We have only one planet to live in. We have no choice other than cleaning up the atmosphere and making the planet inhabitable
Amidst all the lock-down measures around the world, induced by Covid-19, and emission reduction of 7% on a yearly basis, the year 2020 has been ranked the joint hottest year on record.
In addition to Covid-19 and its juggernauts, 2020 would, perhaps, be remembered for being a year of disasters, including cyclones and prolonged floods. Like any other year, Bangladesh has experienced the grim reality of climate change, both on livelihood, infrastructure and related economic fronts.
Different reports, even during this pandemic, substantiate the likelihood of increasing disasters linked to climate change in the forthcoming years. While we encourage the younger generation to pursue their dreams and tend to make them believe that the sky is their limit, their future is seemingly bleak due to climate change. But the future of the next generations is not negotiable.
Our reliance on mother earth and nature
We have only one planet to live in. Despite all our destructive rapaciousness and greed that have contributed to the anthropogenic climate change, we have no choice other than cleaning up the atmosphere and making the planet inhabitable.
If one thinks there is a choice between economic development and nature, it's a misconception. Our economic growth relies on the services and benefits that we receive from nature. It would, in fact, be too narrow to only think from the growth dimension.
Even the value of wildlife in controlling pests and diseases, if monetised using economic techniques, would be huge. The cost of losing India's vultures in between 1993 and 2006, according to an opinion piece of 2014 in Ensia, was estimated to be in the order of $34 billion.
This monetary value included the public health costs related to the demise of vultures. While we are unable to put a true value on all the services nature provides us to enrich our lives, from the case of vulture in India, we imagine how big this amount in aggregate term could be. Therefore, we cannot disregard our mother earth in our insatiable desire for development.
Wherever we live in, we are all affected
Data and evidence validate that the poor and the least developed countries are disproportionately affected by climate change. Bangladesh is certainly a perfect example. However, climate change is affecting not only Bangladesh but also other countries. Even the richer regions are experiencing extreme events more than usual.
For instance, temperature in Germany, on the basis of the monitoring report of German Environment Agency (UBA), has increased 1.5° C over the period from 1881 to 2018. Extreme events, such as, heat waves are becoming more frequent in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
Other parts of the world are not an exception when we talk about the increasing trend of rising disasters linked to climate change. Tackling climate change, therefore, is fundamentally necessary before we cross the tipping point.
Cost of action outweighs cost of no action
It is up to us as to how we shall treat our mother earth and nature. Yet, one thing is certain that the longer we continue to disregard the benefits that we harness from nature and attempt to build an economic system and society purely for increased consumption/consumerism, the bigger the disasters we would invite in the absence of concerted efforts to heal nature.
Studies show that we need to internalise the cost of the damage that we have been consistently doing in our nature.
For instance, the review of economics of climate change, conducted by Sir Nicholas Stern in 2006 and known as the Stern review, has underlined the importance to act in right earnest to address climate change or how severe the consequences of failing to act could be.
He has even highlighted the possibility of millions of people to become climate refugees, imputed to droughts and floods. The recent studies have also determined the strong association of increasing and prolonged floods to climate change and the situation could take a serious turn in South Asian countries.
The Stern review has, further, estimated that 1% of global GDP shall be spent to deal with climate change but without action and the resulting unchecked climate change could cause damage, amounting in between 5 and 20 times higher than the cost of action (1% of global GDP).
Other reports and assessments, including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), also echo that the cost of action outweighs the cost of no action and these findings have unreservedly been accepted by most people.
We worry about future generations
This planet is beautiful, diverse and awe-inspiring with seemingly all the attributes that a mother has. We are privileged to be able to live on such a planet. Our children and the generations afterwards deserve the same too.
However, the comfort and pleasure that we enjoy now at the expense of nature and climate would make the future condition far from ideal for development. While we are counting the cost of damages that we have done, our next generations would bear most of the brunt of the degradation of nature and climate.
Having said that, people are capable of doing great things and we can amend the wrong footings for the right reasons. The concern for the vulnerability of our children as well as the intergenerational vulnerability, i.e., the vulnerability of a generation that transmits to the subsequent generations, is one of the reasons that shall prompt us to take climate actions.
Shafiqul Alam is a Humboldt Scholar and an environmental economist.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.