The whole world is going through the COVID-19 pandemic crisis for over a year. While we are busy with the war against this deadly virus, another threat, named climate change, has become highly visible especially at the Pacific Northwest and Canada region. More than 500 people died within a week from extreme heat wave in that region while wildfires due to that heat wave are causing further natural havoc. The heat wave in Pacific Northwest and Canada is the most current get up call for all, the political leaders and global citizens. The world is faced with an existential crisis and as things can deteriorate rapidly, we must act now to preserve the nature and reducing carbon emission now.
The heat wave was caused by what meteorologists described as a dome of high pressure over the Pacific Northwest and worsened by human-caused climate change, which is making such extreme weather events more intense. The coldest places of the world broke all-time heat records. Hundreds of people have died and many more are in the line due to this historic heat wave in British Columbia, Oregon and Washington. President Joe Biden said climate change was driving the heat as well as increasing the risk of wildfires.
Along with the heat wave, both the US and Canada are experiencing wildfire threats. There are 78 active fires burning in British Columbia, Canada, and 55 of those have were ignited in the last few days. Extreme wildfires are creating havoc in Cyprus too due to week-long heat wave. Climate scientists have urged governments to radically increase their efforts to tackle the swelling climate emergency.
While connecting one single adverse weather event to climate change is difficult, global warming has already caused things like heat waves, storms and droughts to be more frequent and more severe. Climate change may exaggerate erosion, decline in organic matter, salinization, soil biodiversity loss, landslides, desertification and flooding. The effect of climate change on soil carbon storage can be related to changing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, amplified temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.
Humans are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth’s temperature by burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and farming livestock etc. resulting in the greenhouse effect and global warming. Human health is vulnerable to climate change. The changing environment is expected to cause more heat stress, an increase in waterborne diseases, poor air quality, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents. Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring like; loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer intense heat waves.
Issues like climate change and global warming requires immediate calls from the global leaders. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, was a reflection of the international consensus when it came to approaching the problem of climate change. During the summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was created, which was initially signed by 166 countries and came into force on 21 March 1994. Till now, 197 countries ratified it.
In 1997 the Kyoto Protocol was signed. It was the first international agreement of its kind focusing to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The Kyoto Protocol turned into a failure and ended in 2012.
The Paris Agreement became a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties in Paris on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. But International treaties do not come into effect simply because they have been signed by representatives of the governments involved. They have to be ratified by these governments. Many countries, especially the developed and industrial ones, did not really acted on the action plans of that agreement and the world is facing several calamities now.
Bangladesh ranked sixth on the Global Climate Risk Index 2018 signifying that it will bear the worst blow of climate change. In April, the highest temperature in the last 26 years was recorded as 40.6 degree Celsius in Dhaka and 41.3 degree Celsius in Rajshahi. It is evident that the seasonal patterns have changed. Summer is warmer and monsoon is asymmetrical as untimely heavy rainfall is causing floods in low lands. There is shortage of safe drinking water due to intrusion of salty water in coastal area. Extended cold season is affecting the seasonal crops too.
Developing countries always argue that developed countries have emitted more greenhouse gases in the last decades. The United States and China are named as the worst contributors of carbon emissions. Seventy per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions over the previous two decades are attributable to just 100 fossil fuel producers.
Bangladesh ratified the Paris Agreement and its initial Nationally Determined Contribution on September 21, 2016 and an updated NDC 2020 on December 31, 2020. Bangladesh’s Third National Communication to the UNFCCC (NC3) identified the impacts of climate change in key sectors such as agriculture, water resources, coastal erosion, and human health as priority concerns.
Several calamities like the current COVID-19 pandemic is said to be caused from the rage of the nature as humans are destroying it. Scientists alerted years ago that, as the glaciers melt in the Antarctica, different types of virus will be exposed, which remain buried in those ice for centuries. The autumn and spring is getting almost extinct around the globe including Bangladesh as only extreme weather seasons are existent today.
We are experience floods throughout the year in Bangladesh, cyclones are coming in numbers throughout the year and most importantly, seasonal prediction is very difficult today in our country as early winter or early monsoon has become a common phenomenon. Moreover, as the glaciers will melt, Bangladesh remains at high risks of upstream flood which may even make our country extinct.
Though it requires political commitment from the global leaders to address climate change issues, we, as global citizens, need to play our part. Like; reducing the use of our personal vehicles, using environment-friendly vehicles like; rickshaw or cycle for shorter trips, flying less, focusing on exploring the local than the global, decreasing the dependency on factory made red meat and dairy products, minimizing use of luxury home appliances such as air conditioning, microwave oven, washing machine etc. Use of renewable energy at the households should mark the future.
The global leaders must focus on this climate change threats as the Mother Nature is giving constant warnings while we are ignoring it. Going back to the nature must be the focus of the global leaders. Renewable energy must be prioritized in research as well as usage. Most importantly, the world must come out of its consumerist attitude soon.
Whatever we do, whatever we accomplish will have no meaning for the future generations if the climate change issue is not addressed with utmost priority. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been very active in promoting climate change issues on different forums as Bangladesh even led many such forums. All other global leaders must honestly commit to the cause. Otherwise, millions will die like people dying in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. We just hope the global leaders act soon at least this time onwards to provide a safe world for the future generations.
The writer is chief editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela