Nigeria, a country known for its cultural diversity, natural wealth, and socio-economic challenges, is facing a serious and growing threat: climate change.

Alex Emeka
July 13, 2024
min read

 Nigeria, a country known for its cultural diversity, natural wealth, and socio-economic challenges, is facing a serious and growing threat: climate change. Among the most immediate and noticeable manifestations of this global phenomenon are the intense and prolonged heat waves that plague the region. These heatwaves are not simply extreme weather events but also represent a serious challenge for human health, agriculture, biodiversity and the regional economy.

 Understanding the complex mechanisms underlying these heatwaves and their link to climate change is essential for developing effective mitigation and adaptation strategies. In this detailed introduction, we will explore in depth the many ways in which climate change is influencing these extreme weather events in West Africa, with a particular focus on Nigeria, a country that regularly suffers the devastating consequences of these events. From rising average temperatures to changing rainfall patterns and the impact of urban heat islands, we will examine the different facets of this complex and urgent problem. Finally, we will discuss the social, economic and environmental implications of these heatwaves, as well as the urgent need for action to mitigate the effects of climate change and strengthen the resilience of West Africa's populations in the face of these growing challenges.




The first facet to be explored is the increase in average temperatures, a phenomenon directly linked to climate change and a major driver of heatwaves in West Africa, including Nigeria. Global warming is causing a general rise in temperatures across the planet, and this trend is particularly pronounced in tropical and sub-tropical regions such as West Africa.


Scientific studies show that average temperatures in the region have risen in recent decades, and this trend is set to continue in the future if mitigation measures are not put in place. This rise in temperatures creates a context conducive to the intensification and frequency of heat waves, which occur when temperatures are significantly above seasonal norms for a prolonged period.

In the case of Nigeria, this increase in average temperatures can be particularly damaging due to the heavy dependence of many economic sectors, such as agriculture, on stable and moderate weather conditions.

Prolonged heat waves can compromise food security by reducing crop yields, drying up water sources and affecting the health of crops and livestock. In addition, high temperatures can have a direct impact on human health, particularly in densely populated urban areas such as Lagos, where extremely high temperatures can increase the risk of heat stroke, dehydration and other heat-related health problems. This highlights the urgent need to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies to reduce the risks associated with heatwaves across the West African region, focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building the resilience of local communities.




Climate change is disrupting rainfall patterns, which can lead to prolonged periods of drought. In Nigeria and other parts of West Africa, reduced rainfall can exacerbate heatwaves by drying out soils and reducing atmospheric humidity, leading to even higher temperatures.




In densely populated urban areas such as Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, the urban heat island phenomenon is exacerbated by climate change. Paved surfaces, concrete buildings and other infrastructure absorb and retain heat, which can lead to significantly higher temperatures than in the surrounding countryside.

Impact on extreme weather events: Climate change may intensify extreme weather events such as heat waves. Extreme weather conditions are more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change, which can exacerbate the heatwaves that are already trying people in West Africa.


Overall, climate change is worsening weather conditions in many parts of the world, including West Africa. The heat waves affecting this region are an example of the devastating impact of climate change on people and ecosystems, underlining the urgent need to act to mitigate its effects and adapt to its consequences.


Tips to cope with a HEATWAVE:

Due to the extremely humid conditions, a heat wave should be treated as any other naturally occurring disaster. Extreme heat events lead to a myriad of heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat cramps, and dehydration. These conditions occur when the body is unable to regulate its temperature effectively, leading to symptoms such as excessive sweating, Insomnia/sleep disruption, dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and confusion. In severe cases, heat stroke can be life-threatening and will require immediate medical attention. 

Also, vulnerable populations including the elderly, children, the homeless, and low-income individuals are disproportionately affected by heat due to a lack of resources or underlying health conditions. It is not uncommon to see an increased mortality rate during heatwaves.


Here are 5 tips for coping with Heatwaves:


1.     Drink a lot of water:

Staying constantly hydrated by drinking water is the most important action you can take as an individual in the event of a heatwave. Water helps to maintain normal physiological functions and regulates your body temperature allowing it to cool off as the environment gets warmer. Water also helps prevent electrolyte imbalances because sweating results in the loss of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride. These minerals play essential roles in maintaining fluid balance, nerve function, and muscle contraction. Replacing lost electrolytes through hydration prevents this, you should aim to drink a minimum of 3 litres of water per day.


2.     Limit the duration of outdoor activities: The less time spent outdoors in the sun the lower your chances of developing a heat-related illness. By reducing exposure to high temperatures, especially between the hours of 11 am and 5 pm we get to avoid the peak impact of the heat wave. Postpone activities and errands that require you outside until a cooler time.


3.     Dress in light clothing: Light, loose-fitting clothing allows sweat to evaporate more easily from the skin, which is the body's natural cooling mechanism. This helps to regulate body temperature and prevent overheating. Also, Light-coloured clothes reflect more sunlight than dark-coloured clothes, which can help to reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the body. This contributes to your overall comfort and reduces the risk of overheating during a heatwave.


4.     Avoid taking Alcohol & Tea: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. During a heatwave, when the body is already losing fluids through sweating, consuming alcohol can exacerbate dehydration which is the last thing you need. The same goes for tea and coffee consumption.


5.     Seek refuge at a nearby cooling centre: Retreating to a cooling centre or a cold atmosphere provides a crucial refuge from extreme heat, helping you stay safe, hydrated, and comfortable during heatwaves. If you don’t have air-conditioning at home or your workplace visit a cool place like a library, bank, shopping centre or cinema. Even a few hours spent in cool temperatures can help you avoid heat illness.