The science, the risks, limiting the damage and adapting to a hotter planet earth
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children”Native American Proverb
Adapting to Climate Change
Climate adaptation is actions we can take to reduce harm and lower risks from climate change on communities and nature. We have been adapting to local weather conditions for centuries. The Dutch built an elaborate system of dykes to safeguard low lying areas. The Japanese adapted their skyscrapers and homes to minimise damage from earthquakes. We have improved insulation and heating for our homes and offices to cope with cold winters.
However, Climate Change elevates many risks and brings new risks we have not experienced before.
Bangladesh, a country crisscrossed by 144 rivers, is one of the countries most vulnerable to tropical storms and flooding. Two-thirds of its land lies less than 5m above sea level. With three of the world’s mightiest river systems and its situation in the world’s largest delta, riverbank erosion is taking away precious land every year from this small nation with a growing population.
Seventy per cent of Bangladeshis, live in rural areas and account for 75 per cent of the poor. Most rely on agriculture for their livelihood. Each year they are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change.
People strive to avoid the effects of flooding by building elevated houses and roads. Virtually villages raised above flood level with “Floating schools”. Many use tube wells, wells with a top that is raised high enough that contaminated floodwater cannot enter them. Many cities have flood shelters, large raised platforms where people can find refuge from on-rushing floods.
Nearly all 147 million Bangladeshis are forced to adapt to intense rainfall and water-borne disease exposed conditions. Increases of salinity, a lack of food distributors, and the effects of seeing slum dwellers survive on floodwater.
The need to rebuild better led Bangladesh to enact a Climate Fiscal Framework in 2014, the first country in the world to develop a multi-year, multi-sector approach to funding climate resilience. The plan includes estimates for the long-term costs of combating the effects and tracks climate-related expenditures across 20 government ministries, including agriculture, housing and energy. This plan was followed in 2018 by an eight-decade climate adaptation plan for the delta region, home to 30 million people. The first decade of Delta Plan 2100 focuses on strengthening infrastructure, such as building higher embankments to resist storm surges.
CNN reported on Cyclone Amphan which began forming over the Indian Ocean in May this year. This year’s hurricane season was forecast to be one for the record books due to unusually warm water temperatures; a consequence of the climate emergency. The country faced the mammoth task of relocating 2.4 Million in its path. COVID 19 posed the additional challenge which required physical distancing. In a matter of days, 10,000 more shelters were prepared, on top of the 4,000 already in place. It’s 55,000 first responders were mobilised. Well rehearsed evacuation drills sprung into action.
Cyclones are becoming fiercer and more frequent. Cyclone Amphan was the costliest on record in the north Indian Ocean, leaving destruction estimated at $13bn (£10.4m). In Bangladesh, it washed out 415km of roads, 200 bridges, tens of thousands of homes and vast tracts of farmland and fisheries. More than 150km of embankments meant to contain storm surges were damaged. More than 200 people died. This cyclone has been catastrophic, but planning makes countries better prepared when calamity strikes. It is not enough to deal with the immediate effects of a natural disaster; communities need to better prepare for the next storm.
After Cyclone Amphan, we will need to rebuild schools, hospitals and houses stronger. With increased resilience, so they can resist cyclones, and storm surges in coastal areas. Double up as shelters when the next disaster hits.
Bangladesh is unlikely to be the only country struggling with health, economic and climate emergencies this year. So international collaboration is vital: we can learn from successes around the world and support each other. It’s by pulling together that we will emerge more robust and resilient.
Bangladesh experience provides a snapshot of adaptation measures required by the most vulnerable nations and challenges posed by extreme weather events, the sheer scale of problems and investment required.
Climate adaptation requires work on many fronts.
Sea level rises require strengthening coastal flood defences. These can range from mangroves and shrubs to seawalls to more sophisticated installations such as those developed by the Dutch. Restrict developments in flood-prone areas. Electrical grid planning such as underground cabling rather than overhead. Strengthened building codes and zoning changes to minimise harm from bushfires and floods. Relocate buildings and infrastructure at risk.
Disaster risk management. Early warning systems and shelters. Bush fire protection measures like back burning during winter. Strengthen fire protection with helicopters, workforce etc. Enhance awareness of risks and protection systems.
Water Management. Reforestation, reducing discharge and pollution of rivers, developing crops and livestock that need less water, desalination plants, water-saving technologies, enhanced irrigation techniques
Land-use changes – Increase forested areas, use better crop management techniques, reduce water usage and harmful chemicals, preserve wetlands. Food Security and Agriculture – changeover to or develop resilient crop varieties, more efficient farming practices etc. Reduce wastage from farms to our tables. Adapt wines/grapes to a warmer climate. Change crop seasons, adapting our crops, trialling new plant varieties which might thrive in warmer weather. Research likely changes in fisheries and quotas. Possibly, relocating some farms and forestry more towards colder southern areas.
Tourism – Promote local, drive time and short-haul tourism.
Assist low income, and vulnerable populations like the elderly adapt to a changing climate. Heat pumps etc. to cool residences in warmer areas, better insulation. Review protection for those working outdoor in hotter areas- agriculture, forestry and construction in the summertime. Assist those on low incomes, from effects like higher food prices. Climate Refugees – Assist vulnerable countries to adapt.
Finance and Insurance – Provide finance (green bonds, etc.) and incentives (encouraging EVs, solar panels, energy-saving equipment) for climate mitigation and adaptation. Consider public reinsurance for climate-related disasters. Taxation to promote climate adaptation such as higher levies for fossil fuel-powered vehicles, carbon taxes, emission levies. Better social support for those displaced by industrial changes.
