Prospects For Sustainable Development In a Climate Change Situation



Sustainable Development    

In a

Climate Change Situation




Prof. Gabriel. B Ogunmola


Chancellor, Lead City University


Chairman, Institute of Genetic Chemistry And Laboratory Medicine





It is a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to be one of the lead speakers at this very important symposium on in respect of 2010 Founders day of the Development Policy Center and to address the issue –Prospects for Sustainable Development in a Climate Change Situation.


I want to thank Professor Mrs. Bimpe Aboyade and the Board of Directors of DPC for the kind invitation extended to me to be part of this year’s founder day ceremonies


We all know why we are here; to celebrate the heritage of the ancestors which is synonymous with gathering every year to remember a legacy that a beautiful life has created for us to nurture.


A legacy of excellence in scholarship and astuteness in service to fatherland-Professor Oyetunji Aboyade, a great economist with a human face and people centered development objectives. His roles in the annals of history of academia and African developments are big foot prints in the sand of time. How fast time flies and how pleasant to remember good deeds


His life has spoken eloquently and elegantly in the economic landscape of our country and the African continent, that when it comes to pursuing development, the language to speak is economics. Economics not as taught in terms of elegant equations and mathematics models that he had spent much time on in the classroom but as insight and the ability to see connections between people and basis of national wealth.


If we are to understand this messy world, if we ever wanted to make a real difference in people’s life, Oyetunji Aboyade must have said to himself that he must learn and master learn economics in practical terms.


If we must embrace development, the tool has to be economics and it is when it brings sustainable development to improve people’s life that we must improve human conditions.


Today we are here to continue in the path of the ancestors and I have the privilege and honor to address such an august and distinguished audience here gathered to talk on the topic-Prospect of sustainable development in a climate change situation. The key words are sustainable development and climate change situation.



Let me turn first to the concept of sustainable development, a phrase that is frequently thrown around but I sense not always grasped. Sustainable development is easy to explain but substantially more difficult to realize. Basically, it is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is a pattern of development that ensures a steady enhancement of well-being over time. It requires structural changes that lead to enduring widespread improvements in the quality of life of a society. Sustainable development requires a systematic, carefully coordinated and interconnected series of policies and strategies that will improve people’s lives in a progressive, irreversible and palpable manner.


Climate change situation is one of the global environmental changes that are occurring and it is a contemporary issue. GEC refers to the set of transformations of land, oceans and atmosphere driven by interwoven socio-economic and natural processes.


The growing demographic pressure and increased demand for food, fibre and water have dramatically transformed the land surface from quasi natural cover to cultivated lands.


Waste products from human activities result in air and water pollution leading to an over abundance of nutrients and toxically in freshwater and coastal systems, accumulated toxins on land and deteriorating air quality.


Unsustainable harvest pressures and loss of habitat for wild species have precipitated loss of biodiversity.


Human activities now match [and often exceed] the natural forces that regulate the Earth system. The current level of carbon dioxide and methane are well outside the range of natural variability over the last 800,000years. About half of the world’s ice-free land surface has been altered by human actions which now cause more nitrogen fixation than is normally encountered in nature.


Particles emitted by anthropogenic activities alter the energy balance of the planet have adverse effects on human health.


Anthropogenic changes to the structure, composition or function of large natural biogeophysical and ecological systems entail changes in the complex array of forcing and feedbacks that characterize the internal dynamics of the Earth system.


These planetary scale environmental changes are of great significance because they are diminishing the capacity of the Earth’s natural environment to supply and replenish resources and to absorb and recycle the waste products from people’s activities.


These perturbations are exacerbated by global climate changes and together they compromise livelihoods by constraining resources in poorer communities for example and by affecting the range of other goods and services that ecosystems provide. Human societies are themselves changing from rural to urban and from locally focused to globally connected.


Threats to Existence

Each generation feels threatened, we are really threatened. Current threats include population growth, lack of energy, poverty and mass starvation, gross pollution of water and air, low life expectancy and rising costs of living, the disappearance of natural resources.  Each threat is severe, and the sum is such that we may be the most threatened generation in human history and Africa is the most threatened continent.


But if we are more threatened than those who have been at any other time in history, we are also better equipped to understand and meet the threats. We are freer than ever before because of the many choices available to us; choices that were unknown years ago.


Let us explore some of these threats and some choices.  The exploration may provide insight into the role of science and the relationship between the form and function of science.



For most of written history, the rate of human population growth was about 0.04% per year and the time required for doubling the total human population about 2002 years. The present worldwide average rate is 50 times as great (about 2 percent per year), giving a doubling time of about 35 years (see Table 1).  The growth rate in Nigeria is about 3-3.5%.


It is increasingly clear that the world’s population cannot continue to increase much longer. Had there been only a dozen people alive at the time of Christ, and had the population increased at the present rate for the past 2002 years, there would now be about 1017 people on earth – a population density of one hundred people per square foot over both land and water.


Table 1:          Doubling time of a population is universally proportional to present rate of growth


Rate of growth (percent) 0.1 0.5  1  2  3  4
Doubling time (years) 700 140  70  35  24  18


Population control is probably a most crucial problem of our time. We have had a census in 2006; but we do have a national policy on population control. Many other problems are directly related to rapid population growth and if growth increases much longer it seems unlikely that we can ever solve many associated problems.


Three Choices

There are three broad choices for controlling population, natural disease based in increasing the death rate which nobody wants,  decreasing the birth rate and migration. Both of these are happening now for many different reasons.


