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The Financial Express

Living with climate change, its impacts

Shihab Sarkar | Published: May 05, 2016 19:46:13 | Updated: October 21, 2017 05:22:38


Living with climate change, its impacts

The historic Paris Climate Deal was finally signed by 175 member-countries at the United Nations late last month. The event had been eagerly awaited. The ceremony was dubbed a milestone in the battle against hazards spawned by an apparently disturbed nature.

The most remarkable feature that distinguished the event was the participation of the major polluting countries, including the USA and China, in the crucial signing. On the other hand, there were the small island-nations. With their pronounced presence at the event, they once again highlighted their vulnerability to the feared sea-level rise.

The ceremony came four months after the Paris climate conference and was viewed as a major step towards meeting promises made by nations to go by the deal's binding conditions. The signing ceremony over, nations now have to ratify the deal.

The year 2020 has been fixed as the deadline for completing all legislative formalities by the 175 nations. The Paris agreement will be deemed to be in force when 55 countries responsible for 55 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emission ratify it.

Once put to work, the ambitious deal is expected to cut drastically the emission of greenhouse gas; it is the lone environmental evil that carries the potential for jeopardising life and living in a great number of countries laced by the seas.

With the sea-level rising unabated thanks to global warming, a few island-nations have long been threatened with disappearance. Along with a number of Pacific islands, these nations include Maldives in South Asia. Besides, China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines in greater Asia are also threatened by sea-level rise impacts.

The Paris Climate Deal embodies a remarkable aspect: The signatories to the deal account for 93 per cent of global green house gas emission, according to the assessment by World Resource Institute. Although most of the polluting, yet affected, countries have ever been eager to enter a binding climate deal, a few highly polluting ones kept dragging their feet. This grim turn of the events proved bad news for Bangladesh.

The country has already started bracing for the impacts of the climate change. Domestic and international warnings began pouring in a couple of decades back. Experts say large tracts of the country's coastal areas may go under water in the case of a full-scale sea-level rise. Then there is the spectre of salinity intrusion.

Given the country's great stakes in international efforts to mitigate the climate change impacts Bangladesh stresses creating its own climate change funds. They complement the UN and multilateral donor-induced funds like Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF).

On government's part, it has created the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust. It is a statutory body formed under Climate Change Trust Act, 2010 to run the Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF). Keeping in perspective the socio-economic realities of the country, the GCF seeks innovative ideas from the private sector in fund creation activities.

The eventual ratification of the Paris climate agreement by the countries involved will ensure a secure future for countries like Bangladesh. In global context, the event marking signing the deal provides space for a relief from the burden of the upsetting statistics carried by a media report a few days earlier.

The news refers to a study prepared by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, a highly prestigious German research and education institution. The study report was presented at the 2016 General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna last April.

According to the study, the world suffered an economic loss of seven trillion dollars in the last 116 years due to natural disasters. In the years from 1900 to 2015, a total of eight million people lost their lives in natural disasters like flooding, storms, earthquake and volcanic eruptions. Besides, drought and bushfire also claimed a lot of lives.

As the study has revealed, during the said 116 years it was floods that had caused the largest portion of the losses, coming to 40 per cent. It was followed by earthquakes (25 per cent), cyclones and storms (20 per cent), drought (12 per cent), bushfire (2 per cent) and volcanic eruptions (1 per cent). Startling though the fact may appear to people in the traditionally flood-prone countries like ours, it was England that was most affected by flooding in the last 116 years.

Earthquakes struck Chile and New Zealand calamitously. Drought ravaged Central Africa and South America. While presenting the study report, scientists and researchers did not fail to mention a vital point. They said the 116-year picture of the impacts of natural disasters world-wide would help governments prepare for effectively dealing with future calamities.

With the nations on the edge over how to face up to the global climate change effects, the study report of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology can strengthen the efforts aimed at coping with climate change impacts. The findings of the study are relevant to a number of climate change realities. The report throws more focuses on cyclones and earthquakes than the disasters previously viewed as catastrophic.

Scientists involved with the study have held the increased intensity of storms responsible for global economic losses incurred since 1960. Thirty per cent of the economic losses had to be borne due to storms, they observed.

Researchers and scientists working on climate change patterns are of the view that global warming has led to sea-borne disasters like cyclones and hurricanes, and undersea quack-triggered tsunamis.

In the last two decades, a number of massive hurricanes have battered countries on the coasts of the Pacific and the Atlantic. The devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 left a trail of devastation along its path from Indonesia's Sumatra, Java and Bali, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka to a number of coastal African countries.

A total of 230,000 people died in that disaster, which also triggered massive infrastructural losses. In 2011, a deadly tsunami hit Japan in the north. 15,839 people perished in the disaster leaving 5,950 injured.

The 2011 Japanese tsunami caused great damages to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on the east coast of the country. A nuclear reactor accident touched off a nuclear crisis.

Natural calamities have been striking humans and their settlements since the dawn of civilisation. Man has at one time realised that nature follows its own course, and disasters are part of its rule.

Thanks to this hard truth humans have never tried to wage battles against the onslaught of natural catastrophes. Nor have they tried to prevent disasters. Instead, while enduring the ferocity of the furies of nature, man has through ages tried to explore newer and more effective ways of protection. In course of time, reducing the impacts of massive cyclones, tsunamis and floods has cropped up.

Thus experts and scientists have begun stressing disaster management and resilience in the early phase, and then adaptation to climate change impacts since the later part of the last century.

Facing the climate change phenomenon these days is synonymous with adapting to climate change impacts. At international forums on climate change and global warming, Bangladesh does not fail to raise the adaptation issue and the funds required. Being one of the countries highly vulnerable to the hazards of climate change, it has little options.

The country is located in a calamity-prone zone. This fact prompts it to attach equal importance to disaster preparedness and management as well.

Against the backdrop of the massive loss of lives and properties in 1900-2015, the signing of the Paris Climate Deal serves as a beacon of great hope. It will help allay the fears of both the vulnerable and relatively secure nations.

At this critical juncture of development and progress, humanity cannot remain oblivious of the imperative of pollution cuts. This will, in effect, be a mass hara-kiri.

author's email address: shihabskr@ymail.com
 

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