Review government and other institutional structures required for Climate Adaptation.
Maximise potential benefits from climate change – More temperate climates will benefit from longer summers and shorter winters. Higher temperatures help in many locations from more crop and fish varieties.
We human beings are fond of saying we have adapted to changes life has thrown at us, but sometimes we have just muddled through.
Climate Change – The road ahead and the roadblocks
New Zealand is one country that appears to be taking Climate Change seriously. It has a centre-left government and Greens are a coalition partner. It passed legislation to go Zero Carbon by 2050 with bipartisan support.
The government dropped a commitment to move to electric on its vehicle fleet by 2025. A coalition party blocked legislation to provide a rebate of $3,000 for purchase of electric vehicles. Its policy on fossil fuels only bans offshore drilling.
Fighting Climate Change and the Pandemic will require innovation, science and the world working togetherBill Gates
The COVID 19 began in Wuhan, China December 2019. A deadly, highly contagious disease had spread to Hongkong, the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, Sweden, Singapore by the end of January 2020. On 31st January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an International Health Epidemic and issued guidance to countries. By August there are 22Mn cases and nearly 800,000 casualties. Public health systems in many countries were overwhelmed. We saw body bags piling up in the streets of New York. Health professionals forced to work without protective equipment, dying.
The global response to a deadly, highly visible crisis was disjointed and uneven. Many political leaders ignored health experts, scientists and WHO guidance.
While almost all countries signed up to the Paris Climate Accord to limit Global warming to 2 degrees by 2050, the USA has now signalled that it will leave pull out from the accord. Many of the populist leaders recently elected, do not place much emphasis on climate action or work actively to undermine these efforts. IPCC meeting of 2019 to agree on the detail required to meet the Paris Accord target failed to reach a consensus. The international community have been meeting and talking about Climate Change since 1988, with little coordinated action to show for it.
The pace of climate change has not slowed as yet; in fact, CO2 emissions increased a massive 60% since 1980. Mainly due to middle-income countries like China, India emitting more GHGs, as they industrialise and grow their economies.
The main hurdles to Climate Action appear to be political and vested interests like fossil fuel industries. Economically it makes sense now to change over to renewables; their costs have now reduced below fossil fuel-generated energy. It is ignorance and sceptics. It is inertia and priorities.
The best thing we can do is make our voices heard in the corridors of power. March on the streets, use social media and mass communication. Vote for parties calling and working for change, support activist groups like XR and Fridays for schools.
Make our voices heard in the seats of commerce, as consumers and shareholders. Make our personal choices climate-friendly.
It is a time for coordinated global action. We have been here before with smoking and lung cancer, with the ozone layer and CFCs. We have got through slowly. Will we act in time to prevent significant disruption and destruction? Or will we muddle through?
It is up to us to make the best efforts, for the planet, for our children and ourselves.
How can you help?
- Activism! – Help to keep up pressure on politicians and climate-unfriendly businesses. What you can do personally helps, but what the government or companies can do, matters a lot more. Protesting or supporting protests is one of the best things we can do.
- Clothing and shopping – Shop smart, buy less and use longer. Consider buying pre-loved clothing. Buy environment-friendly and durable clothing where possible.
- Food – Eat less beef and lamb, more fish, vegetables/fruit and chicken. Start Meatless Mondays or Vegan Wednesdays. Buy local produce.
- Holidays -Take more local or short-haul holidays.
- Home – Use power-saving ideas at home – LED bulbs, air-drying clothes, using energy-efficient equipment.
- The 3 Rs – Reuse, Recycle, Repair.
- Transport -Make your next car an EV. Use more public transportation, cycles, e-bikes.
- Waste – Waste less and use composting. Composting can reduce your food waste by as much as 75% and save on your fertiliser cost.
- Work – Encourage and support your employer’s efforts on climate action.
How can your business help?
- Include Climate Change as a key criterion in your business decisions and practices, especially in areas like procurement
- Implement a Climate team to generate ideas the business can implement, encourage staff participation and engagement
- Work with suppliers and other stakeholders to minimise climate impact
- Work with industry bodies and green organisations to implement best practices
Indirect benefits from Climate mitigation and adaptation
- Lower air pollution-related deaths – WHO estimates air pollution causes 4.2 million premature deaths annually. A changeover to renewables and EVs will save lives and healthcare costs related to treating these diseases.
- Jobs generation – There will be jobs generated by construction activity as well as operation of renewables, forestry. Most of these jobs will be in consuming countries and provinces, giving a boost to provincial regeneration.
- Reduction of road deaths and congestion – As more people use public transport
- Reduction of fuel importation expense – Most countries will see a cost reduction. In contrast, fossil fuel exporting countries will face a reduction in their income.
- Green New Deal – Proposes to tackle also current economic and social problems such as provincial regeneration, unemployment, inequality, with Climate Action, along the lines of FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s. Employment and economic impacts can be significant.
- Circular Economy – Reduce waste by recycling, using more durable goods, efficient use of resources.
Climate Change in figures
- Paris Climate Accord – Hold temperature increase from 1880 to well below 2 degrees by 2050. The target from COP 2018 is 1.5 degrees by 2030.
- Temperature increase by 2050 at the current pace of emissions 3.5 degrees.
- Global emissions – CO2 76%, Methane- 16% Nitres Oxide- 6%, Other- 2%
- Increase in annual CO2 emissions since 1980 – 60%, mainly due to growing industrialisation of countries like China and India.