Birth control methods are a reliability of almost 100 percent (though that figure will almost certainly never be reached because of chemical variations from one individual to another).  Cheaper and more effective methods are now readily available.  For example, there is a subcutaneous capsule that will reduce the chances of conception to less than 1 percent over a period of as long as twenty years; such a capsule could be removed at any time a child was desired.  Male fertility control is equally being practiced in increasing number.  We have a national policy that would need our development objectivity of population growth rate and increase in the standard of living.  Four (4) children per family is still rather high, we can cut this by half and improve the quality of life.


In some societies high child mortality and maternal mortality certainly has long caused the necessary balance between population size and available resources.  Few people today advocate a planned increase in death rates, though war is sometimes excused as being a population control device.  Instead, as our knowledge of human physiology grows, “death control” means postponing death, and accelerates population growth by increasing life spans. Research now is expected to extend life expectancies to a hundred years or more but the life expectancy in Nigeria is still less than 60, actually 47 years.


Customarily these are said to be the only three choices available.  Let us turn now to some limits that are placed on human population by those things that are necessary for human life, such as air, water, food, environment and health, rather than the raw materials such as copper, iron, and salt, that we need to maintain improved standards and life style standards.  We shall, in what follows, assume that each individual will require the same amounts of their necessities.



We would perish quickly from lack of air, so it is pertinent to ask how many humans the earth’s air supply can support. Air exerts a pressure of about 15 pounds per square inch; the total area of the earth is 200 million square miles. Thus the atmosphere contains about 1015 tons of oxygen and 5 1015 tons of nitrogen.


At present roughly if each person uses some 200 million kilocalories (kcal) of energy per year (mostly from burning fossil fuels), this means an expenditure of about 102 tons of oxygen per person per year. The present rate of cycling of oxygen through the atmosphere is estimated to be once per 3000 years, making 1012 tons available per year – in the assumed steady state, enough for 1010 people, only three times the present world population.


Nitrogen is an essential element in food, and is present mainly in the form of protein. The per person consumption of protein nitrogen per year is about 25 pounds (1002). The cycling time for nitrogen is estimated at 108 years, giving 2-108 tons per year, or enough for about 1010 people.


These figures are approximate and involve both optimistic and pessimistic numerical assumptions.  The attempt here is to give as realistic a maximum population estimate as possible within the simplifications.  For example, it is readily necessary to synthesize nitrogen compounds at the rate of 40 pounds of nitrogen per person per year in order to supply the fertilizer required for current crop yields as the topsoil frequent supply of nutrients after 10 – 15 optimistic mechanical treatment.  Clearly atmospheric nitrogen is already inadequate in the face of population pressures.  The shortage can be relieved only if synthetic chemical methods are used to shorten the nitrogen cycle.


The atmosphere is not only a source of oxygen and nitrogen; it is also a sink into which we pump many substances.  Carbon dioxide build-up is one case in view.


It has been predicted as far back that combustion of fossil fuels would lead to an abnormal rise in atmospheric CO2.  The average temperature of the earth’s surface has already risen 0.2oC and that of the stratosphere 2oC as a result of carbon dioxide build-up and the fact that CO2 is transparent to most solar radiation but not to heat radiated out from the earth.  Further heating will cause ocean levels to rise several hundred feet as the polar icecaps melt and dramatic changes in weather.


But we have new choices.  Nitrogen compounds are widely synthesized and are becoming cheaper, other fuels, which neither consume oxygen nor release carbon dioxide, would be more available, and the direct conversion of sunlight to storable energy is now feasible.  We can benefit a lot from solar energy as the intensity of the sum is quite high in Nigeria.



The total annual rainfall on earth is about –1019 litres.  Much falls into the ocean, and much runs off in places inaccessible to man. About 3-1017 litres are actually available per year.  At the current average rate of use 107 litres per person per year, this amount of rain would support a worldwide population of 3-1010.  Modern technology of water reuse multiplies the supply by a factor of 5 or 6, and large-scale desalination of seawater can soon multiply it by another factor of 10. The cost of desalination has come down rapidly and is approaching the thermodynamic limit discovered by “pure science” years ago.


Available water is unequally distributed over the earth’s surface, making it likely that there will continue to be severing local water shortages, but there is little threat of a worldwide shortage.


Streams, lakes and oceans are not merely sources of water. They are, like the atmosphere, sinks into which we continue to pour great quantities of waste.  When the waste input exceeds the amount of oxygen in the water, much of the aquatic life is destroyed, drinking the water is unhealthy, and chlorination and similar treatment must be increased just to make the water barely suitable for human consumption.  Making water available and accessible to every individual is a realistic national goal in this country.  Many water borne diseases can be eliminated and improved health mostly of the children assured.



A well-fed person consumes close to 3000 kcal per day.  The minimum human requirement appears to be about 1000 kcal per square metre of body area (the approximate size of the average person).  It is apparent that, if present trends are not altered, a large population of the African continent (on the average) will be underfed throughout this century; half is already underfed today and poverty looms large in many developing countries of Africa.  Students already coined 0 1 0, 0 0 1, 1 0 0 for one meal a day profile of no breakfast and no dinner, no breakfast and no lunch and no lunch no dinner respectively even among the moderately elite students.


Food production could be increased almost everywhere.  The amount of arable land remained fairly large and underutilized, but food production has not increased significantly.  IITA has through introduction of improved genetic species improved the tonnage of cassava and new drought resistant maize hybrid has increased, but storage remains a great problem to food shortage.


Increased mechanization and energy input is necessary to improve farm yield and fertilizer for increased food production.


Yet agriculture in Nigeria is now at the place where it is impossible to feed even our own population with net food import if it were denied chemical and biological controls of pests and chemical fertilizers.  Such chemical assistance, much of which is based on a rather detailed knowledge of molecular behavior in living systems, has certainly increased as it becomes safer for the human consumers.  Our available choices will continue to increase as our knowledge of biological systems continues.  We need a rapid expansion of agriculture and food production to increase food security in Nigeria.


