Time to Take Action: Post-COP21

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Standing before the participants of the Conference of Parties (COP21) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, “A political moment like this may not come again… we have never faced such a test. But neither have we encountered such great opportunity.” Similarly, President François Hollande of France said, “No conference has ever gathered so many leaders from so many countries… but never before have the international stakes been so high.” 

I have known about these high stakes all my life.  

Witnessing the effects of climate change on Bangladesh where I grew up as a missionary kid, I came to realize that the risks of climate change are not a fear for the future, but rather, risks we take today. Parts of Bangladesh are well below sea level and the poorest people live closest to the flood zones. Sea levels were already on the rise in my childhood and the flooding continues today leaving Bangladesh extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, forcing those least able to cope out of their homes. Even now the United States is starting to feel the impact of climate change, ask anyone living in Long Island, along the Jersey shore, or in the Florida Keys. 

Recently elected Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), South Korean Scientist Dr. Hoesung Lee reminded the COP21 that, “The climate is already changing, and we know it is due to human activity…if we carry on like this, we risk the increasingly severe and irreversible impacts – rising seas, increase in severe droughts and floods, food and water shortages – to name just a few." 

This is no longer only subject matter for scientists and policy makers, but is also an issue of faith. Along with other people of faith, I hold an underlying conviction that our task as people made in God’s image is to care for, act on behalf of, and live responsibly with the land, its resources and all creatures. With this conviction comes the belief that immediate action on climate change is not only technically possible and politically important, but is also morally necessary. 

The Bible says that, “they who wait on the Lord will renew their strength,” and those of us in the Climate Witness Project were indeed waiting for renewed strength. After 20 years of fraught meetings, including the two weeks of COP21 on the outskirts of Paris, negotiators from nearly 200 countries signed on to an agreement setting ambitious goals to limit temperature rises and to hold governments to account for reaching those targets. This signals an end to the fossil fuel era revealing the real cost of carbon to global markets, hastening the transition away from fossil fuels and to a clean energy economy. 

Though not perfect, the Paris agreement has sent a clear and decisive message to business, investors, and people made vulnerable by changing climate that the nations of the world intend to get serious about climate change. However, there is still much to do. We’re at the start line, not the finish line, and much work remains to turn the words of this agreement into action. 

It is time for us to live our convictions about God’s creation. If we believe that we are the children of God it is far past time for us to help our brothers and sisters that are suffering from climate change everyday, whether in the flooded shanty towns of Bangladesh or in the dry hills of California. COP21 is the sign of our strength renewed and it is time to get to work on the changes it requires of each of us. 

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Thanks Angelyn for posting this article.  Such an article helps to put global warming into perspective.  It does make the dangers of global warming tangible.  Of course, making the shift away from such warming is a terribly expensive project, probably incalculable in dollars and cents (billions upon billions of dollars on national and international economies).  I wonder if such a tremendous project could be tempered by moving populations away from the southern regions of Bangladesh or portions of Rhode Island or the Keys?  Why do we wait until it is already too late to take such action?

Participant

Actually, Bangladesh's problem result from increased population, de-forestation, pollution other than CO2, and other man-made molding to the environment -- far more so than sea rise caused by global CO2 emissions.  It has become a poster-child for climate change alarmists, but Bangladesh's other problems dwarf those caused by climate change.

Sea rise has been happening -- although very slowly -- and is going to continue happening -- again, although very slowly --, whether fossil fuels increase the CO2 in the atmosphere or not.  We are still on the recovery side of ice ages, geologically speaking and so the sea level is supposed to rise -- again even while very slowly.  See at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_level_rise#/media/File:Trends_in_globa...  

Given the amount of public relations money behind the mantra that climate change is the cause of all troubles, it is not, and Bangladesh is one of the cases in point, even if climate change alarmists like to make Bangladesh their poster child.

Look, for example, at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/embankments-exacerbate-sea-lev...  and

http://bangladeshunique.blogspot.com/2010/07/deforestation-in-bangladesh...   and

http://blog.cifor.org/9434/bangladesh-forests-disappearing-at-alarming-r...   and

http://bankofinfo.com/population-growth-in-bangladesh/

http://www.muhammadyunus.org/index.php/news-media/articles-by-professor-...

