Joe Effiong, Uyo
There appears to be a competition for the presentation of inaugural lectures in the University of Uyo (UNIUYO) in recent times.
In May 25, 2017, the university witnessed the presentation of inaugural lecture by Prof. Nkereuwm Udoaka of the Department of Communication Arts, and the topic was: “The Political Economy of Nigerian Journalism.’’
And between then and February 22, this year, the university witness four other inaugural lecture- the latest being the 58th edition presented by Ekanem Michael Ekanem, professor of Theoretical and Applied Climatology on the topic: “The Changing Climate in Climate Change.’’
Vice Chancellor of UNIUYO, Prof. Enefiok Essien, had while welcoming guests to the lecturer, said inaugural lectures were platforms for professors to prove their mettle.
Essien said despite the abnormal academic environment occasioned by strike by some unions on campus, the university authority deemed it necessary to host the 58th inaugural lecture to give Ekanem the opportunity he had been waiting for, to show his class.
Thus, it was a lecture which pulled the academic community from within and outside Nigeria to the 1,000-capacity auditorium of the university. Some even had to “squat” outside to listen to Prof Ekanem express fears where necessary or proffer solution, as reassuring mechanisms, about the effects of climate change in Nigeria, Africa and the world.
It was an eye-opener as Prof Ekanem revealed that the basic needs of life: shelter, clothing and food- available in Nigeria and consumed by Nigerians are determined by the climate which affects the soil, the crops and even the body system of the consumers.
“Climate directly or indirectly affects crops and subsequently the type of food available by directly affecting the soil. Climate is a factor in soil formation and quality. The level of nutrition available in the soil, the soil type, the soil moisture level and content are all directly related to climate. It is not impossible to import species and crops from other climate setting, but their ultimate performance will depend on the adaptability to the climatic setting of the new environment.
“It is notable too that the dress pattern of a people has a strong correlation with the climate of the place. A casual observer will note that in the tropical dry climates like the northern part of the country, by experience and over the years, most people wear white and those colours close to white. The reason is simple: the white colour reflects the excessive energy available to the environment of the human body instead of absorbing and creating more heat for the body. We can therefore conclude that the best methods, styles and materials that will leave the body comfortable and functional vary with climate,” Ekanem said.
Bringing in the fear, Ekanem said climate change projections for 21st century are much larger than those of the 20th century, as such, variations and human impact were likely to be correspondingly greater.
“Consequently, large and rapid climate change will represent an added threat to other environmental issues such as the air quality, water quality, endangered ecosystems and biodiversity and threats to coastal zones wetlands and the stratospheric ozone layer.”
Ekanem also raised some fears saying people were already vulnerable to disease as a result of poverty and malnutrition as even small changes in climate will have an effect on health. According to him, rainfall, temperature and humidity have a major influence on the distribution of disease pathogens and pests.
“Climate change will favour the spread of diseases into previously unaffected areas. While people may die from cold, warmer weathers may lead to increase heat stress while flooding increases the rate of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery.
“Over 3.2 million people are currently exposed to the risk of malaria and over a million die from it each year. These numbers are likely to increase with climate change. Malaria is caused by mosquitoes, which in tolerable warmer temperature, mature more quickly, bite more often, reproduce more and breed longer. Wetter conditions can also foster outbreak of the diseases. Climate change will allow malaria to spread into the northern and upper mountain regions, if other ecological factors do not limit it.”
But it was not only the problems brought about by climate change that Ekanem came to profess. He also pointed the way forward which was adopting Green Economy and moving ahead to Blue Economy.
“Green economy is a clean, environmentally friendly economy that provided wealth and wellbeing. This can only be achieved by providing a wide range of ideas, methods, innovations and technologies that deal with the interconnected relationship between people and the environment.”
He said one of the areas of green economy was to focus on proper waste management which could become one of the largest employers of labour in municipalities.
He said more jobs can be created from implementing new strategies and policies that emanate from green economy framework.
Concluding his 120-page lecture, Prof Ekanem said: …it is worth noting that climate change is a global event occurring across the globe, but at different scales and at different times with different effects. We are preparing to cope, adapt and even mitigate where possible. However, another global event will occur, at the same time, same scale, same event: ‘Jesus the Christ is coming.’ Let us all prepare too for this global event.”