Climate change, the buzz word today is the talking point worldwide. Demonstrations led by students worldwide demanding the attention of world leaders towards the issue of climate change show how concerned the young generation is for the world they are going to live in, a world which is largely slipping into chaos made by incomplete promises and even denying the validity of climate change itself. Climate change is real, forests- the lungs of earth are on fire, floods have become more frequent, ice caps are melting, species are going extinct. Unlike economic recessions and slowdowns which become clearly evident in our daily lives, we cannot easily notice that the earth is changing too, the very environment is changing, bit by bit, but the signs are not suddenly visible until the day the catastrophe occurs. Humans have lead themselves from combating climate change to its mitigation to resilience.
The first step towards resilience is to accept that climate change is happening at an alarming rate. Countries which haven’t declared climate emergency yet must declare it as soon as possible and take necessary steps. U.K., Canada, France, Ireland have already declared climate emergency. Countries like India and U.S. must also do so. Secondly, nations must adopt technologies for the collection of data of places vulnerable to climate change. Having detailed information of weather patterns, extreme conditions, areas most prone to disasters, communities most likely to be affected, etc. have help in preparing a roadmap for better adaptation, mitigation and combat. There are technologies like Geographic information system (GIS) which combines data from various sources and puts it together to present them as maps. Such maps functioning all over the world and in remotest of locations can help studying patterns, promote research on possible solutions. Another important step towards resilience is to promote research – technological, environmental which may help in adaptation. Countries should make use of technologies which use real-time decision making algorithms for accessing pre and post disaster conditions. One such GIS is already in use for accessing flood-affected areas in Thailand, Brazil. Researches such as mapping of points where groundwater meets oceans worldwide provides an innovative method for monitoring and management of freshwater groundwater flows, especially in coastal areas.
The use of fossil fuels must be stopped gradually and greener alternatives must be used. The least a country can do is to limit the emission of greenhouse gases from industries by simply shutting them down if they do not ensure that the net emission is zero. Stringent measures need to be taken to save the planet.
Climate change has also given birth to the term ‘climate gap’. It corresponds to the reality that climate change is likely to affect the poorer parts of the world the most. Because of poverty communities may fail to take essential steps to protect themselves. Therefore, countries must adopt and implement policies for the upliftment of their poor. Raising the standards of living of people will enable them to take care of themselves when calamities hit. Also, Education is one important aspect of resilience against climate change. People need to know the basic things- greenhouse gases, global warming, importance of ecosystems, etc. Only when they are aware of how serious the problem is, how serious its consequences can be, then only they will take individual responsibility towards saving the planet. Therefore, more investment is needed towards education as well as health. To achieve this, developed nations must assist the developing nations.
Most vulnerable of all are the – island nations, coastal areas. Mainly countries like Maldives and India are at the foremost risks such as submergence, extreme weather conditions. In case of catastrophe, a large number of people would have to migrate and there will be a rise in the numbers ‘climate refugees’. Consequently, countries must formulate policies to make space and provide support to these refugees in future, if required.
Climate change resilience also means that farmers are no longer dependent on monsoon for agriculture. Climate change has already made evident in countries like India that droughts will be more frequent in future. Therefore, we need to provide state of the art irrigation systems which not only curb monsoon dependency but check water wastage and ensure its sustainable use. Rain-water harvesting, plans to restore flood-waters, treating and reusing sewage can be the points of action.
Floods, on the other hand are equally more frequent as it was seen in Chennai, Kerala,etc. Early warning system, relocation from low-lying flood prone areas, checking that no structures or habitation is present on flood-plains and wetlands can help. After flood-waters recedes, there are high chances of spread of diseases- water-borne, vector-borne, therefore, local bodies must assist people during this time, provide them with required medicines. Nursing homes and hospitals must be present in every such place.
Similarly, this year a lot of countries around the world, particularly in Europe experienced heatwaves. Effects of heatwaves can be made less severe by simple methods- developing roof-tops gardens, making green belts around industries, planting trees wherever possible- along roads, canals, railways. Afforesting waste-lands, restoring open-forests and adopting agroforestry can help in creating carbon sinks. At community level, cooling centres can be developed for particularly hot days and assistance can be provided to people on how to stay hydrated and deal wit heat-stress. Green buildings are a budding idea to resist heating. Countries worldwide must pledge to make themselves net zero emitters. Some other measures can be- population control, overpopulation results in lack of resources, poverty and ultimately deaths during time of calamities. Industries can be relocated from vulnerable places to prevent industrial disaster. And ultimately, we must at our individual levels contribute towards bringing earth back to normal conditions by reversing climate change when it can be done. This can be done in simple ways- avoiding private transport to take public transport, not wasting water, electricity. Not using air-conditioners unnecessarily, planting trees at workplaces, homes, schools. We must address the issue before its too late.