The solutions must clearly involve, in addition to population control, major agricultural practices reform. But note again; solutions are available, choices can be made. For example, available methods of food preservation and enrichment could lead to great net gains in the effective food supply.



The range and efficiency of life are strongly influenced by the environment, especially by the temperature and the humidity.  Our ability to construct shelter and to use fire has given us a great advantage over other forms of life by extending our habitable range and increasing our biological efficiency.


One interesting natural adaptation that has enabled human being to overcome a weather problem is illustrated by the correlation between skin color, vitamin D synthesis, and population distribution. Vitamin D is synthesized in humans by subcutaneous cells, which obtain the required energy from sunlight. Too little vitamin D leads to death from rickets, too much to death by vitamin D poisoning. Dark-skinned persons may obtain too little vitamin D from sunlight in northern latitudes, and light-skinned persons exposed to tropical sunlight may synthesize too much of the vitamin – hence the natural distribution of man by color.  Eskimos get vitamin D from a fish diet and thus survive with very little sunlight in spite of their skin pigmentation. Enough modern foods are enriched by the addition of vitamin D to make availability of sunlight no longer a dominant factor in relating population distribution and skin color.  We have abundant vitamin D that we do not need a natural supplement in the tropic through our skin pigmentation.



The longevity and life expectancy of human species are determined by many factors.  Apparently, most of them are chemical and have to do with the rates of critical chemical reactions, which show up in the aging process, sickness, and health.


For most of our existence, the principal sources of sickness, especially among children, have been malaria, bacterial and viral infections and malnutrition.


Antibiotic and vaccines have reduced death rates from these maladies but malaria infestation had remained major problem in addition to the current HIV infection and AIDS endemic and the resurgent tuberculosis.


At the core of the United Nations Millennium Declaration of 2000 are the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] which require fulfillment by 2015 and which recognize that health is a priority agenda for the twenty first century. Achieving the MDGs is essential for global peace and economic sustainability and for addressing the critical issues of human needs and wellbeing.


Never in human history have people of different national and geographic origins been as interdependent as in the twenty first century both in our economic and climate. Globalization and the degree and speed of human mobility have created circumstances under which the health concerns of  poor nations has become one of global concern and the centrality of the MDGs in an interdependent world.


Health and the sustainable economy are intricately linked. In its 1995 report, the Commission of Global Governance stated: “As economies become more interdependent, it is not only the opportunity for wealth creation that is multiplied but also the opportunity for destabilizing shocks to be transmitted from one country to another.


Sustainable economy is increasingly dependent on a healthy and productive workforce. Human health faces several great challenges. Most sub Saharan countries are far away from achieving the MDGs. One important reason for this is the lack of functional health systems due to a shortage in the health workforce, management incompetence, inadequate infrastructure and health care financing.


Critical health workforce shortages exist in about fifty seven countries of which thirty seven are in sub Saharan Africa. It is essential to increase the efforts to achieve MDGs relating to health. The increased burden of specific programmes on such new health needs in HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis have further weakened the already fractured health systems thus making delivery of general health care in low income countries that much difficult. Unfortunately, neither the governments of these countries nor the global donor community have invested adequately in capacity building.


There are more challenges facing health, prominent among these are the development of microbial resistance to antibiotics and disinfectants, along with the prevalence in epidemic proportions of non communicable diseases and injuries  in low and middle income countries. Tackling these challenges is also a priority agenda for health in the twenty first century.


Several important questions beg for answers: How do we balance investment in technological solutions with those in capacity building? Have we adequately engaged all the available talent pool to solve the complex problems in health and its interconnectedness, I believe the expertise of academic institutions in different linkages and across countries needs to be adequately tapped.


Effective collaborations among governments, non governmental agencies and academia will be key to addressing the health workforce crisis and to training the leadership that healthcare requires.


An important health priority agenda for the twenty first century would be to           achieve the MDGs, unfortunately, many of the low income countries are far from achieving these goals primarily because of critical shortages of health workers and weak healthcare systems, most especially in the delivery of primary healthcare. Beyond the achievement of the MDGs, other priority agenda items are developing effective vaccines and drugs for HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases addressing microbial resistance and preparing a coordinated response to inevitable effect of climate change on health,

We must be part of this agenda.


A strategy for vaccine and drug discovery on the one hand and capacity building on the other will determine how well and how fast we will achieve the MDGs and address the other health priorities for the twenty first century

The life expectancy in Nigeria is currently below 54 years to be specific.


Space and Cities

Living species require a certain average minimum area for health and growth. This is true of plants and of predatory animals.  It now appears that the minimum for many animals is determined by needs other than such raw materials as food, water, and sunlight. Rats will resort to cannibalism even with an adequate food supply if the population density in a cage exceeds a rather well defined limit, and similar effects appear to be present in other species.  There is some evidence that man is similarly affected, it seems that there is a variation in need from one culture to another but that the minimum requirement for space is real and may already be operative in some crowded places.  This is why crime increases in large cities and we have increasing urbanization resulting in megacities.



Each of the problems outlined so far may be solved in a variety of already established ways and our number of choices in most areas is still increasing with time, though this will hardly continue indefinitely. But most of the solutions share a common feature.  They all require energy.

Most if not all, of the useful energy supply on earth comes from the sun.  some comes in the from of direct sunlight (at the rate of about 1021 kcal per year of which about 50 per cent is immediately reflected back to space, 50 percent is absorbed as heat then quickly radiated to space, and some 0.1 percent, or 1018 kcal year-1, is converted into earth-bound energy, as in wood. Some energy comes from fossil fuels (of which consumption rate is now about 1017 kcal year-1); some from hydroelectric power, although currently these add only a few percent to the supply.  Table 2 summarizes the known reserves of the largest energy sources, and their exhaustion periods if the present rate of use continues.



