Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time

Published : 12 May 2019 05:00 PM | Updated : 05 Sep 2020 03:56 PM

Climate change caused by global warming is one of the most pressing matters of our times. There is mounting pressure on world leaders to take steps to minimize  global warming. However, the effects of climate are already apparent and especially so in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is one the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change. Two-thirds of the country is less than five meters above sea level. Many parts of the country are likely to be submerged if polar ice caps continue to melt and sea levels rise to dangerous levels. The disaster prone country is now seeing an increase in cyclones, flooding as well as heat waves. Bangladesh ranks sixth among the countries most affected by climate change. In addition to cyclones and flooding, the country is also increasingly becoming prone to flash floods, salinity intrusion, river bank erosion, landslides, droughts and storm surges.

In addition to the environmental impact, Bangladesh has also incurred financial losses due to natural disasters. In recent times, Cyclone Sidr in 2007 caused Tk 23,500 crore worth losses and Cyclone Aila in 2009 caused up to Tk 2,200 crore in damages. According to a budget report by the ministry of finance, the climate allocation of 20 ministries and divisions Tk 18,949 crore for the fiscal year 2018-2019. 

A large segment of Bangladeshis are reliant on natural resources to support their livelihoods which places a huge strain on the environment. Deforestation is continuing across the country at alarming rates, even in the Sundarbans. Illegal loggers smuggle trees out of the protected forest and transport it to the rest of the country. In urban areas and townships, carbon monoxide emission from derelict buses and cars is widespread. Bangladesh is also the only country which does not refine its fuel to remove lead from it. As a result, many people suffer from lead poisoning and it contributes to air pollution and also causes harm to health in the long term. 

Another issue which has become a matter of concern is that melting sea ice has been found to be a major cause of warming in the Arctic according to a study done by University of Melbourne, Australia. The rapid melting of sea ice has increased levels of warming in the region in the last two decades. On March 7, 2017, Arctic sea ice reached its record lowest. This is definitely a reason for concern as melting sea ice also contributes to rising sea levels. If the sea levels rise, low lying countries like Bangladesh will be underwater in the near future. 

In 1992, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) put forward an international treaty called the Kyoto Protocol that commits state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There are currently 192 parties that are signed to the protocol. Canada withdrew from the protocol in 2012 and the US never ratified it, even though the country had signed under the protocol during the Clinton presidency. After being elected in 2000, President George W Bush heavily opposed the Kyoto treaty because "it exempts 80% of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the US economy."

The government must also join forces

 with neighboring countries in order to

 ensure proper implementation of climate

change initiatives. Funds must be 

allocated in order to conduct appropriate 

scientific and strategic planning of 

projects to tackle climate change

The World Summit on ‘Sustainable DeveSummit 2002’ took place in South Africa. The summit was to discuss sustainable development organizations. The main outcome of the summit was the Johannesburg Declaration which commits the nations of the world to sustainable development, and also includes substantial mention of multilateralism as the path forward. George W Bush boycotted the summit and the absence of the United States rendered the summit partially impotent. 

The People's Republic of Bangladesh submitted its new climate action plan to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) comes well in advance of a new universal climate change agreement which was reached at the UN climate conference in Paris, in December 2015. 

Moreover, the Paris accord will come into effect in 2020, empowering all countries to act to prevent average global temperatures rising above 2 degrees Celsius and to reap the many opportunities that arise from a necessary global transformation to clean and sustainable development. 

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres is encouraging countries to come forward with their INDCs as soon as they are able, underlining their commitment and support towards this outcome in Paris. On August 4, 2017, the Trump administration delivered an official notice to the United Nations that the US intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement as soon as it is legally eligible to do so. 

Once again, the US is refusing to participate in the global cooperation for climate change, even though the country is responsible for 14.3 percent of the global carbon emissions. The US has continuously backtracked from taking any responsibility for its actions. The international community must hold the US accountable and if the country refuses to cooperate, they must be boycotted and trade with them should be stopped.

The issue of climate change needs to be dealt with both in the short term and in the long run. The government must come up with substantial plans and involve every ministry as well as the citizens of the country. The government must also join forces with neighboring countries in order to ensure the proper implementation of climate change initiatives. Funds must be allocated in order to conduct appropriate scientific and strategic planning of projects to tackle climate change. 

The people of Bangladesh must pressure on the developed nations who are responsible for the current adverse effects of climate change we are facing. Countries like China, USA as well as the EU countries are jointly responsible for 53.5 percent of the global carbon dioxide emissions. Countries like Bangladesh and other developing nations are expected to face the worst consequences of climate change and global warming.

Synthia Nur and Promity Rahman are working with Bangladesh Post