Politics and Political Economy of Climate Change and COVID-19

Parvez Babul

To understand the politics and political economy of human-induced climate change you do not need to be a scientist or an environment expert. If you merely observe the greenhouse effect, global warming, pattern and frequency of disasters, even COVID-19, Coronavirus outbreak, floods, draught, and other calamities-you will easily realize the worst impacts of climate change. The industrialized countries, producing carbon dioxide, and greenhouse gas are responsible for the climate change, and global warming. Those rich, developed countries are responsible for the death of millions of people due to climate change and different disasters. And very unfortunately it would continue if the responsible countries and the global leaders do not tackle climate change together through perfectly integrated efforts soon globally.

Climate change has been making lives and livelihoods worst across the globe especially of least developed countries (LDCs), and developing countries including Bangladesh. And the coastal areas of Bangladesh are the most vulnerable due to climate change. Research shows that climate change negatively affects politics, economy, culture, society, community, and even individual. Women and children are always at risk and the most sufferers due to climate change and environmental degradation for being poor and marginalized. In Bangladesh, people of coastal districts are more at risk of climate change impacts.


According to the Wikipedia Foundation, “Political economy of climate change is an approach that applies the political economy thinking of collective or political processes to study the critical issues surrounding the decision-making on climate change.

The ever-increasing awareness and urgency of climate change have pressured scholars to explore a better understanding of the multiple actors and influencing factors that affect the climate change negotiation, and to seek more effective solutions to tackle climate change. Analyzing these extremely complex issues from a political economy perspective helps to explain the complex interactions between different stakeholders in response to climate change impacts and provides broader opportunities to achieve better implementation of climate change policies.

Now Climate Change is first and foremost a political issue that has become a widely believed fact. Before tackling the issue, it is important to determine how drastic the effects can be in order to address it in an appropriate manner. When dealing with climate change, the inhabitants of countries must see themselves as ‘global citizens’ rather than separate entities if any real long-term progress is to be made. In accordance with a global perspective, countries balance legislation regarding climate change in a way that benefits developing nations while refraining from discouraging developed nations from contributing to the effort.

Climate change and global warming have become one of the most pressing environmental concerns and the greatest global challenges in society today. As this issue continues to dominate the international agenda, researchers from different academic sectors have for long been devoting great efforts to explore effective solutions to climate change, with technologists and planners devising ways of mitigating and adapting to climate change, economists estimating the cost of climate change and the cost of tackling it; development experts exploring the impact of climate change on social services and public goods.

Further, the issue of climate change is facing various other challenges, such as the problem of elite-resource capture, the resource constraints in developing countries and the conflicts that frequently result from such constraints, which have often been less concerned and stressed in suggested solutions. In recognition of these problems, it is advocated that ‘understanding the political economy of climate change is vital to tackling it”, Wikipedia added.
So there are huge examples that climate change goes with the political economy.  Climate change hits many sectors include agriculture, health, job market, migration, education, shelter, food and nutrition, biodiversity, ecology among others.


Matthew Paterson and Michael Grubb mentioned in their story the International Politics of Climate Change, “climate change became a major political issue during 1988. A series of scientific conferences during the 1980s built up a consensus that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases would lead a warming of the hearts’ surface, with associated climatic changes that could produce substantial detrimental effects on human society. These possible effects include sea-level rise, changed rainfall and storm patterns, with consequent desertification, and flooding, agricultural migration, and perhaps other unpredicted impacts.” 

Johann Dupuis  of Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration opined in his story: Political Barriers to Climate Change Adaptation that  climate change effects are already observable in many parts of the world and, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a continuous rise in mean temperatures for the rest of the century is very likely unavoidable. As knowledge of the benefits of early adaptation and doubts about the future of the Kyoto protocol has grown, climate change adaptation has become an ever more prominent item on political agendas.

It is an established truth based on evidence that climate change is an undeniable political and pressing issue in the world. There is no unaffected country by climate change worldwide. That’s why for many reasons climate change is a global issue of politics.


Martha Henriques wrote for BBC on Historic epidemics of COID-19 that this is not the first time an epidemic has left its mark on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Throughout history, the spread of disease has been linked to lower emissions – even well before the industrial age.

Julia Pongratz, professor for physical geography and land use systems at the Department of Geography at the University of Munich, Germany, found that epidemics such as the Black Death in Europe in the 14th Century, and the epidemics of diseases such as smallpox brought to South America with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th Century, both left subtle marks on atmospheric CO2 levels, as Pongratz found by measuring tiny bubbles trapped in ancient ice cores.

Those changes were the result of the high death rates from disease and, in the case of the conquest of the Americas, from genocide. Other studies have found that these deaths meant that large tracts of previously cultivated land was abandoned, growing wild and sinking large quantities of CO2.
The impact from today’s outbreak is not predicted to lead to anywhere near the same number of deaths, and it is unlikely to lead to widespread change in land use. Its environmental impacts are more akin to those of recent world events, such as the financial crash of 2008 and 2009. “Then, global emissions dropped immensely for a year,” says Pongratz.
Professor Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University Bangladesh recently mentioned in his piece that on the economic front, there has already been widespread disruption of the global economy, but some unintended benefits include a significant reduction in air pollution as well as greenhouse gases. While such economic disruption is not desirable and hopefully we will recover from it, it is worth thinking about whether the recovery can also be made in a much more environment friendly manner.