Table 2: Estimated Reserves on the Large Energy Sources and their Exhaustion Periods at Present Use Rate

Fuel Reserve (kcal) Annual use


Years until exhaustion at present use rates
Oil 1018 3 – 1016   30
Coal and gas 3 – 1019 1017  300
Solar energy/Wind 1020 year-1   1010    

As population increases, some demands (for water, for example) increase in a roughly linear fashion. But other demands, especially for energy would increase much more rapidly. We have very serious energy production shortage or what is the meaning of PHCN; acronym for ‘Please Hold Candle Now’ despite the presidential deadline. Professor Nnaji has come onboard to straighten that-Hurray

The present energy consumption is about 2 – 108 kcal per person per year. At this rate the fossil fuels listed in Table 2 would last about 1011 person years, or about thirty years for the present world population.  Additional fossil fuels are being discovered.  It is clear that fossil fuels cannot supply the long-term energy needs and are going to decline rapidly in the near future as a prime source of energy. Many chemists would argue, even now, that oil, gas and coal are of more potential value as chemicals for synthetic purposes than they are as energy sources.  Yet their projected consumption as fuel continues to increase unless the conventional use is changed.


The long-term energy picture for the world must look for alternatives; however, nuclear fission is now controllable and is already contributing appreciably to the available energy in some advanced countries.  Fission products are difficult to handle, but so is the carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. The direct conversion of sunlight to electricity is a most promising source of energy that may produce no chemical contaminants at all.  A principal problem now is to find a cheap material for covering large areas with solar panel. The energy received by a single day in the desert in the Sahara, 180 by 100 miles in area, could supply the total energy needs of the present world population if it were all captured and converted to useful forms instead of reradiating to the sky.

An attempt is on to take the solar energy of the Sahara across Europe. How much of this can we get plundered to be used in Africa?


Knowledge of energy sources has improved and the point at which it should soon be possible to have much more energy available and to harness it much more cheaply is an area of intense science.  Since energy is required to solve most of man’s problems, its increasing availability is most encouraging.  That would make the production of energy in this country a priority.  We have abundant gas as well as high intensity light radiation to make solar energy a most desirable choice.



One result of scientific research that is of considerable import to any discussion of human affairs and energy production is the observation that energy turns into heat as it is used. Thus energy flows from concentrated sources like the sun to relatively cool places like the earth, with most of the energy on earth turning into heat and warning the earth as summarized in the second law of thermodynamics. In addition to the heating that has resulted from the increasing carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere as well as that due to the large energy output in big cities from burning of fossil fuel from automobile.


The steady-state heat supply on earth has, for the past few thousand years at leas, been made up of about 2-1017 kcal year-1 from radioactive and other thermal processes inside the earth, and about 5-1020 kcal year-1 of solar energy. The sum of these has just balanced the radioactive heat losses to space, and the earth’s average temperature has been about constant. We are adding about 1017 kcal year-1 to the total.


The present energy output of 1017 kcal per year s sufficient to warm all the water in all the oceans about 10-4oC per year.  This is not a negligible amount of heating, and of course, the heat is not uniformly distributed through the ocean waters. As production and use of energy from fossil and others increases, the rate of heating will also increase. The present rate of increase of temperature in the earth’s atmosphere probably runs about 0.01oC per year, may shortly raise this to 0.01oC per year, or 10oC per 100 years. It is extremely doubtful that the earth could support a large human population if such a rise continued for long.  If the earth can not, we thus by inference need to control our population growth rate as a nation and as a continent


It is true that there are methods for increasing the rate of heat loss from the earth’s surface, but none presently known can increase the rate of loss as fast as human are increasing the rate of production of heat.


Thus, in all likelihood, heat production will be a primary limiting factor on human activity and population. It also seems likely that the present rate of heat generation is near the maximum tolerable rate; it may even be too high for a tolerable steady-state situation. However, if the rate of heat generation is slowed, changes due to the rising temperature will also be slowed.  The heat will have a

chance to diffuse through the oceans, markedly lowering the rate at which atmospheric temperature rises, and the temperatures of ocean, land and air may change so slowly that living organisms will be able to adapt to the change and to slightly higher average temperatures. In fact, there is considerable geological evidence that the temperature of the oceans has fluctuated several degrees in the past. It will probably slowly do so again in the future, and the changes need not even be uncomfortable for mankind. But if the fluctuations become a monotonic trend fed by larger and larger human energy production, the ecological results will almost certainly be catastrophic.


The dissipation of heat is one area in which we seem to have few choices, their number being limited by the laws of thermodynamics. Nor does it seem likely that the number of choices will increase in the future.  Of all the threats to the existence of human society, of humankind itself, the most serious – except for the unceasing growth of population – is probably that from the steady increase in the temperature of man’s environment.  Yet a leveling off or decrease in energy use will have the immediate effect of exacerbating the present tensions in society.


At the moment, the solution to the heat problem seems to be more intensive use of sunlight. Even now, about 50 percent of sunlight is converted to heat without doing useful work and is then radiated into space. If this unused energy were converted to work, it would probably increase the amount of useful energy by a factor of from 2 to 10 without adding appreciably to the heat that is not radiated into space. And this, of course, would make unnecessary the production of energy in ways that increase the earth’s increment of heat. We spend much effort on the direct conversion of sunlight as energy source as we attempt to increase our generating capacity in the national grip. The actual current effort is minimal, but even so is producing results, which promise real choices for minimizing the heat problem at the present population level.


The Steady State

We were 140 million at the last count population in 2006 with growth rate of 3.5.

