The Battle Against Climate Change
Climate change, beyond any doubt, is today's number one global concern one that could have devastating effects on the human civilisation, which is established through thousands of years' human efforts. The question now is how the global community will protect the planet. There are debates at the national, regional and global levels. Developing countries like Bangladesh, which are at the forefront of those most affected, are demanding compensation from the developed ones, saying the industrialised countries contributed to the major share of carbon and are responsible for global warming. Discussions among the developed countries are still on, they are yet to come to a consensus on the amounts they want to contribute and on modalities of helping the vulnerable nations facing the highest levels of danger.
The Daily Star approached an individual of a developed country to learn his perspectives on the issues -- Grahame Lucas, head of the South Asia Department at Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany's international public broadcaster. He is responsible for DW's multimedia output in Bengali, Hindi and Urdu as well as English for Asia. PORIMOL PALMA talked with Lucas during his recent visit to Dhaka to attend a DW listeners' conference.
South Asian countries, especially Bangladesh, Maldives and Nepal are highly vulnerable to climate change. How do you see it?
Climate change could create conflicts. When sea level rises, people would be driven out of their land and their homes not only in Bangladesh, but also in the European countries like Holland. Northern Germany would lose large areas of land if sea level rises by 1.5 meters. But, I think until Copenhagen summit in Denmark we had very scientific discussion, now we need go for action.
But, unfortunately we are still selling big SUVs (sport utility vehicles), which consume a lot of petrol. Why are we doing that? This is something we need to ask ourselves. A lot of people in Western Germany are putting solar panels to make electricity out of sun, but we need to do a lot more. Otherwise the problem is not going to be resolved.
Do you think luxury of the West caused climate change?
I am not a scientist, but the evidence is on the table that global warming is the consequence of human activity and burning fossil fuels. So, we have to have very intensive discussions about how we are going to have energy in the future. We have some green movements in Europe that are saying we must go for renewable energies. But, there are experts saying we will not get the amount of renewable energy we need for our society in its present form. So, if that is the conclusion, then we have to start a debate what kind of energies we can save? Some say solution is not only in creating more and more energy, but in being much more efficient in using it. That is why we need to transfer all kinds of knowledge about new ways of creating renewable energy and storing energy. I don't think we have done enough.
Already there are divisions over the Copenhagen summit. So, how do we go about it?
European leaders will have to come up with a solution for Europe as a whole. Individual solutions to a global problem cannot work. It is true that people in France, Germany and Britain are using much more fossil fuel than the people in Bangladesh. We have established a standard of living that requires a certain amount of energy. If we are going to reduce CO2 by certain degree by 2025 and we have to start thinking about how we are going to do it.
Don't you think state policies are needed there?
In Europe in the '70s we wanted ecological dictatorship. But, I don't think any European will agree to that. So, at the European level we want a framework. I think politicians have to do the job now. But, my fear is the Europeans have not yet understood how big the sacrifices could be in order to do that.
There are still people who think they have a right to have three or four cars in a family as long as they have money. I don't think that attitude is going to change. So, the media has got a huge responsibility to create new awareness among the young generation. And I think that is where the chance lies -- the younger generation. Those who are now in their 20s could be convinced that they will no longer live the way their fathers lived. This is the challenge.
How can Deutsche Welle or the media as a whole play a role?
Two crucial issues are coming up now -- human rights and climate change. We started focusing on climate change. This is one of the reasons we invited several climate change experts talk to an audience of over 200. Several experts talked about climate and suggested the reduction in the number of trees being cut. We said there is a debate in Europe on having targets of planting trees. In DW, we publish features describing dangers of climate change and about what is happening in the Arctic. We are starting to blog where there will be feedback. There will be a programme on the role of the media and climate change in June this year. We will try to learn how debates are going on in the developing countries.
The debate in Europe is basically scientific and intellectual. A lot of people know about climate change, there is a high degree of interest, but very few people are changing their daily lives whereas in developing countries until Copenhagen, it was more a government debate but is now public. Because people have realised Copenhagen was certainly the trigger and now the question for the media is how we can create debate and dialogues for solutions. We are developing new technologies. We have put podcast on the website. So much information is available on the web. There is also a Bengali page. We even translate from English to Bengali and put it on the web in Bangla.
Do you think the website information can reach a lot of people?
It will in time. We are shifting from short wave delivery to FM [frequency modulation that provides high-fidelity sound over broadcast radio]. We are very close to this change. We will soon have an agreement with Bangladesh and that means when we use FM broadcast twice a day -- 30 minutes in the mornings and 30 minutes in the evenings, we can reach a big number of audience via radio programmes. We are going to use this information through mobile phone because we saw a lot of people here are jumping over to mobile phones and accessing the Internet. Very soon a lot of people will have access to the Internet. With the government pushing for digital Bangladesh, we would like to take the opportunity.
There are all kinds of new services -- we will be starting video for Bengali service this year. From next year we will make Bengali language short films, which we get from German television. To start with, we will make educational films, tourist films about Germany, which we will put into our website. When somebody will click DW website, they will get Bengali films about Germany and about Europe. We are also starting with email newsletter with all kind of information on it drawn from the website. We also have in the website audio on demand and starting video on demand. For us this is the way we can support digital Bangladesh as well.
How can South Asia as a region cooperate?
Around 25 percent of the world's poor live in the Indian sub-continent. In Bangladesh poverty is the number one problem. And, one country affects another, as India's Tipaimukh dam may have on Bangladesh. So, cooperation at all levels is important. Otherwise people will be more nationalistic. These things escalated in Europe. People can be victims of nationalistic attitude. Therefore, the media can play a role without being nationalistic, but trying to identify real problems and creating scope for dialogue.
Do you see any initiatives there?
There is SAARC but it is not developing like ASEAN. The problem with SAARC is that the bilateral problem between India and Pakistan dominates everything. Border killing is a problem. Why should people be shot at the borders? Can't you do something to stop it? Nobody says let's solve it. Europe went through all these processes. Germany and France had a lot of animosities. After the Second World War, people in Germany and France started friendship clubs, and then gradually the Franco-German agreement was signed. You have to start with everyday problems and avoid conflicts.
But, in the countries like Bangladesh, the winner takes all. So the opposition takes to the streets. In Europe it is very different. There is always a voice of the opposition. The government policies must be checked by the opposition. They must give the opposition a voice.
(R) thedailystar.net 2010