The Platform

Villagers in Bhiwandi, India climb a municipal water tanker. Scenes like these are common as droughts become more frequent.

No matter where you live in the world, you can’t escape climate change.

Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time, and we are currently at a pivotal period. Its effects are far-reaching, ranging from changing weather patterns that endanger food production to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding. Taking immediate action now is crucial to facilitate future adaptation to these effects, as postponing action would make it more difficult and expensive. Presently, there are numerous instances of heatwaves and high temperatures strangling many regions of the planet, including Texas, India, Mediterranean Europe, and China.

Undoubtedly, human activities have contributed to the warming of the planet, as stated by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have all undergone significant and rapid changes. The magnitude of recent climate system-wide changes and the current state of many components of the Earth’s climate are unparalleled in comparison to several centuries or even thousands of years. Human-induced climate change is already impacting weather and climatic extremes across all continents, including heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, providing compelling evidence for observed changes in severe events.

According to a 2018 report by the IPCC, limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require swift, extensive, and unprecedented reforms across all aspects of society. Achieving this limit could lead to a more sustainable and equitable society with clear benefits for both people and natural ecosystems. The report indicates that many negative effects of climate change will occur at 1.5°C, contrary to earlier predictions that focused on estimating damages at a 2°C temperature rise.

Global warming is not a future issue; it is already impacting the environment due to increased human emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Glaciers and ice sheets are melting, lake and river ice is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges are shifting, and trees are blooming earlier. Greenhouse gases play a vital role in making the Earth habitable by preventing some of the sun’s heat from escaping back into space. However, industrialization, deforestation, and large-scale agriculture over the past 150 years have led to record levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, not witnessed in three million years. GHG emissions increase with population, economic growth, and living standards. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emphasizes that the magnitude and pace of climate change, as well as associated risks, depend heavily on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions. Adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every incremental rise in global warming.

China is the largest consumer of coal globally and is responsible for approximately 69% of the country’s carbon emissions. However, China has been rapidly expanding its capacity to generate electricity from wind and solar sources, which could significantly reduce the effects of global warming. In Canada, the government has introduced its first-ever national strategy to help localities cope with more extreme weather events resulting from climate change. The strategy aims to address various challenges, including increased flooding, wildfires, and melting permafrost.

A World Bank assessment suggests that Brazil can preserve the Amazon Rainforest and become a global leader in clean energy by implementing a development strategy that increases food production while requiring less land, thus better protecting the environment. With modest investments in agriculture, reforestation, energy infrastructure, cities, and transportation, Brazil can simultaneously expand its economy and combat climate change. As climate change forces people to cross international boundaries in greater numbers, the United Nation’s highlights that those displaced by climate change often experience multiple human rights abuses, including violations related to housing, health, education, and, in some cases, the right to life.

Various agreements and protocols currently exist that address climate change. These include the Paris Agreement, the Montreal Protocol, the Vienna Convention, the Kyoto Protocols, the Rio Summit, and COP, or “Conference of the Parties,” a United Nations climate meeting held each year. Hopefully, the results of these initiatives will manifest quickly, allowing us to appreciate the true beauty of nature and maintain a balanced climate.

Jahedul Islam is a writer and researcher in public health. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in anthropology from the University of Chittagong and is currently pursuing a postgraduate diploma in Project Management (PGDPM) from the Academy of Business Professionals (ABP). He is a research assistant at Brac University's James P. Grant School of Public Health. At the regional and national levels, he has received the Best Writer Award three times.