 

 

Thanks Doug for the further info.  It’s quite obvious I know little about this topic.  I do believe that global warming and the response from world governments will be tremendously expensive.  This will no doubt put a drain on the economies of our globe, but especially on the U.S. economy as they are often asked to carry more than their fair share as a world leader.  So if there are other mitigating factors and less expensive means that would help resolve the problem such as in Bangladesh, why not pursue those first?  If I hear Doug correctly, it sounds as if there could be a problem of misdiagnosis in Bangladesh, so perhaps other avenues could be more effective in resolving the problems there.  That’s not to say there isn’t a problem with global warming and that we have a responsibility in that regard.  But what lengths do we go to, and at what expense?  There are many other issues to be concerned with at the same time.  We can’t put all our eggs in one basket.  Thanks Doug, for the input.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments to Joe's post and to Doug's comments Roger. I lived and worked in Bangladesh for 7 years (for World Renew) in the 70s and 80s and have been back several times in the past few years - specifically to look at environmental degredation - including that caused or exacerbated by a changing climate.

- Bangladesh is the "poster child" for climate change realists (I can't speak for alarmists) because, as Doug's points and the articles he links to indicate, changing climates and weather patterns brought about by global warming interact with other human activity that degrades the environment: Deforestation, inappropriate land use, attempts to contain rivers, removal of costal mangrove barriers, and so on. In military terms, climate change in a place like Bangladesh is a "threat multiplier", i.e it makes everything much worse.

- Although sea level rise is a serious long-term threat to Bangladesh, the immediate threats are much more related to food production. Bangladesh has one of the most intensive and complicated farming systems anywhere. The abrupt changes in weather patterns have wrecked havoc with age old and sophisticated ways that farmers make decisions to achieve their food needs and minimize risks. This is serious.

- Likewise, millions of farmers that relied on perennial rivers for dry season irrigation are facing problems with water availability because these rivers have become seasonal, i.e. they dry up when they are most needed. They have become seasonal due to a number of factors that include deforestation, the loss of holding areas for glacial lakes, and human activity in the foothills of the Himalayas. But the thing that activates the negative effects of all these human changes to the environment is the increase in the quantity of rain in shorter and shorter time spans. Essentially these downpours trigger flash floods that have the effect of carving much wider channels for the rivers. A few years ago I stood on the banks of a dry river bed in Northern Bangladesh that I could barely see across. In the early 80s that river was less than 50 yards wide with a perennial flow of water. Some farmers had dug shallow wells from which to irrigate. Others had been helped (by climate adaptation funds) to purchase motorized tube wells to irrigate their vegetable plots. This is just one among many examples of what is happening to rural life and food production due to a warming world interacting with all the other changes we make to the land.

- But population growth, I think, is not a major cause of the problems Bangladesh faces. First, when I was there the rate of population growth was around 3.5%. Due to a vigorous family planning program supported by aid agencies such as CIDA and USAID (your tax dollars well spent!) - as well as real economic progress in the country, the growth rate is now around 1.5% - a really wonderful success story! In addition, people are usually assets in solving problems of this magnitude and NOT debits. Bangladesh has millions of well educated scientists, agronomists, climate experts, and the like. They are doing remarkable things to adapt to the reality of climate change. Their Center for Advanced Studies, for example, is a world class think tank when it comes to adapting to climate change and developing sustainable ways to thrive.

I have gone on long enough - but I hope three points come through - and might be helpful to you as you think this through: First, climate change is real and it is already seriously affecting countries like Bangladesh. Two, climate change interacts with all sorts of other things that humans are doing to the environment - sometimes in very unexpected, complex, and hard to predict ways. Three, the fact that the effects of a warming world are complex and deeply intertwined with other issues of human development and survival does NOT make global warming less serious. In fact it makes it more urgent that we acknowledge its reality and deal with it as only humans can - with all the intelligence and creativity and discipline that God has given us!

 

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