I consider the development of Nigeria along with other African countries to be among the most pressing issues of our time. It is therefore important to speak candidly together about it. Africa has very many major challenges to face. It is going to be a very tough slog to meet these challenges successfully. I am going to spend some time outlining these problems, so we can have no illusions about them. But I am going to emphasize that we cannot be defeated by these problems, that the needs of our people are so great that we must move forward and that it is still possible to see a brighter future in which Africa takes her destiny into her own hands and designs her own future. But I am here today to say that it can only happen if Nigeria as well as other African countries harnesses science and technology for sustainable development.


With this concept in mind, we can ask the important question of the prospect of sustainable development of Nigeria along with other African countries, how has the development faired in the last three decades? Have we developed and have we developed sustain ably? Using cluster analysis to classify 38African countries into three relatively homogenous groups as high sustainability, moderate sustainability and low sustainability, overall, sustainability development indices in Africa have worsened.


Sustainable development has declined in the whole of Africa over the last three to four decades. Sustainability is a direct function of institutional development and human, physical, capital accumulation as well as productivity. I will indicate a few of the most critical challenges that Nigeria and other countries in Africa must address to achieve sustainable development and a better life for its citizens and we can do much more to address many of Nigeria and Africa’s problems with existing and conventional technologies.


Finally, I ask the all important question-‘Who is going to do all of the things I will be recommending? The answer as you will soon hear involves all of us-African governments, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations NGOs and African development partners. That translates to you and me. What role would universities make in their efforts to achieve sustainable development?


Looking at the two decades between 1985 and 2005, we found that no African country achieved high sustainability, only a few achieved moderate overall sustainability but most fell into the cluster of low sustainability. What was discovered was that while significant progress had often been made in health by eradication of some easy childhood disease through immunization and education through rapid increase in a number of schools and tertiary institutions during this period, these gains were offset in many countries by poor governance and corruption. At the same time, in many large African countries, population density and environmental hazards increased substantially.


National efforts to achieve sustainable development should emphasis productive capacity and its key determinants institutions and human resources. It is when the free energy of a system is at a minimum that stability can occur. Under such a situation, entropy otherwise known as chaos must be at a minimum to balance the exciting elements in the system. In chemical term, order must be maximized for chaos to beat a minimum. All countries need the rule of law, civil and political rights, high quality government polices and agencies and effective mechanisms of management of conflict.


As you can see then, to have a chance of succeeding, the sustainable development that Africa needs must have three dimensions economic sustainability, environmental sustainability and institutional sustainability.


The fact is that we know what we need to achieve in the goal of sustainable development, but we must not pretend it will be easy to achieve without commitment to good policy.


The Decisive Moment
  1. The Environment and the Gap in Development

The gap in the development between us and others in the developed world is not contemporary but historic, environmental and long standing but quite often we blame technology and those who have developed it to suite their own condition for improvement.  Hence our potential fertile tropical soil remains fallow.  We have often blamed the colonial legacies that disrupted our society such that we have lost control of our environment.  The slave trade that depopulated and dehumanized us hoping reparation might substitute for the loss incurred.  Could all these be the answer?  Certainly not.  We must not take the easy way out.  We cannot rewrite the past to make it more pleasing, but we must be optimistic that we would develop.  The weakening of the constraints of the past would come from science and technology. One thing of which I am reasonably certain is that the great issues of our time, issues involving survival and sustainability, are, in the end, likely to require choices.


Ladies and gentlemen, we stand watching the dawn of a new tomorrow.   We need to pool all of our resources if we are going to meet the needs of our time.  This is not a time for competition, but rather a time for collaboration, a true partnership with government and with the society.


This is a time to be thankful for the in our triumph of the human spirit and the many great and clever people we have in our institutions, science departments and researchers and in pursuance of the advancement of knowledge, and renew our faith, over and over again, in the capacity of the human mind and begin a new Renaissance of the human spirit to overcome the degradation in our environment.


The first industrial revolution was the product of a society that had developed a sense of respect and concern to impart, empirical and technical knowledge, and a preference for advancement by competence.


The major reasons for the failure of our past are not to have consolidated and sustain the reforms and achievements of the early years or even the preceding colonial regimes in understanding and valuing our institutions as agents of change.  Our government needs to see our institutions, not as partners in development to be supported.


Nigerian institutions and scientific centers are to be developed.  First, our political leaders must come out strongly with clear policy orientations to address society’s pressing needs, with a system of innovation for the 21st century.  The scientific institutions and the scientists for their part must develop strategies to contribute to meeting these needs. There are challenges ahead and we must all be resolved to offer to our country and our continent the best of our skill, and collective will to support progress, banish poverty and eradicate ignorance and so liberate the total human spirit for contribution to national development.


The international Council for Science ICSU is a non governmental organization with a global membership that includes 113 National scientific Bodies 24 of which are from sub Saharan Africa and 29 International Scientific Unions and affiliated bodies.


The long term ICSU strategic vision is for a world where science is used for the benefit of all, excellence in science is valued and scientific knowledge linked effectively to policy making.


I participated in setting up the ICSU Regional Office for Africa as Chairman of the ICSU Regional Office for Africa in the last six years which was inaugurated on 1 September 2005 for the purpose of promoting and coordinating the activities of the ICSU family in sub Saharan Africa. The first undertaking that we took always considers the priorities and the specific realities of the African region. In April 2006, the ICSU Regional Committee for Africa ICSU RCA set up four Committees to draw up science plan to address the priority challenges in Africa.


To address these numerous challenges that are embodied in the above PRIORITY areas, ICSU RCA established four scoping groups. In drawing up the science plans, the different commirttees took into consideration the ISU Strategic Plan 2006-2011, the AU/NEPAD Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, the UN Millennium Development Goals and reports from ICSU interdisciplinary bodies and joint initiatives.


