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How do you solve a problem like climate change?

  • Published at 04:57 pm May 20th, 2018
  • Last updated at 06:05 pm May 20th, 2018
Syed Zakir Hossain

If you thought going to the moon was hard, try reversing the impacts of the Industrial Revolution.  

Even if every country in the world decided to immediately stop emitting greenhouse gases, our planet would still experience the fallout of climate change for decades to come.

Climate change is perhaps the most colossal challenge human civilization has ever faced (No… Thanos is not real. He is a fictional villain in the Marvel movies… probably an escapist fantasy).

This is because for the last 10,000 years or so, the Earth has experienced a relatively stable climate. This geological epoch — known as the Holocene — meant the seasons were fairly predictable, which allowed agriculture to develop (just think how closely traditional agrarian practices are tied to the six seasons of Bengal). And once our ancestors could farm, they were able to settle and expand their clans into entire civilizations — including the Indus Valley civilization of South Asia. 

Yet it’s all gone wrong. We’ve injected too much CO2 into our atmosphere and thereby enhanced the greenhouse effect. The planet is heating up, the ice-caps melting, extreme-weather events are becoming deadlier, and diseases are spreading. 

If you could really internalize the severity of those words; if you could sense the scream passing through nature… you would not be sitting here quietly, reading this article. You’d be doing everything in your power to make sure another world is possible.

But, I get it. It’s hard to connect the worries of your everyday life to these massive changes happening in our atmosphere — especially since they are occurring at a time scale nearly impossible for humans to comprehend. 

People seem to become apathetic to addressing climate change; or they are overwhelmed to the point of inaction. Neither response is useful nor productive. 

When it comes to solving climate change, there are two actions our species can take. The first is mitigation. Primarily the duty of the rich, industrialized countries; mitigation means reducing the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by either shifting away from fossil fuels or by planting more trees. 

The second is adaptation; sadly the burden of both poor countries and poor communities.

For the most part, people tend to think adaption means relatively small technical interventions to prevent the consequences of climate change — building sea-walls, improving risk reduction strategies during cyclones, etc. Yet adaptation is really about re-envisioning our societies to thrive under new climate conditions. 

If Bangladesh is really going to adapt to climate change, our approach needs to be more holistic and transformative. It is utter hubris to think only the poorest and most vulnerable will be impacted by climate change. In the long run, even those of us living in the high rises of Dhaka will have to adapt — to learn what it means to live with nature, and not against it. 

Living in the Bengal delta river ecosystem has always been a fragile existence. Rivers naturally shift, devouring villages as they go; cyclones routinely tear apart the southern half of the country; Monga (or droughts)tends to occur in the northwest.

The silver lining is the people of Bengal are used to living in such a volatile landscape; and in a sense, we’ve always been adapting. 

Climate change is undoubtedly a daunting task, but by no means is it impossible. People all over the planet are coming together to pave the way for a better future. And let’s not forget, only 63 years after we first learnt how to fly a plane, humans were first able to step on the moon.

Meraz Mostafa is a research officer at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD)

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