The Platform

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The natural world is crying out for relief from climate change.

Our world, our irreplaceable home, is sending unmistakable distress calls—forests are ablaze, coral reefs are bleaching, ice fields are shrinking, diseases are proliferating, and species are migrating unpredictably and unprecedentedly. Are we truly prepared to interpret these signs correctly and mobilize a comprehensive response to counter the escalating threat of climate change? Let me present a few anecdotes that demonstrate the effects of climate change.

During the evening in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Ajoy, an elderly man, sits next to his fading fire outside his bamboo home. He looks out at the increasing fog that envelops his community. Ranjan, his grandson, listens attentively as Ajoy narrates stories of lush forests once teeming with abundant wildlife, now silent and diminishing due to the impact of climate change. Nearby, a herd of Asian elephants, forced out of their original habitat, searches for food closer to human settlements. Their unprecedented presence serves as a poignant reminder of the environmental changes threatening their existence. Ajoy’s voice quivers, not just due to his age but also due to deep worry about the inheritance he will pass on to Ranjan, as both human and animal residents struggle with the harsh truths of a warming world.

In another region of Bangladesh, the once vibrant coral reefs that added brilliant colors to the underwater environment are gradually losing their ecological and economic significance. The diminishing fish population, a source of sustenance for generations and a contributor to the local economy is becoming a grave concern. Fisherman Jasim anxiously surveys the horizon, his nets empty, leaving his village famished. Beneath the ocean’s surface, a group of clownfish searches diligently for a new home, as their customary coral sanctuaries have been bleached and fractured. The interconnected destinies of Jasim and the clownfish depict mutual survival, linking human well-being to marine species in a pressing plea for transformation.

In the scorching sun of northern Bangladesh, Nazmun diligently tends to her struggling vegetable patch, her brow glistening with perspiration. Nearby, a cluster of bovines gasps for breath, seeking shelter beneath a meager, withering tree, both exhibiting signs of distress due to relentless heat. The elevated temperatures not only strain crops and cattle but also expedite the spread of lethal vector-borne illnesses. Mosquitoes thrive in prolonged warm periods, bringing malaria and dengue fever perilously closer to her hamlet.

Hafsa sets up her fruit booth in the bustling outskirts of Dhaka, amidst a dense fog that engulfs the morning atmosphere. She coughs as her lungs struggle against the contaminated air, while a stray dog nearby suffers from skin conditions worsened by the damp and unsanitary surroundings. Both humans and animals are affected by a worsening environment that amplifies the transmission of diseases and disrupts traditional farming methods.

The effects of climate change are having a terrifying influence on both human health and biodiversity, posing a serious threat to the stability of the environment and public health systems. It acts as a threat multiplier, intensifying storms, heatwaves, floods, and wildfires, thus increasing mortality rates, non-communicable and infectious diseases, and health emergencies. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that 3.6 billion people reside in vulnerable regions, with extreme weather death rates 15 times higher in these areas than in less vulnerable ones. Climate changes also critically interrupt food systems and increase the spread of lethal diseases, such as vector-borne illnesses which already result in over 700,000 deaths yearly.

Moreover, climate change is critically affecting Earth’s biodiversity. Studies show that it has altered 77 of 94 ecological processes, including genetic, physical, and behavioral changes in species like woodland salamanders, red knot birds, and marmots. Significant declines are observed in 47% of land mammals and 23% of birds, with over 450 species experiencing local disappearances. The Great Barrier Reef and other ecosystems face transformations that could lead to less productive systems, and the first mammal extinction owing to climate change, the Bramble Cay melomys, highlights the irreversible impact of rising sea levels.

Additionally, climate change is expected to cause at least 15,000 instances of virus transmission between species over the next five decades, enhancing the potential for pandemics similar to COVID-19. Migratory shifts in 3,139 mammal species due to climate and land-use changes augment the risk of disease spread, with bats playing a key role as carriers. The ongoing encroachment of human activity into natural habitats further increases transmission risks, necessitating advanced health infrastructure and global efforts in pandemic prevention and wildlife conservation.

This extremely alarming convergence of health, ecological, and climatic challenges necessitates a global response to limit emissions, protect ecosystems, and reinforce health systems against the escalating impacts of climate change.

Abdullah Al Mamun is a Global Security Strategist and Specialist in Public Policy.