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Experts caution on new environmental threats

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By Usman Oladimeji

Human activities also contribute partly to methane emissions.

During a seminar in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, experts voiced concerns about the impact of human-induced methane emissions on the environment in Nigeria. They emphasized that these emissions, which make up 60 percent of methane discharge in the country, are now posing a greater threat than fossil fuels. As a result, over 255,000 deaths and 775,000 asthma cases have been reported in hospitals, prompting advocates to push for a safer environment. After Carbon Dioxide (CO2), methane, also known as CH4, is considered the second most impactful pollutant, with its impact leading to a 30% increase in global temperatures since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Methane is a gas that is both odourless and colourless, yet highly flammable. It is produced naturally from decomposing organic matter in various environments like landfills, marshes, and septic systems. Additionally, human activities such as using pit toilets and burning coal and gas also contribute to methane emissions. This versatile gas is utilized in the production of organic chemicals and serves as a fuel source for lighting and heating. There is a growing concern about the lack of focus on emissions from human activities such as farming and waste management, in addition to methane emissions from oil and gas production.

Emissions from one landfill could surpass those from 1.4m cars.

Studies have shown that the release of methane from various sources such as food waste, livestock farming, landfills, and bushfires accounts for approximately 60% of global emissions. Surprisingly, these sources do not receive the same level of focus as carbon dioxide in discussions about climate change, despite evidence suggesting that emissions from just one landfill could surpass those from 1.4 million cars. The Environmental Centre for Oil Spills and Gas Flaring (ECOSGF) and the African Initiative for Transparency, Accountability, and Responsible Leadership (AfriTAL) are leading efforts to create a comprehensive work plan aimed at addressing new environmental challenges.

A report unveiled during a meeting discussing methane emission reduction efforts revealed that TrustAfrica kick started the project with initial funding in February 2024. The organization expressed optimism that additional funding partners would join forces with ECOSGF and AfriTAL to successfully achieve the project’s objectives. It was confirmed that ECOSGF and AfriTAL have collaborated to secure funding for initiatives aimed at decreasing methane emissions from human activities. These initiatives involve conducting research and advocacy alongside civil society organizations (CSOs).

45% reduction in methane emissions could prevent many deaths.

The Global Methane Assessment highlights the potential impact of a 45% reduction in methane emissions, which could lead to a significant decrease the 255,000 deaths and 775,000 asthma-related hospital cases in just one year. The primary objective of the project is to promote methane emission reduction and utilization in four states in the Niger Delta region – Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, and Rivers. This will be achieved by increasing awareness, empowering non-state actors and the media to address the issue, and sustaining efforts to reduce methane through continuous advocacy, research, and impact assessment.

Louis Brown Ogbeifun, Executive Director of AfriTAL, pointed out the importance of reducing methane emissions from various human activities such as waste management, livestock farming, rice cultivation, and other agricultural practices due to limited understanding of the risks posed by anthropogenic methane on human health. Ogbeifun noted the critical nature of Nigeria’s predicament due to the elevated levels of methane emissions as a result of oil and gas operations such as gas flaring, pipeline damage, and small-scale refining. He urged Civil Society Organizations to push for the reduction of these emissions without delay.

Related Article: Emissions expose Nigerians to CO poisoning

Ogbeifun stated that it is imperative to educate CSOs and the media on Methane Action and provide them with advocacy resources. He also mentioned that the government should intervene, by promoting methane reduction efforts, as well as raising awareness among farmers and livestock owners about the harmful effects of improperly discarded waste on human health. The CSOs present at the event gave assurances on their commitment to take detailed steps, such as collaborating with the National Council on Climate Change (NCCC) and other stakeholders in the climate change field, to gather essential information needed to achieve the project goals.

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