders, to ensure scalability and sustainability. This model has proven to be effective in Dakoro district, Niger Republic, where communities are not only enlightened about climate change but also adaption measures to the impacts of climate change. Other countries that have adopted the approach of community-based programmes to raise awareness about climate change include India, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, and Brazil. All these serve as valuable precedents for Nigeria to consider.