Adaptation of Nigeria's Transportation Sector to Climate Change


Tuesday, December 17, 2019 / 5:20 PM / Festus Okotie / Header Image Credit: The Guardian


Transportation systems are structured and designed to withstand all types of weather and climate change and is the reason transportation engineers refer to historical records of climate and extreme weather conditions when designing transportation structures such as ports, airports, railway tracks, bridges, roads to withstand severe weather conditions.


The effectiveness of environmental sustainability policies in Nigeria and other African countries, as well as their potentials to support adaptation and mitigation measures is yet to be fully realized because most of the policies remain very broad and are not in position to provide the required focused response to climate change concerns.


While climate change is mentioned in some key government policies, there is yet to be specific policies or strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation sector activities especially in relation to the country's transportation sector and also the policy framework for aligning human development and climate change management which remains largely undeveloped.


Although the government has recognized the need to adapt existing national policies, strategies and plans to address climate change concerns and to ensure that climate change adaptation and mitigation concerns are properly integrated into its current national development plan, known as Vision 20:2020,experts believe the government and policy makers needs to put more efforts.


Nigeria's total Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in 2014 were 492.44 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), totalling 1.01 percent of global GHG emissions. In Nigeria, 38.2 percent of GHG emissions came from the land-use change and forestry sector, followed by the energy, waste, agriculture and the industrial processes sector which contributed 32.6 percent, 14.0, 13.0 percent and 2.1 percent respectively to GHG emissions.


According to CAIT data, (a suite of online data and visualizations tools that support the many dimensions of climate policy making and provides free, open, user -friendly access to world-class climate data from a desktop, tablet or mobile device, enabling analysis whenever it's needed) Nigeria's GHG emissions increased by 25% (98.22 MtCO2e) from 1990 to 2014. The average annual change in total emissions was 1%. In its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), Nigeria pledged to unconditionally reduce GHG emissions by 20% by 2030, compared to business as usual (BAU) emission levels. It aims to achieve this goal by improving energy efficiency by 20%, providing 13 GW of renewable electricity to rural communities that are currently not connected to the electric power grid, and by ending the flaring of gas.


Greenhouse gas emissions from the conventional energy sources used for transportation are known to be the main reason for the global warming which started changing the climates and posing serious threat to the planet and has now become very crucial to find new ways of integrating sustainable energy in the strategic implementation of the automotive infrastructure development plans in order to minimize the emission of these gases into the atmosphere which encourages sustainable environment.

Also, as a whole, countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have already decoupled their economic growth from emissions. From 2004 to 2014, OECD countries grew their economies by 16% all together, while cutting fossil fuel consumption by 6% and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6.4%. Results of international energy association study shows that global emissions remained flat in 2014 while GDP rose marking a historical milestone.


It is worthy to point out that extreme weather and events such as hurricanes/cyclones and floods have the potentials of disrupting transportation routes such as inland and coastal transport systems. Although there are other climate factors that may affect transportation such as climate change-driven changes in temperature, humidity and precipitation, coastal transportation infrastructure, such as seaports, will also be impacted by sea-level rise, which will exacerbate coastal flooding during extreme storm events.


Transportation has been traditionally looked upon as a challenge in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and a lot of effort has been rightly directed at solving this issue such as providing guidance on the use of indicators for sustainable and liveable transportation planning. In addition with the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, parties to the UNFCCC reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future that is increasingly recognised as vital to the continued success of mobility, global trade and development.


What's new is the growing realization that individual transport modes and their infrastructure such as seaports, airports, rail routes, roads, inland waterways have a collective interdependence on each other because transportation is a "system of systems" and resilience of each transport mode to the impact of future weather patterns along the entire network of global supply chains warrants consideration so that impacts, risks and vulnerabilities across transport modes are identified and addressed.  


The environmental impact of transport is very significant because it is a major user of energy that burns most of the world's petroleum products responsible for a lot of air pollution such as carbon dioxide emission, nitrous oxides and other particulates which is a significant contributor to global warming.

