MITIGATING & ADAPTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION
(Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels)
“Climate change is the single greatest threat to a sustainable future but, at the same time, addressing the climate challenge presents a golden opportunity to promote prosperity, security and a brighter future for all.”
Ban Ki-Moon, Former (Secretary-General of UN)
Climate change and the subsequent environmental degradation are the two bitter realities of the world today, which are affecting the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of life. The population of the world completely relies on natural resources for food, fuel, and shelter. Sadly, these resources are under a momentous threat of degradation and decline. Moreover, prominent climatic changes like acid rain, global warming, and ozone depletion have also come to the surface in recent decades. Although natural phenomena like solar variations, volcanic eruptions, and ocean currents also contribute to the environmental crisis, the most persistent driver for many decades has been human activities, primarily rapid industrialization and deforestation. Droughts, water scarcity, melting of glaciers, rising sea levels, storms, loss of biodiversity, and pollution are some of the outcomes of these threats. Due to the harsh consequences of climate change, there is a consensus among world leaders about the implementation of serious mitigation and adaptation policies.
The first and foremost mitigation measure is to preserve natural resources like water, fertile land, and fossil fuels. These resources are under a severe threat of depletion due to pollution and rapid technological development. It is estimated that by 2025, almost 1.8 billion people will have no access to drinking water (United Nations report)The use of organic fertilizers can protect the groundwater from pollution and maintain the productivity of the land. Reducing the use of freshwater at the domestic level and reusing water in industrial sectors can also preserve the world’s water reservoirs. These steps can be implemented by using political instruments like monetary rewards and penalty schemes. Hence, all the possible ways must be employed to preserve natural resources for a better and safer climate and environment.
Secondly, decreasing the emission of greenhouse gases is also significant for mitigating the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. An estimate shows that 80 percent of the world’s energy needs are currently being fulfilled by fossil fuels (Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)). This increased consumption of fossil fuels, especially coal, oil, and wood is threatening the climate, degrading the land, and destroying the habitats of wildlife. It cannot be completely uprooted. However, certain preventive steps such as using renewable sources of energy like biomass, solar, hydropower energy, and increasing the efficiency of nonrenewable fuels can bring it to a sustainable level. Additionally, proper forest management and planting more and more trees can also decrease the emission of greenhouse gases by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Therefore, adopting mitigation measures in an integrated way is very crucial for protecting the climate and land from decay and breakdown.
Mitigating policies can diminish the emission of greenhouse gases into climate but addressing the effects of environmental crises is also necessary. In this regard, adaptation policies have equal importance. Since the climate and environment have already suffered great degradation and change, further inaction can lead to severe calamities. According to a United Nations report, natural disasters have been on the increase for the past 50 years due to climate change, which has tremendously increased the deaths of people and caused drastic economic losses (United Nations, 2021). Building a sustainable infrastructure, growing weather-tolerant crops, strengthening government policies, and educating the masses to act accordingly are some of the strategies that can be adopted in the current scenario.
In addition, climate-resilient infrastructure practices include using weather-resistant materials in constructing buildings, roads, and bridges to prevent their deformation in extreme weather events. Building sea walls, raising the height of bridges, and enhancing the natural drainage networks are also relevant steps for climate resilience. Environmentally friendly infrastructure needs to be supplemented by social, educational, and economic policies that can create awareness among people to adapt to shifting their behavior and lifestyle choices to deal with these environmental crises. Therefore, adjusting to the vulnerability of climate change through proper adaptation measures is the need of the hour.
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To summarize, climate change and environmental degradation are wreaking havoc on the planet and the vast array of animal and plant species that share it with humans. The rate at which this deterioration is happening must be controlled in order to preserve the earth and safely pass it on to future generations. Today, scientists and environmentalists agree that the world needs to learn to adapt to this changing climate and the resulting environment it will offer in the years to come. Thus, the measures adopted today will take some time to prove fruitful. Although both mitigation and adaptation mechanisms are quite different from each other, their common aim is the same. If mitigation steps are adopted diligently in all areas of the world, the need for adaptation will decrease significantly in the future. For a sustainable lifestyle on this planet, both strategies need to be implemented as per the requirements.