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System Change, Not Climate Change

  • Published at 06:20 pm December 30th, 2018
Climate Change

What can young researchers in Bangladesh do?

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put out their latest special report. In it they detail the impacts that a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees would have on the planet. The alarming results highlight that over the next 12 years we must make drastic changes to ensure that we do not exceed 1.5 degrees of warming, to devastating effect.

And young Bangladeshi researchers can be instrumental in ensuring these changes take place.

Chapter 4 of the report focuses on “Strengthening and Implementing the Global Response.” It covers the adaptation and mitigation initiatives that can be implemented globally to limit climate change and to prepare ourselves for its already inevitable impacts. Most critically, the chapter highlights the need for transformational adaptation.

Transformational adaptation is not a concept that can be clearly defined. However, Chapter 4 of the IPCC report emphasizes that it will be driven by “disruptive innovation” and, more importantly, “systemic changes” in four key areas: Energy; land and ecosystems; urban and infrastructure; and industrial systems transitions.

To make these changes, there are a number of knowledge gaps that must be filled. This is where young Bangladeshis can have invaluable impact. Table 4.13 of the report spans four pages and details the many topics on which research is urgently needed. Young researchers can orient their work to contribute on these topics and move us toward solutions for climate action.

In order to ensure that adaptation to climate change is just as well as transformative, young people from the Global South must be acknowledged as leaders in these processes.

Young people are well suited to this task. They are more comfortable with transformation and systems change than folks that have been working in adaptation for decades. They are ready to disrupt the status quo with new ways of thinking about the problem and developing innovative solutions.

Young researchers, in particular, have an important role to play. Existing institutions, such as the Green Climate Fund, are not well-suited to supporting innovative projects that have not yet been proven successful. Organizations often struggle to make a potentially transformative change because they do not have the resources for the needed pilot projects.

This is not the time to let inflexible institutional structures limit climate action.

Through undergraduate research teams and graduate dissertations, young Bangladeshi researchers can provide this much-needed research that tests out new ideas and pushes the boundaries of what is meant by adaptation.

Young people in Bangladesh already know the impacts of climate change. They’ve grown up in a region that has dealt with extreme weather, risk, and uncertainty for centuries. They do not need foreign experts from the Global North to tell them how adaptation should be implemented.

Instead, the Global North must start listening to the youth in the Global South to avoid global catastrophe.

The IPCC report on 1.5 has made the need for urgent, radical change undeniable. The inability of the UN climate talks to welcome the findings of the report only further underscores the need to look critically at the systems that are currently in place. Now is the time for transformation.

Danielle Falzon is a PhD student in Sociology at Brown University studying climate and development policy in Bangladesh.