Global environmental change research was one of the priority areas of the science plan and encompasses the interlinked issues of social, economic, political and technological change, their consequences for the land surface and its water systems, the oceans and the atmospheres, the resultant changes in the climate and the impact of all the above on plant and animal biodiversity and human wellbeing.


Africa is particularly vulnerable to global environment change GEC, partly due to its location an also because of its limited adaptive capacity. The continent has significant capacity to conduct GECR but is not reaching its full and necessary potential in this arena.


This science plan considers from an African perspective the most pressing             GEC-related research needs, the unique opportunities offered for GECR and the capabilities to conduct world class research to address Africa’s needs and global relevance.


The process leads to a proposal for a small number of large, integrative projects in six broad areas: [1] land degradation, biodiversity loss and human well being [2] Rainfall in Africa [3].Resilience of food systems [4].Water resources and their governance [5].Atmospheric pollution [6]. Africa’s oceanographic uniqueness


There are six key issues of concern for global environmental changes to be addressed in Africa namely:

  1. Land degradation, biodiversity loss and human well being
  2. Climate change and its impact on rainfall in Africa
  3. Resilience of food systems
  4. Water resources and their governance
  5. Atmospheric composition change
  6. Africa’s oceanographic uniqueness


The six focus areas are influenced by various interconnected drivers of changes including land cover change resulting largely from agriculture, forest clearing and infrastructure development, atmospheric composition change as a result of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, aerosols and nitrogen and sulphur containing trace gases, the climate change that they together cause biodiversity change resulting from over harvesting, loss of habitat and pollution, the interconnected economic and political factors involved in globalization, issues in equity, global economy and novel technologies



Africa is characterized by its diversity of peoples and natural environments. The continent and its adjacent islands occupy a total land area of 30.4 million km, slightly more than 20%of the world’s landmass. It has a population of over 880million in 2005, with a growth rate of 2-4 twice the global mean. As a result, Africa’s population is projected to double in 22years, even with AIDS reversing the decades of gains in life expectancy. This population growth will exacerbate existing problems of food security and the provision of safe water, education and health services. It adds ecological stresses to the glaring economic pressures evident on the continent. The key challenges facing Africa arguably to a greater extent than other regions of the world include the following

  • Poverty– Africa was the only major developing region showing a decline in income per capita over the period 1980-2000, Two –thirds of the worlds least developed countries are in Africa


  • Disease– Africa’s health conditions are the worst on the planet. It has the highest under- 5 mortality rates [140 per 1000] and life expectancy at birth is only about 54years or lower. A large portion of the population suffers from disease such as malaria, HIV AIDS, cholera and tuberculosis which are largely under control elsewhere in the world.


  • Hunger-An estimated 40% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished. Most of the countries currently facing food emergencies are in Africa. Hunger, poverty, disease and vulnerability to environmental change are all closely linked.


  • Ethnic violence and religious conflicts-These threaten lives and livelihoods, increase vulnerability to natural hazards and disease and spawn refugees who degrade the environment for lack of other resources.


  • Lack of Education-Over 60% of Africa’s adult population is illiterate


  • Desertification-Dry lands cover 43% of the continent and harbor a third of the population. Droughts and floods seem to have increased in frequency and severity over the past 30years. West Africa is the source of nearly half of the mineral aerosols entering the atmosphere globally


  • Deforestation-In Africa, deforestation amounted to 5.2 million ha/y [0.78% of the forested area annually] for the period 1990-2000


Africa is subject to all the GEC drivers already outlined to varying degrees. The existing work on GEC and its impacts in Africa has recently been comprehensively assessed.


The climate of Africa is diverse and controlled by complex interactions between the oceans, land and atmosphere at local, regional and global scales.


Africa is hotter and drier than most other regions of the world, has less dependable rainfall. As a consequence and considering the fact that the livelihoods at all levels-from the individual household to he regional economy-depend heavily on climate, several studies have concluded that Africa is among the most vulnerable continents to the climate changes that threaten even higher temperatures and greater variability in future.


The UNEP report mentions growth within the environment, society and economy and the role of GEC in attaining development goals. Desertification has increasing extreme events make adaptation to climate and environmental change particularly difficult. Because of these vulnerabilities, GEC is likely to increase poverty further and to reduce the ability of households to invest in a better future.


Contemporary Africa is demonstrably vulnerable to both droughts and floods which are detrimental to food production, human health, water resources and natural resource based livelihoods and which exacerbate degradation of land and coastal zones. The continent’s vulnerability is likely to increase in future. The adaptive capacity of local, national and regional institutions in Africa is relatively low, owing to limited economic, human, infrastructural and information resources and governance


A recent report on GECR activities and capacity in Africa noted that there were active in Africa but over half of the approximately 740 known African researchers in this field were based in only five countries.


The African researchers represent about2-5 of the global research effort in GEC, but their publications constitute only 0.5-1 %f the papers in leading international GEC journals.


The GEC researchers in Africa are organized into multiple overlapping networks and include several existing acknowledged centers of excellence. There is an equally large research community that works on but is currently disconnected for the most part from development related issues that are highly relevant to GEC



Let us begin with the most fundamental development challenge in Africa today poverty reduction. Although they are widely known, let me remind you of some of the data. They are frankly, both dispiriting and embarrassing. With 4 out of every 10 people living on less than US$1 per day, Africa is the poorest continent, despite being one of the most richly endowed. The continent includes 25 of the worlds 30 poorest countries and sub Saharan Africa is host to 32 of the 48 least developed countries. Worse still, poverty has gained in numbers, affecting 50% more Africans over the last 14years. The number of sub-Saharan Africans currently living below the poverty line [over 180 million people] is expected to exceed 300million by 2020; these are people without adequate access to food, housing, education and health care.


