Over the decades nearly 700,000 Bangladeshis were displaced on average each year by natural disasters
There was a time when climate change deniers kept the US administration under their spell. Some say there was, and still is, an ideological underpinning behind not paying much heed to the 'scientific consensus' over global warming – a man-made process that, many now believe, is gradually leading to a calamity.
If it was ideology that spurred former president George W Bush, who kept dithering over formulation of a climate policy, people mostly accuses his chief of staff, John Sununu, for misleading the president on climate science.
Sununu was more interested in those who rejected the emerging climate science, including a number of researchers who have continued to battle against the consensus that with the rise in mercury the world would face some devastating consequences. Some of them who held a clear sway over the White House kingpins back then, including Pat Michaels of the Cato Institute, continue to have influence in the Trump administration and have encouraged the rollback of climate protections, says an EENews article (2018) that outlines America's unwillingness to come to terms with global warming tracing its history and current prejudices.
Add to this the fact that for decades, many scientists saw climate change as a distant prospect.
But in interesting turn of event, in a country, where in not so distant a past, many a denier felt that going green was akin to liquidation of 'American way of life', the US central bank is now all bucked up to set the monetary policy after taking into account climate change risks.
Last Friday, the bank announced that it was getting ready to join international peers in incorporating climate change risk into its assessments of financial stability, according to a TBS news.
A "green interest rate" is one of the ideas on view Friday as the San Francisco Fed convenes the US central bank's first-ever conference on climate change and economics. The event is so oversubscribed a webcast has been created to meet demand, wrote Reuters.
The most visible aspect of the human-created impact is the melting of the glaciers in the North Pole. Iceland in August this year mourned the passing of Okjokull, its first glacier lost to climate change. Scientists warn that some 400 others on the subarctic island risk the same fate, according to dw.com.
But not everyone was slumbering on the issue. Swedish central bank economist Conny Olovsson used an economic model to show losses to economic growth from imposing a carbon tax – an objection often raised by politicians and industry – would be dwarfed by the economic losses projected if carbon dioxide remains largely untaxed and global warming continues unchecked, according to the TBS report.
Climate change and its impact on Bangladesh are yet to be taken stock of in its full implication. Bangladesh has not yet charted the 'hazardscape', so to speak. Therefore a patchy picture appears of the disaster that many believe has slowly been underway and will soon inundate a greater portion of our coastal area. We only know from international and national media that sea level is rising but we are clueless about the actual loss we would soon experience. The cartography of disaster is yet to be developed.
"Global warming and sea level rise are crucial issues. We always do research on the water level of rivers and until now, we have not conducted any research on the rise in sea level. Any such research will involve a sizable funding – around a million US dollars," observed Dr M Maksudur Rahman, professor of Geography and Environment, Dhaka University.
It is true that the Himalayan Glacier is melting at a faster rate but we are not experiencing the impact of that water due to the dams put up on the India-Bangladesh border, said Hamidur Rahman Molla, former principal scientific officer Bangladesh Rice Research Institute.
Dr M Maksudur Rahman also chips in with his comment to raise an argument, "If we look into the developed countries, they do not follow any framework. If we focus our attention on global climate change, we will lose out on the economic frontier, there will be a downgrading in our developmental activities."
On the issue whether Bangladesh should retract from the development plan, which the government has given greenlight to, Maksudur Rahman places his own argument, "European countries are now suggesting that we run the economy through social business and services. But the fact is, it is not possible for us to run the economy in that way as we are lagging behind in terms of economic development."
He explains, "Our small-scale efforts in industrialisation will not impact that much when it comes to global climate change. Though it might have a small impact in our local environment. There is a slogan regarding climate change –'act locally, think globally,' and right now we have to work keeping this slogan in mind."
Prof Anu Muhammad, a member secretary to the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, has been staunch critic of any such development model which precludes environmental impact. He, along with many other green as well as left activists, who fear that the impact of creating an industrial zone too close to the Sundarbans would only bring disaster, has been critical of coal-fired as well as nuclear power plant that are being built. He once said to the media that despite being severely vulnerable to climate change, the government of Bangladesh is increasing its own risks through setting up coal-based power plants in the country's coastal areas.
Dr M Maksudur Rahman think otherwise. He says, "The coal-fired power plant is necessary for our development. And, many scientific researches have already been conducted regarding this. The scientific mechanism of this coal-fired power plant shows that there will not be that much pollution in the neighbourhood. And, if the mechanism works properly, there is no possibility of deep ecology of the Sundarbans getting affected by it. Even the US is still dependent on coal-based projects. But they do not have much local impact. What happens, is the heat impacts in global climate change and the same thing will happen for the coal-fired power plant of Bangladesh."
Meanwhile, the battered coastline, in the face of a rise in the number of cyclones, is making people Dhaka-bound.
"Climate change is a global issue and if we want to reduce its rate, we have to negotiate with the rich countries to make them reduce mass industrialisation. But we are failing in this area," Dr M Maksudur Rahman
Over the last decade, nearly 700,000 Bangladeshis were displaced on average each year by natural disasters, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Tim McDonnell wrote in the National Geographic this January.
"Climate change is a global issue and if we want to reduce its rate, we have to negotiate with the rich countries to make them reduce mass industrialisation. But we are failing in this area," Maksudur Rahman explains and he goes on to say that the situation is 'paradoxical'.
We are always speaking in favour of curtailing industrialisation on global platforms to reduce the effect of ozone depleting gas. But it is paradoxical because if we put a leash on industrialisation it will hamper our economic development, observes Maksudur Rahman.
The professor admits that frequent natural disasters that are happening now is the result of global climate change. In the last 50 years, the temperature rose about 1 degree Celsius. And, the frequent stormsin the deep sea is also linked to the rising temperature, he argued.
We cannot deny the burden of global climate changes but what we need to do is to keep our eyes on the local environment. The core difference between a developed and an undeveloped nation is that the latter pay little attention to keeping the locality clean in terms of environment, the professor explains.
The global-local argument is further emphasised by Professor Dr M Maksudur Rahman. "The US has long been denying the facts about climate change, though their forests are burning in California and cyclones are occurring every now and then in Florida. China, too, is now denying climate change as they are now a country responsible for emitting the highest volume of carbon gas in the Earth's atmosphere, he says.
The US certainly has a history of denial. "The Bush administration implemented an industry-formulated disinformation campaign designed to actively mislead the American public on global warming," according to a Rolling Stone article published in 2007.
One need to take into account the fact that the first-ever comprehensive assessment of climate change has only been produced in recent years. At present, things are looking up at least at the level of leaderships across the globe.
In Bangladesh, a parliamentary body on November 5 this year, recommended that the House adopt a motion declaring "planetary emergency". Ruling Awami League MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury, also chief of the committee, told reporters after emerging from the meeting that all climate change prone countries might have to face issues such as loss of biodiversity, food security, water stretch, planetary overshoot and ocean related damage.
He also claimed that Bangladesh parliament will be the first to adopt such a motion, which will help the country lead the fight against climate change and other related issues.