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The defining issue of our time - climate change


The defining issue of our time – climate change

My second keynote address at Staatstheater Stuttgart. An invitation from Schauspiel Stuttgart on "Ecocide"

The defining issue of our time - climate change

In our world today, the voice of our environment matters a lot in defining humanity. The covid19 has shown to the world that the voice of our environment has an equal or greater right to be heard than that of humans; that’s the state of our planet is central to human rights. This implies that a healthy democracy means a healthy environment and vice versa. Climate change is overwhelming our infrastructure and there are some damages that can’t be reversed just like the melting of the ice berg. Climate change is the only single crisis that could end humanity. There are no profits when we can’t live in a habitable planet or when we spend the profit to deal with its loss and damage. Also, building climate resilience while emissions keep rising is not sustainable and it is equal to no work done. Sometimes I wondered, isn’t climate change a reality enough?

The current capacity to adapt to these impacts is not sufficient compare to the reality on ground. Have you thought of a world where you turn on your tap but could not find water? Have you thought of a world where your house is no longer a safe place because it can be swept away by flood or heatwave? Have you thought of a world where money is no longer being valuable? Likewise have you thought of a world where it becomes nearly impossible for us to grow crops? These are currently our reality. Gradually, climate change is tearing the world apart and can lead to de-globalization since its impact knows no boundaries because climate change has no respect for our human rights.

I advocate for the restoration of Lake Chad that has shrunk by 90% since 1960. This is also the region where climate change is leading to armed conflict. I’m afraid that climate change can be the only single threat to our diversity which can lead to the possible of ethno-religious war. I schooled in the food basket of the nation where the clashes between the farmers and herders has become a nightmare in the bid for resource control. Just to tell you about an incident that happened while I was in my first year in school as an undergraduate student. All of a sudden I saw people running; some towards the hostel while some toward Benue River and other areas around the school. This is an environment that is new to me of which I barely know anyone so I don’t know where to run to and I was surprisingly fearless; still in my hostel at the window watching as the event unfold. I heard people pointing fingers to the existing crisis between the farmers and herders but turned out to be a robbery attack at the ATM stand. I see that as an anxiety, a fear of the unknown on what is next. Though, I grew up being used to the herdsmen moving their cattle around but in recent times it has taken another route because both farmers and herders needs intercept: the vegetative landscape, climatic condition and water. Yet, those resources are shrinking while climatic pattern is becoming unpredictable. Since we are agrarian society, the displacement of farmers hit hard mostly on food security. Generally, the world experiences climate change differently but are all faced with its single resultant impact which is displacement and human migration. Of which uncontrollable displacement and human migration is a disruption to our democracy and culture.

In a school of thought, one believes that migration results from a failure to adapt to climate change while the other believes that migration against climate change is in itself an adaptation strategy. But there is a meeting point to both schools of thought which is “survival of the fittest”. To us, climate change is a life and death issue where temperatures are raising more than 1.5 times the average. Formally Sahara was once known as the “Green Sahara” but now it is the world’s largest and hottest desert. Same as the Mega Chad Lake that has dried out due to several droughts and now we are almost at the edge of losing Lake Chad that bounds Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.  According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration – with millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural disruption.

The future flow of migration could become a driver of new conflicts as it is now where countries that have never experienced conflict will start experiencing one or more. The latest report stated that, 86 million people could become climate migrants in Nigeria and other sub Saharan countries by 2050.  The prediction of the future flows of climate migrants to being 200 million by 2050 is becoming a reality. Addressing Climate change in Africa especially Nigeria will have a far reaching impact in reducing the number of economic migrants coming or crossing dangerous pathways to Europe and North America. This will further protect not just Europe economy but global economic systems. More so, our recent work at the I Lead Climate Action initiative on peace and conflict resolution has been able to successfully map out areas of safe zone in the Lake Chad region whilst advocating for the Lake to be recharged as a key to peace and not military action. As we also bring more Africans on board in solving the defining issue of our time.

Now we keep demanding for green recovery yet we are seeing more investment in fossil fuel. The waves of climate change are unequal. What the world is currently witnessing is one of the several waves of climate change emergencies. The next wave might be deadlier than this. Sometimes I asked, what will it take the world to act on climate change now? How many more lives need to be lost before we act on the climate crisis? It’s never a choice to be a refugee neither is it a choice to cross difficult terrain. Climate change crises have shown itself as a major disaster that is difficult for humans to quarantine or isolate from yet we are in the sixth mass extinction. Raising more promises is not what can safe our planet rather more actions we need.

If you are not impacted from the effects of climate change, your next generation might be. This unprecedented time calls for us all to be united behind the science so whatever we do this decade will determine the future of humanity as a whole. More so, we can use different means to inspire climate action which is why we are all here today. For every bit of the roles played (will be played), it is a reality of what we are faced with today. Just to remind us all that; we can neither isolate nor quarantine from the impacts of climate change so the time for action is now.

By Oladosu Adenike (

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