Overall, whole the world may meet the millennium development goal of cutting the proportion of people living in poverty from 22% today to 11% by 2015, Africa will likely be stuck at around 37%  more than thee times the projected global average. The stark reality is that Africa is not even able to feed itself and must rely on 3.23 million tones of food aid annually to stay off starvation.


Without any question, the key to reversing this trend is agriculture and improved nutrition. Yet African agriculture displays the lowest yields in the world. Less than 6% of Africa’s arable and permanent crops are irrigated, compared to an average of 33% for Asia. The data are even worse if we look only at sub Saharan Africa. It is only too obvious, then that African agriculture has failed to keep pace with human population growth and in most cases, it has actually underperformed the pre-independence period.


In fact, sub-Saharan Africa is the only major developing region where per capita food grain output has declined over the last four decades. In the few cases where high per capita production is observed, growth is mostly a result of area expansion, with yield increases accounting for less than 2%. Overall to underline this unhappy reality, Africa today depends on imports for 25% of its food grain requirements


There is yet another reason Africa must fight poverty through an agricultural revolution. I refer to the very spatial distribution of population and poverty and to the structure of the majority of African economies. Despite the exponential population growth in most African cities that we have all experienced, 75% of all Africans still live in rural areas. Some 70% of the poor will still be rural in 2020. Directly or indirectly, the income and livelihood of almost the entire rural population depend primarily on agriculture enterprises. On top of this, we know that urban poverty is interlinked as a result of migration from rural to urban centers.


Africa today is where poverty is interlinked with rural –urban migration. To sum up then for the majority of Africa household today, domestic food and agriculture production, processing and marketing remain overriding determinants of overall income and availability of, and access to food.


Belmont Challenge

Regional Environmental Change: Human Action and AdaptationThe Belmont Challenge’. It aims at delivering knowledge to support human action and adaptation to regional environmental change. Responding to this challenge requires regional and decadal prediction, advanced observing systems, and inclusion of social sciences. The objective is to develop and deliver knowledge in support of national and international government action to mitigate and adapt to global and regional environmental change and its associated regional hazards


In late 2009, a group of major funders of international global change research invited the International Council for Science (ICSU) to set up a high-level panel to conduct an analysis of the international research capability required to respond to the challenge of delivering knowledge to support human action and adaptation to regional environmental change. This challenge was named the Belmont Challenge and requires regional and decadal prediction, advanced observing systems and the integration of the social science with different interdisciplinary science to deliver mitigation strategies.


The Challenge is an important component of a broader Earth system science agenda; it has defined major grand challenges for global sustainability, and some concrete scientific questions under each of these challenges.


The environmental problems facing today’s society cannot be overcome by a single country or a single scientific discipline. Responding to these challenges demands highly coordinated and collaborative efforts in research and service agendas. A research agenda has been proposed to provide the scientifically based information needed by local, national and international decision makers, as they take actions for the benefit of society and environmental sustainability. This agenda seeks to mobilize the full spectrum of scientific disciplines. Reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience to environmental stress is a unifying goal of the diverse communities involved in these issues.


There is the need for the development and implementation of climate change mitigation in Research agenda


Integrated tools for analysis, prediction and projection in support of environmental management’s capability to identify and respond to hazards, risks and vulnerability, and to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies.  A major challenge is to develop integrated Earth system analysis and prediction systems, including the characterization of regional vulnerability and risks.


More effective use of physical and societal observations to improve global to-regional environmental analysis and prediction.   Can each and everyone have a thermometer and keep monitoring the temperature of our environment? This could become useful data with which to plan future strategies and mitigation of climate change


Information/communication tools and facilities that provide authoritative and easily accessible information to policy makers and decision makers


Capacity-building strategies in both developing and developed countries, as well as scientific partnerships between institutions from different geographic regions of the world



Coordinate efforts and enhance the support required to address environmental requirements and societal needs. The challenge is to integrate environmental and developmental issues that have often been independently addressed in the last decades.


Facilitate the dialogue between scientists, decision makers and the general public to support decisions and actions at the forefront of society’s needs.


Encourage natural and social scientists to work together to ensure that environment observations, analyses, predictions and services most effectively meet the needs of society.


Maintain and expand access to, and use of, the current global observing and monitoring systems through coordinated databases, and develop assimilation procedures to achieve the maximum benefit.


Respond to society’s increasing demand for detailed information at the regional and local scales. This requires sector-relevant information that includes observations, analyses, and high-resolution projections/predictions at timescales from days to decades.


The following priorities are defined to address the Environmental climate change challenge:


Develop Earth system knowledge:  Mobilize existing research teams and networks to develop and deliver the knowledge required to address pressing global to local environmental and societal issues.


Facilitate the communication of knowledge to decision makers: Identify the objectives and means for effective translation and communication of scientific knowledge for targeted sectors and regions in order to realize the intended benefits from application of such knowledge.


Nurture the next generation of experts: Invest in training scientists and associated staff through fellowships and research grants, emphazing scientific challenges at the interface of natural and human systems.


The physical-climate, climate-impact and resilience-adaptation-vulnerability research communities, which wee historically separated, must expand their coordination and collaboration. Funding agencies must be encouraged to establish strategic visions that draw these three communities closer together. The physical-climate and the climate-impact communities use primarily an approach based on scenario-driven sector impact models. The resilience-adaptation-vulnerability research community adopts an approach in which climate change is treated as one of the many interacting stresses. This contribution to the Belmont Challenge will be of central importance, since its approach is aligned with what managers at local and regional scales need. Methodologies for impact–vulnerability–adaptation studies should be further developed. Reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience to environmental stress should be a goal for the different communities including the scientific ones involved. It should be recognized, however, that regional aspects should be developed with a global perspective in mind. Indeed, regional studies must take into account regional manifestations and impacts of global changes in order to represent accurately the behavior of the African region.


Scientific assessments of past decades, e.g., IPCC, have been important venues to initiate a dialogue between the scientific community and political and economic actors. In the future, these assessments will have to better address broader issues of importance to society in addition to presenting a critical and expert synthesis of the work conducted by the scientific community.


Addressing the Belmont Challenge requires that a broad range of weather, climate, biogeochemical, geochemical and socioeconomic information be collected, coordinated, archived and disseminated. The Panel highlights the need for comprehensive and easily accessible databases and for integrated analysis and prediction systems. It notes that:


  • Large amounts of Earth system data are available. However, expanded databases are required for e.g. surface and ground-water hydrology; ocean; health; public vulnerability/response; impacts on human and on socio- economic activities and on ecosystems.
  • All environmental data should be made openly available to all research users.
  • The use of coupled weather/climate data assimilation and prediction systems to combine the best aspects of both data and models (e.g., accuracy and consistency, respectively) is an important aspect of advancing the use and value of multidisciplinary information.
  • There is a need to improve long-term, high spatial and temporal resolution observations and predictions that seek to capture extreme environmental and societal events.
  • Prediction models need to be tailored to address the integrated science issues posed in the Belmont challenge. Developing high-resolution global-to regional Earth system analysis and prediction models, that account for natural as well as human-driven processes, will most effectively be  accomplished by strong cooperation between academic, government and  risk-management institutions such as insurance companies.



Educational System 

Research community to facilitate research and education at the intersection of disciplines. However, many universities continue to emphasize traditional topics and approaches. Specifically, PhD students should be encouraged and supported to address multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary problems. They should also be encouraged to supplement their initial PhD education by post-doc training in other disciplines, within or outside natural/social sciences.


Students often believe that it is difficult to develop a successful career without a strong specific disciplinary focus. There are clear exceptions, for example, geography, anthropology, and economics. Similarly, natural scientists are often reluctant to engage in the socio-economic integration and application of their science. The present reward/recognition system at most universities is not sufficiently conducive to what is required to meet the Belmont Challenge.

Some academic institutions have recently established inter-disciplinary, multi- departmental research institutes that focus on climate and social/ecological issues, and developed Earth system science undergraduate and PhD programmes that provide opportunities to address the Belmont Challenge. The introduction of curricula linking natural sciences, engineering and socio-economics, e.g., economics of environmental change, risk management, should be encouraged.


The education system should encourage post-doctoral researchers to expand their interdisciplinary engagement. Academic and governmental institutions should develop interdisciplinary visiting programmes with international and multi-cultural participation.


There is the need for a comprehensive sustained coordinated and responsive Nigerian Earth Observation Network that delivers long term reliable data for scientific research and informs decision making for a knowledge society and improved quality of life.


NEON is therefore a purposed concerted effort involving many organizations and individuals to systematically and continuously take stock of longitudinal data, observe ongoing environmental change and predict the consequence of such change in order to inform policy of adaptation to climate change.


The purpose of NEON would therefore be to generate long term information that aids the sustainable management of natural resources over the entire range of eco-regions and land use.


It would be achieved by establishing an innovative research platforms and information management systems for long term multidisciplinary, multi-institutional and participatory ecosystem studies. There platforms are coordinated at nodes with strong regional and global linkage.  It would not be appropriate to focus on one mega node because this would not do justice to the diversity of ecosystem types in Nigeria.


The NEON is to be ecosystem based not placed based but a network of connected locations covering a range of use states, human activity within broadly defined ecosystem type.


Distribution note would assimilate, analyze and disseminate long term environmental information to strengthen scientific research and inform policy making.


The strategy is to place nodes in different regions throughout Nigeria with a data centre that receive information, analyze and broadcast to the scientific and policy institutions at different levels in order to address issues of adaptation and mitigation of climate change effect from local to global


Timi Morgan was looking for the wind map of Nigeria in order to design a wind turbine suitable for different locations in Nigeria with little success.


This situation now provokes the need to ask that we set up NEON. I am calling on the different stakeholders to come together in a network possibly using DPC as a planning note that would evolve NEON across the country. That in itself may be a celebration gift where natural scientists, social scientists, ICT specialists, engineers, archaeologists, anthropologists etc could interact, dialogue and contribute to national well being to mitigate climate change.



Sustainability is time bound and we should plan for it in 25years cycle


Meeting human needs using technology that is eco-friendly


Preserving life support system of the earth


Local action to meet global targets for ozone depleting substances and greenhouse gases


Regional targets to be adhered to for some pollutants through technology design


National targets must be set for

Absolute prohibitions on ocean dumping of radioactive wastes and toxics wastes, sale and taking of few large mammals migrating birds and endangered species


Rehabilitation of arid lands forests through tree planting


We need indicators essential to inform society over decades for sustainability


Multiple indicators are needed to chart progress towards goals for meeting human needs and preserving life support system and evaluate the effectiveness of action to meet targets

  • maintaining capital accounts
  • conducting policy assessments
  • monitoring essential trends
  • integrating knowledge and action by developing research framework that integrates global and local perspective to shape a place based understanding between climate change and society
  • initiate focused research program on a small set of questions that are central to deeper understanding of adaptation to climate change that would benefit society
  • promote better utilization of existing tools and processes for linking knowledge to action in pursuit of climate change adaptation and sustainable development


Develop dialogue among collaborators and stakeholders to effect mitigation


Reverse declining trends in agriculture production while maintaining the environment


Accelerate improvements in the use of energy and materials


Restore integrated approaches to research and action at national and regional level on water and atmosphere


Climate change adaptation and conservation of species and ecosystem through policy options and education



Thank you.


Prof. Gabriel B Ogunmola

9th September, 2010