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Do we have the right to subsidized swimming lessons?

  • Published at 12:03 am October 9th, 2019
Fossil fuel
Photo: BIGSTOCK

We could all be under water soon

Before I start, I would like to thank Greta Thunberg, who has renewed my faith in a better future for our planet.

We Bangladeshis are a differentiated bunch, with a diversity of opinions; however, one thing we do seem to have in common is patriotism. Most of us express this patriotism through stories of our glory days of 1971.

We know that we are proud of our past. However, this patriotism starts to dwindle when the conversation switches to the future. Many Bangladeshis are aware that as a low-lying, coastal country, we are severely threatened by rising sea levels.

Already, Bangladesh is the ninth hardest-hit country in the world, according to a 2019 study by Germanwatch’s Climate Change Risk Index.

Furthermore, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates around 426,000 Bangladeshis have been displaced in 2018 due to rising sea levels, which have led to erosion, salinity intrusion, and crop failures.

Chars, especially, are more vulnerable to these problems as most of them are only a few inches above sea level, and as a result, their inhabitants are being forced to relocate.

Most of the time, they choose to move to Dhaka, which is already extremely congested with over 20 million residents. The capital already packs 47,000 people into a square kilometre, almost double that of Manhattan (25,126).

As a mass relocation of Bangladeshis into Dhaka continues, the city passes its carrying capacity at an exponentially greater rate.

By 2050, the United Nations’ Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expects approximately 27 million Bangladeshis to be at risk of displacement as a result of rising sea levels.

Unfortunately, not many steps are being taken to rectify the situation. In fact, it seems that actions are being taken to make the situation worse.

While the obvious answer seems to be taxation of fossil fuels and movement towards renewable energy, our government is heading towards the opposite direction.

The state-run Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) recently announced a $2bn joint venture agreement with the China Huadian Hong Kong Company (CHDHK) to build a coal power plant in Cox’s Bazar.

The government could take effective steps to replace fossil fuels by implementing a carbon fee and dividend policy (as proposed by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby group in the United States).

The proposal includes a plan to initially impose a $15/metric ton of fossil fuels, and increase it by $10/metric ton every year. Furthermore, the group proposes to return 100% of all fees back to households, with the exception of administrative fees.

Finally, the group proposes to impose a carbon tax on imports from countries that have not enacted a carbon tax. This would prevent manufacturers from outsourcing manufacturing to countries that have not enacted a carbon tax.

Bangladesh will be severely affected if fossil fuels are not phased out over the next few decades; therefore Bangladesh should take leadership in enacting and implementing the carbon tax and dividend policy. Once a few countries implement this policy successfully, others are likely to follow.

We can keep boasting about our 8% GDP growth rate; however, our love for our country won’t be truly evident until we take steps to phase out fossil fuels; it is our duty as citizens of our country, and this world, to do what is right.

If we continue to burn fossil fuels, we will eventually have to ask the government to subsidize swimming lessons as we will be under water. 

We won’t be able to boast about our growth rate if that happens, but I suspect that some people will still boast about our rate of zero defecation. 

Aveir Alam is an undergraduate student at Occidental College, living in Los Angeles, California.