The changing of tides: Inaction in combating climate change will lead to an irreversible future

May 30, 2017 — by Sherrie Shen

When a powerful storm hit the Bangladeshi coast in 2009, Jahanara Khatun, mother of four, lost more than the mud and bamboo hut over her head.

Khatun was forced to sell two of her children to a brick factory to pay for the overwhelming cost of rebuilding their hut and medicine to treat her husband’s deteriorating health.

Despite Khatun’s family’s best efforts, four years after the storm, her husband died.

Though the New York Times chronicled her story in an article published in 2014, the problems Khatun and her family faced back then still haven’t gone away — indeed, they’ve gotten worse.

If this trend continues, experts estimate that up to 50 million Bangladeshis will have to flee by 2050.

Immersed in the tech-centered hub of Silicon Valley, we often find ourselves partaking in the ever-developing world of scientific progress and innovation. But lost in these glass buildings that continue to change the tide of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other cutting edge technology, a key part of the future is missing: action in climate change.

Under a president who denies the existence of climate change and with only a few citizens making impactful change, progress in climate change is painfully slow. Somehow it’s a problem, we say, that can be left to “other people.”

Worse yet, in recent decades, climatologists have noticed startling trends showing no indication of improving: Ice caps and glaciers are melting at an alarming rate of 39 percent, two-thirds of the northern corals in the Great Barrier Reef have been declared dead and global temperatures are rising to an unprecedented high.

Arctic sea ice is projected to thaw to the point where it may be possible to sail across in North Pole in the summer by 2050. Because less sea ice equates to less ice shelves that reflect the sun’s light, the ocean ends up absorbing more heat into its blue depths, thereby crippling the marine ecosystem.

In addition, the melting of glaciers will also contribute to rising sea levels, intruding into rivers and turning freshwater brackish. Even routine flooding leaves behind salt deposits that can render the land barren, and unsuitable for irrigation.

For us in the United States, hundreds of feet above the current sea level on average, it’s not much of a problem. But Bangladesh, a country with one-third our population and a mere 7 feet above sea level, is already dealing with the consequences.

If Earth’s present environmental practices go unchanged, it will lead to an irreversible and bleak future.

How can you help — at least a little? One idea is to try using Ecosia, a web search engine that plants trees using ad revenue gained from users’ browsing through web pages.

Since its launch in 2009, Ecosia has helped nonprofit conservationist organizations plant over 8.1 million trees with more than 435.6 million searches, taking 56 on average to fund the planting of a single tree.

Individually, each tree creates limited progress, but thousands and millions together, they can lead to a step forward in reducing the levels of greenhouse gases and mitigating ocean acidification.

While Ecosia is a small and novel step forward, it has little impact on the reversing the entirety of global warming. In the end, only a change in lifestyle and regulation — conserving instead of wasting, reducing instead of emitting — at the national and global level will change.

But even then, it may still not be enough.