Anyone who has been in Madrid during the last two weeks has noticed a random storm occur, looked at the weather app, and seen that the sky was supposed to be blue and the birds were supposed to be chirping. Those who went to the coast of Spain on vacation noticed how unnervingly warm the water was, and how many jellyfish appeared. In Arizona, the pavement got so hot that people who fell over quite literally started cooking their skin. There have been fires, droughts, and floods all around the world. None of these are isolated events. While we do not know that all of these are connected and fully caused by climate change, one cannot simply ignore what has been happening.
Of course, it goes without saying that there is a huge difference between seeing a few jellyfish on your beach day and the two million deaths that climate change is responsible for so far. Countless communities have been heavily affected by the issue, most of them in the developing world. The former president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, warned the world that his country was drowning due to the rising sea levels back in 2011. The tides were slowly reaching higher ground and floods were becoming more frequent and coming further inland. As expected, however, large corporations and countries alike responded to Tong’s pleas with complete silence. As a result, the country is expected to completely disappear within the next four decades.
Climate change is here, and there is no longer any way that we can reverse its effects. Not necessarily because it would be physically impossible, but because the people most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions are too focused on profit to stop polluting. By the time the issue affects these people personally, it will be far too late to change its course. Thus, it no longer makes sense to concentrate all of our efforts on preventing climate catastrophe. The only option we have left is to adapt.
While there is no longer a point in preventing the disaster, we should still continue trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is because climate change is not all or nothing; we still want to reduce the gravity of our future struggles as much as possible. Nevertheless, we should begin to shift our priorities away from prevention, and toward adaptation. We have to create societies that can withstand unpredictable weather and increased pests. Climate change will affect each region differently depending on their geography and population, meaning each of them will have to learn to survive with their given problems.
Spain, for example, needs to prepare for desertification. It is the only country in Europe that could become 75% desert in the near future. One of the adaptations that Spain should look into is more efficient water usage and storage. Wineries, for instance, use water drainage systems that store the substance for irrigation during dry seasons. This same technology and method can be applied to Spanish cities for efficient water access. By doing so, the country would ensure that its population does not suffer from a lack of water when the climate changes more drastically. In the same way that this should be Spain’s point of focus, other countries face different challenges.
Yet when considering these individualized threats, one realizes that not all of us have the same ammunition to fight them. In fact, the countries which face bigger challenges tend to be those that do not have the resources to protect their people and heritage from climate change. It just so happens that the poorer a country is, the more difficult the threat will be to defend against. In addition, none of the countries most at risk are those that pollute the most. It is thus only fair that those countries that contaminate more than others, as well as all of those that have the resources, make sure that others can adapt to climate change. It is only right that we give them the resources they need.
Foreign aid is highly controversial, with criticism both from the giving and receiving ends. Nevertheless, it is vital for developed countries to help those that are going to struggle in the coming decades. The economic advisor to the Prime Minister of Barbados explained that foreign aid to developing countries should be more than three times what it currently is. He expressed that developed countries should invest trillions of US dollars into developing countries in order to fight the problem. Despite this seeming like a large figure, the looming climate catastrophe could cost the developed world far more in damages than that. We need to rethink our priorities and consider the moral responsibilities that we have.
Thus, countries urgently need to think about adapting to a changing climate. If there is any hope left for humanity, it will be for those who are able to adjust to the new conditions we are faced with. It is not fair, however, that countries like Kiribati, which have been desperately trying to wake the rest of the world up about climate change, are now at risk of losing everything they have. It is our responsibility to help because if the West wants to survive, it needs to act.
Featured image: The Sau Reservoir in Spain. CNN. Image by Fred Pleitgen