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May 20, 2024
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AfriTAL: Methane Spiked Heat Wave, Caused Early Deaths in Africa

The Africa Initiative for Transparency and Responsibility Leadership has said methane gas remains a major contributor to global warming and heat waves currently being experienced in parts of the world.

AfriTAL disclosed this during a roundtable discussion with health, environmental, agricultural experts and practitioners, as well as civil society organizations, in collaboration with Stakeholders Democracy Network and Environmental Centre for Oil Spills and Gas Flaring, held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

AfriTAL Executive Director and Project Coordinator, Methane Abatement Programme, Dr. Ogbeifun Brown, who stated this said high levels of methane in the human body leads to premature deaths and aggravates asthma related diseases.

Brown said, “When methane is released into the atmosphere, the first thing it does is to pollute the oxygen that you and I breathe in.

“And when you take in oxygen, it goes through your lungs before it goes to every other part of the body, and one of the major effects associated with methane is premature deaths; then of course, since the air is polluted, asthma related diseases are aggravated and that’s a cause for worry.

“So it is estimated that if we all do what we could and government is also doing its own bit, in the next 10 years, we might be able to reduce methane levels, especially from anthropogenic sources, by 45 percent and we reduce hospital visitations and also reduce the infant mortality rate, and I think that is worth advocating for so that we can have a better life for our people.”

Brown noted that methane has the capacity to trap 80 percent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and can linger in the environment for up to 12 years.

He added, “Methane is a major contributor to the current heat wave in the country, because methane is 80 percent more potent in trapping heat and carbon dioxide. What does that mean? Carbon dioxide, for instance, can stay in the atmosphere for 100 years, according to what textbooks say. But methane stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years.

“What that means therefore is that when it traps the heat, getting it released until it disperses of course is going to increase the wave of heat, it is going to increase the wave of temperatures and that is why it is said methane on its own causes about 40 percent of global heat-related issues within the environment.”

He however called on the public to, without delay; begin steps in mitigating climate change, by properly disposing off   their refuse, which is a source of methane production and emission into the atmosphere.

Dr Brown stated, “I’m sure that every Nigerian today sleeps and wakes up with heat. That should be of concern to everybody. Was it like that in the past? No, what has suddenly led to this?

“Some of us are beginning to look at climate change as something that is real or more real than what people have projected and that the destruction of the ecosystem is beginning to catch up with human beings.

“We need therefore to do something where we have control, in terms of advocacy and in terms of trying as much as possible to manage our waste well as a way of reducing the short term methane emissions within the atmosphere.

“First, many of our garbage cans are open; many of our waste dumps are open within our environment, for instance. So, if we decide to do better by bagging our waste from the house level, before putting it in the garbage can, then we cover it, that is within the environment, then secondly at the larger scale, within the community, maybe the local government, all those baggage we expose into the landfills, can we begin to ensure that we bury them properly?

“Simple things like that can help our villagers or our communities to know very well that there are things that we do to help abate methane in our environment.”

Also speaking at the event, the South-South Zonal Director, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, Nosa Aigbedion, identified causes of methane production to include indiscriminate dumping of refuse, animal waste and burning of bushes during farming.

Aigbedion, however, said the government is also working hard to mitigate the anomaly.

He said, “Methane abatement is one that is of high concern to everyone. Methane is not a harmful gas at low levels, but at an elevated level, it becomes a thing of concern to everyone because of its ability to suppress oxygen and reduce what we take in as our daily life breath, which is oxygen.

“So for that reason, there is a need for us to abate or curtail methane production and reduce its emission into the atmosphere. That is the crux of this discussion.

“By reducing anthropogenic activities that lead to methane production, we need to ensure that the waste management process does not produce methane and by also ensuring that we reduce indiscriminate dumping of waste in our dump sites, because sometimes methane production is very natural, through the decomposition of organic materials.

“Additionally, our agricultural processes like cattle rearing, cows produce a lot of methane into the atmosphere either through belching or farting. We have a lot of methane released into the atmosphere, also by burning.”

He advocated avoidance of indiscriminate burning, because during burning among other gasses released is methane and methane is very high as well as a major contributor of greenhouse gases.

He enthused, “So methane is a big issue to be looked at when it comes to greenhouse gases.

“Government is trying in its bid to reduce methane release, not just methane, but every gas that has deleterious effects on human health. The government is working assiduously to ensure that it is reduced.”

Earlier in his keynote address, the Executive Director of Stakeholders Democracy Network, Adam Heal, noted that although there was no exact verifiable scale of methane emissions in Nigeria, SDN was currently building a prototype methane tracker for the country.

Heal, who spoke from New York, United States of America, via a video conference application, recommended that government agencies move from just making policies to implementing those policies.

Heal stressed the need for relevant government authorities to improve in monitoring of environmental data, so as to know the exact scale of methane in the environment and tackle it.

Meanwhile, National Coordinator of Environmental Centre for Oil Spills and Gas Flaring, Father Edward Obi, in his opening remarks via a webinar, said the aim of the event was to forge a common front for government, civil society organizations and communities in implementing eco-friendly farming and mining practices.

Obi said, “Our intention here is to establish a kind of a tripartite relationship between government agencies and government officials like yourselves, the community, who are right on the spot on effective farming techniques and also the civil society, so that we all can work together to curtail methane in our environment.

“This roundtable is a first step, which I believe will lead to many other steps in the future, where we shall work together as partners in government, in civil society and also in communities.

“We also know and trust our partners in SDN to work in the area of the relationship with the oil and gas industry, so together we have a very rounded programme, we will get everybody involved in the matter of abating methane in Nigeria.”

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