Sustainability is an innovative process of development to meet the present needs by valuing a desirable state of equilibrium and by respecting the ability and opportunity of future generations to meet their needs. In general, sustainability may have different interrelating dimensions such as economic, environmental, ecological, political, and cultural. The environmental sustainability of transportation mainly involves the energy consumption of the various forms of transportation and the pollution from the system in general.


Although, in the last few decades the growth of the transport industry has been very significant because overall assessment shows that the industry as  a whole has been actively involved in enhancing sustainability performance through efforts such regular workshops, research, development and other stakeholder forums.

Sustainable energy consumption in transportation mainly involves efficiency improvements in energy consumption, alternative fuel technology and optimised transport movements. In addition, greenhouse gases create the greenhouse effect which changes the earth's climate.


Carbon dioxide is a key greenhouse gas that drives global climate change and has continued to rise thereby trapping heat from the sun which has kept the earth's climate habitable for humans and other species. Despite atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide which is the most dangerous and prevalent, greenhouse gas is presently at the highest levels ever recorded.


Greenhouse gas levels are so high primarily because humans have released them into the air by burning fossil fuels. The gases absorb solar energy and keep heat close to Earth's surfacerather than letting it escape into space which is responsible for greenhouse effect. It may interest you that while CO2 emissions are falling in many other sectors globally, transport emissions are expected to rise in the future.

Shipping currently accounts for about 3% globally anthropogenic CO2 emissions and its share is expected to grow as a result of increased transportation activities, in a combination with difficulties in implementing effective fuel efficiency measures and replacing fossil fuels.


Most countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have already decoupled their economic growth from emissions, between 2004 to 2014, OECD countries grew their economies by 16% all together, while cutting fossil fuel consumption by 6% and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6.4%. Results of international energy association study also showed that global emissions remained flat in 2014 while GDP rose, this actually marked a historical milestone.


Climate change impacts involves multi-hazard phenomena such as the simultaneous occurrence of sudden-onset hazards and creeping changes because the effects on transport operations and logistics systems can be multifaceted where changes in weather patterns directly affect the earth's flora which also affects humans and animals. In addition, sea level rise, storm surges and waves induce major impacts on coastal transport hubs and networks, including transient or permanent flooding of seaports and connecting coastal roads and rail lines.


Also, large increases in coastal urban and industrial development associated with transportation observed in many regions will test the ability of transport systems to respond effectively to climatic changes. for instance delaying/cancelling seaport services are often lower than thresholds for damage to infrastructure and also assets are more sensitive to stressors whose occurrence is relatively unlikely in comparison to typical weather variability, for instance during the 2005 Katrina hurricane, the superstructure of US Gulf coastal bridges were subjected to excessive loading from direct wave impacts due to unprecedented storm surge elevation.

Road and rail infrastructure, inland waterways and airports will also be affected by flooding and may face more frequent inland flood events and deeper floodwaters under climate change. There is also high probability of infrastructural damages, as well as disruption and delay of transport businesses throughout the global supply chains, which may have major economic impacts.


The need for greater focus on transportation adaptation measures is very expedient from a sustainability perspective because it is very necessary to make continuous efforts to improve the environmental performance of the sector which will in turn increase the efficiency and productivity of the sector because climate change has adverse environmental impacts causing enormous concerns all over the world.


These anomalies include increase in the concentration of GHGs, HFCs and CFCs in earth's atmosphere, which ultimately leads to global warming. In fact, global warming has already begun, as earth's temperature has risen between 0.4 and 0.8°C in the last 100 years. Nigeria is one of the world's most densely populated country with a population of almost 200million, half of which are considered to be in abject poverty and is recognized as being vulnerable to climate change.


The impact of climate change and global warming if left unchecked will cause adverse effects on livelihoods in Nigeria and other African nations affecting crops production, livestock production, fisheries, forestry and post-harvest activities, because the rainfall regimes and patterns will be altered, floods which devastate farmlands would occur, increase in temperature and humidity which increases pest and disease would occur and other natural disasters like floods, ocean and storm surges, which not only destroy lives but also affect property and future existence of the nation and continent.


*Festus Okotie is a maritime transport specialist. He can be reached via You can also read more insights on and

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