Climate change, environment and Sustainable Development Goals are crosscutting, pressing and complex issues. Some research suggests there are more synergies than trade-offs within and among the SDGs in most countries, but the deep socio-technological transformation implied by strong climate action (SDG13) presents a unique challenge for development. Climate mitigation policies could slow down economic growth, negatively change industrialization, exacerbate inequality and poverty, and strengthen the social and economic drivers of conflicts in many countries. Climate change and environmental degradation are real dangers the world is facing. Losses caused by the adverse impacts of climate change are immeasurable, because millions of people have suffered tremendously in numerous countries across the globe. And with the pandemic setting in medical services, lives and livelihoods of millions are in serious danger. Lack of employment, food, shelter, proper healthcare, economic recession that leads to poverty, hunger, and gender inequity and inequality are problems that are endemic.
Bangladesh and its citizens are not responsible for the worst impacts of climate change, but yet are likely among the worst sufferers. Not just Bangladesh, poorer countries in general are the worst victims of climate change. Women and children are the worst sufferers among them. Women leaders of the word warned that women form half of the world’s population, but are underrepresented in every sector. This needs to change to rectify these huge imbalances.
The industrialized, carbon-emitting countries are responsible for the sufferings of people throughout the world. Yet it is the poor countries that are facing the adverse impacts. It has been said by experts that low-lying Bangladesh, already battered by increasingly powerful cyclones, could lose 10 per cent of its territory to the ocean within a few decades, displacing as many as 18 million people.
Political instability and violence, influenced in part by droughts and poor harvests, have already driven millions of people from their homes in sub-Saharan Africa and Central America. This is something that is totally unjust, unfair and, unacceptable.
For more than a century, the largest emitters of greenhouse gases have been the big developed nations, most notably the United States and the countries of western Europe, which grew their economies by burning fossil fuels and spewing carbon from their factories, homes and automobiles. Until this day they continue to emit carbon and other greenhouse gasses disproportionately into the environment. It must be said though big countries such as China and India have caught up with the West in releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
The theme of World Environment Day 2021 was: ‘Ecosystem restoration.’ Ecosystems are the interaction between plants, animals and people, and their surroundings. For far too long, people have been exploiting and destroying our earth’s ecosystems causing the loss of natural habitats and carbon sinks, which in turn intensifies the climate crisis. We all depend on healthy ecosystems for our survival. The United Nations have stated, “Only with healthy ecosystems we can enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change and stop the collapse of biodiversity.”
The havoc caused by COVID-19 is yet another wake-up call that demonstrates nature’s ultimate power over our lives and societies, and the urgent need for us to better respect and protect the environment upon which we depend. International cooperation is critical to the success of overcoming this pandemic and addressing climate change. Just as the virus ignores all borders and unleashes its devastation without regard for the responsibility or resilience of nations, so do the emissions from industry or melting permafrost.
negotiation and signature of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change by 196 states demonstrated that such an approach—and a more sustainable and resilient future—is possible.
Together with another landmark global agreement—the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—it charts a clear path to deliver the economic and societal transformation needed to preserve our planet and shared future.
Research shows that climate change alters how we relate to other species on earth and that matters to our health and our risk for infections. Many of the root causes of climate change also increase the risk of pandemics. Deforestation, which occurs mostly for agricultural purposes, is among the largest causes of habitat loss worldwide.
Climate change has already made conditions more favorable to the spread of some infectious diseases, including Lyme disease, waterborne diseases such as Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, and mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue. Future risks are not easy to foretell, but climate change hits hard on several fronts as to when and where pathogens appear, including temperature and rainfall patterns. To help limit the risk of infectious diseases, we should do all we can to vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Climate change caused by humans is real and it is happening now. Only a high degree of international cooperation can adequately address this global problem. The recently released report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reconfirmed the basic facts: Greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil, as well as other gases emitted as a result of human activity, such as methane, black carbon (a major component of soot), and hydroflourocarbons, or “HFCs,” are responsible for an unprecedented rate of warming of the planet. This warming is already causing severe disruptions and harm to communities. Left unabated, climate change will cause increased droughts, rising seas, and a host of other problems.
Parvez Babul is an environmentalist