WHEN?

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By Anne T. Sulton, Ph.D., J.D.
JA Senior International Correspondent

In 2000, the world’s population was 6.1 billion. Of this number, 122 million resided in Nigeria. Currently, the world’s population is 7.9 billion. Of this number, 220 million live in Nigeria.

The United Nations projects that the world’s population will be 9.7 billion in the year 2050. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Nigeria’s expected population in 2050 will be 392 million. Some experts estimate it will grow to 791 million by the year 2100.

Nigeria’s land mass is about twice the size of California. Although not the capital city of Nigeria, Lagos is the largest city in Nigeria.

With a current population of 15 million, Lagos is one of the largest cities on the planet and has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. The Global Cities Institute at the University of Toronto estimates that 88.3 million people might be calling Lagos home in the year 2100.

Like many other large and fast-growing cities, Lagos’ existing infrastructure is increasingly strained – nearly 20% of its residents currently lack improved sanitation facility access. Air, water, and soil pollution too are part of daily life in Lagos.

And now, climate change is making life for millions in Lagos beyond miserable. During the past two weeks, heavy rains and unanticipated severe flooding ruined homes, forced businesses to close, and disrupted traffic. More heavy rains and severe flooding are expected during the next three months.

G.T. French, et al., in an article entitled “Sea-Level Rise and Nigeria: Potential Impacts and Consequences,” report that their “quantitative analysis of Nigeria’s vulnerability to sea-level rise, and the results suggest that … A one-meter rise in sea level could flood as much as 18,000 km² of land, forcing as many as 3.2 million people to relocate from their homes and destroying infrastructure currently valued at over $18 billion … In addition, 17,000 km² of wetlands could be lost.”

Flooding in Lagos and other Nigerian coastal communities is particularly worrisome because a substantial portion of these communities sits a few feet above sea level. Much of Nigeria’s industry and other vital businesses are located here, continuously attracting millions of people to move to this coastal zone despite its obvious vulnerability to the inevitable sea-level rise caused by climate change.

When – by what date certain – will we begin to realize sea-level rise is inevitable, coastal communities worldwide will be flooded, and steps must be taken now to mitigate the misery millions will experience?