The biggest challenge for the world today is climate change. The impact of climate change is more devastating than even Covid-19. The global temperature is rising at an alarming rate resulting in calamities like severe draught, wild fire, heat-wave, heavy rainfall, floods, tidal surge, salinisation of coastal regions, cyclones, tropical revolving torms (TRS), tsunami and so on. The forecasts of scientists, environmentalists and technical experts across the world over the years warning that climate change, mainly human induced, is going to create a havoc to human civilisation is no longer a dreadful prediction of a distant future. It is a reality of the present.
We have already started witnessing the adverse effects of climate change in different parts of the world. More than 100 people have died in Canada due to severe heat wave. The town of Lytton in Canada has been totally destroyed by the heat-wave. Wild fires have swept across vast stretches of forests in California, some parts of North America and the southern regions of Europe reducing them to ashes. Hundreds of people in Greece and Algeria have died from heat burn.
Germany and Belgium followed by China and India have suffered loss of several hundred lives due to severe floods caused by record breaking rainfall. It is not too distant a past the world witnessed with shock and horror the devastating effect of tsunami in Japan, Ceylon and many other coastal areas of the East and the Far East.
The all- battering cyclones like Sidr, Aila or Amphal that ruthlessly tormented the Bangladesh's coastal belt taking lives, declining land fertility and rendering thousands of people homeless paupers still haunt the memories of the people with fear and panic. All these are the cruel consequences of climate change.
According to climatological experts, more than 13 million people from the coastal regions of Bangladesh are at risk of being forced out of their homes by 2050 due to salinity, sea-level rise and other adverse impacts of climate change. Similar is the prediction for many other low lying areas around the world.
Bangladesh is one of the worst affected countries in the world due to climate change. The country, a Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, a low lying land facing the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal in particular, is one of the 48 most vulnerable countries in the world to the impact of climate change. Bangladesh is likely to lose almost one third of its land to the sea by the middle of this century unless the present trend of global warming is effectively addressed.
No wonder, the 26th conference related to climate change termed COP-26 sponsored by the United Nations is now being held In Glasgow, Scotland with participation of more than 25000 representatives and more than one hundred world leaders and Heads of governments including, among others, American President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Jonson, German Chancellor Angela Markel, France President Emmanuel Macron,UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and Chinese President Shi Xing sending written speech.
Following the promises and commitments made in the previous agreements on climate change, mainly in the conferences held in Copenhagen in 2009 and Paris in 2015, COP-26 is being held with mainly four objectives: (1)to ensure reduction of carbon emission to an acceptable level by 2030; (2) to save human beings from the resultant adverse effects of climate change; (3) to arrange fund required for accomplishing this herculean task (rich countries made a commitment of creating a climate fund of $100 billion each year by 2020 during Copenhagen conference held in 2009 to address the needs of the developing countries but with no progress since then); and (4) to ensure that the world leaders work together unitedly and meet the challenges of climate change,
The world leaders are unanimous on at least one point and that is: The world is at the cross roads of one of the greatest catastrophes due to climate change and it will be their last opportunity to save the Earth from the brink of total destruction. No country on earth is free from the ultimate consequences of climate change and so it will be in the interest of all the countries that they all work together unitedly and wholeheartedly to successfully face the challenge of the century.
The world leaders, scientists and climate experts are also unanimous on the point that climate change is mainly due to global warming which is due to excessive emission of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide in particular (main component of green-house gas) into the atmosphere. If we have to face the challenge of climate change, we have to control global warming at any cost.
The panel for climate change (IPCC) has been pressing hard time and again that rise of global mean temperature which has already risen over one degree Celsius above pre-industrial level has to be kept below 1.5 degree Celsius by any means. To achieve that goal, carbon emission mainly caused by mankind's reckless burning of fossil fuel like coal, petroleum and natural gas has to be reduced drastically. How that will be done is the most serious and imperative debate of the COP-26 conference. If the world leaders attending the conference fail to come to any fruitful conclusion on this issue, the ultimate outcome of the conference will be a big zero.
The industrialised or for that matter the developed countries have the prime responsibility to address the issue because they are the ones who are responsible for at least 80 per cent of carbon emission into the atmosphere. They have to find means sooner than later to reduce carbon emission from their mills, factories and transport vehicles to an acceptable level. They have to come out of fossil fuel, especially coal based power plants and look for renewable energy to save humanity from climate change. At the same time they have to share the responsibility of compensating the countries hardest hit by climate change for no fault of theirs.
Capt. Hussain Imam, Master Mariner (UK) is a retired Merchant Navy Officer