The final lesson has to do with the inevitable economic chaos and recession that is starting to happen already and will get a lot worse before it gets better. Bangladesh, with its globally linked economy, is likely to see significant negative impacts on manufacturing, exports and possibly even our own food production going forward. Hence, even though the worst is yet to come, we must prepare for the immediate economic downturn as well as think about the future path to recovery once the worst is over.

This applies both to the Bangladesh economy as well as the global economy and the silver lining in this Covid-19 pandemic, which is most relevant for tackling climate change, is the opportunity to rebuild the post-pandemic economy as an environment friendly green economy that doesn’t simply repeat the destruction of nature and the spewing of greenhouse gases that the old economy used to do. Let us hope that both our national as well as global leaders are up to the challenge,” Saleemul observed.

Therefore, considering many local, national, regional, and global issues climate change, environment, and COVID-19 are political, economic, cultural, social, and lives and livelihoods related issues that demand combating/tackling globally together accordingly. The climate change-affected countries must be united to be stronger through strengthening their global platform. And bring the parties for responsible climate change to make sure their accountabilities.

The rich countries always have a dominating, and avoiding attitude to the poor, LDCs, and developing countries. Global platform and events like Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC and other international conferences should be the neutral, pro-poor gatherings to fulfil the demands and expectations. Bangladesh and other most vulnerable countries must be selective to nominate highly educated and experienced climate, environment and COVID-19 experts to negotiate perfectly joining the next international table of discussions so that they do not return homes empty hands.

So let us stay home today to save our lives, but let us go out tomorrow to tell the world leaders that stop climate change, combat COVID-19 together to save the planet and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people globally. Sooner and faster are the better to live, because we have no time to waste to prevent death. 

Disaster Risk Reduction and Enhance Climate Services

Disaster risk reduction and enhancing climate services are very important issues to address both locally and regionally. There are many reasons that the disaster risk reduction and climate services issues need to handle through regional cooperation in South Asian region. Country to country exchange of data and views are now very essential and helpful for disaster risk reduction and enhancing climate services.

Contemporary human-induced climate change influences many hazards, exacerbating some and diminishing others. Climate change is, in effect, a potential hazard driver or a potential hazard reducer, rather than being a hazard itself. The complexities of the interactions between climate change and specific hazards in specific locations sometimes make attribution and projections challenging.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attempted to analyze links between climate change and hydro meteorological hazard trends and extremes. Few strong associations were found, with daily high temperature being the most prominent. Consequently, climate change’s influence on disaster risk is much more on the hazard side than on the vulnerability side, affecting hazard parameters so that sometimes the hazard is exacerbated and sometimes the hazard is diminished.

Disaster risk, by definition, is a combination of hazard and vulnerability, with different approaches taken to combine the two parameters depending on the theory adopted or the practice being pursued. So, we should place climate change adaptation as one subset within disaster risk reduction and climate change mitigation as one subset within sustainable development.

Nepal-based regional knowledge development and learning centre International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has been working on these issues regionally.  Recently, ICIMOD, Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), and Flood Forecasting and Warning Center (FFWC) jointly organized a regional workshop on SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) Applied Science Projects in Dhaka.

I had the opportunity to join the event. Regarding the workshop, the background note mentioned that the ICIMOD is implementing the SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (SERVIR-HKH) initiative. It supports the regional member countries in disaster risk reduction and enhancing climate services by integrating earth observation data and geospatial technologies into the development decision-making.

It’s a joint development initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). SERVIR works in partnership with leading regional organizations world-wide to help developing countries use information provided by earth observation satellites and geospatial technologies on key thematic areas of food security, agriculture, land cover, land use change, ecosystems, water resources hydro-climatic disasters, weather, and climate services.

The discussants at the event expressed their views and shared that Bangladesh has 405 rivers, 57 rivers are transboundary.  As these rivers traverse country boundaries there is no control over them and data sharing is limited and or controlled. The role of media is important in this regard to cover the issues.

For flood mapping, the question is: where are the highly vulnerable people are living? So, we must think: from where to start? Where is the end? What is our capacity? How to go ahead? How to ensure sustainability, among others priorities need to address. Regional cooperation is vital on Data sharing, and to work on other issues.

While we discussed the issue, Birendra Bajracharya, Regional Programme Manager, Mountain Environment Regional Information System, at ICIMOD said, “Through SERVIR we bridge research and science with development, connecting space to village. A unique partnership between top universities in the United States, USAID, NASA, ICIMOD and government agencies is in place. There is value-addition in working with experts in the regional member countries and international experts, where we get to share knowledge while learning from each other.

This workshop is the second in a line of events we have organized to fine tune our products to serve our partners better. We organized a similar workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal last year with participation by representatives from government agencies in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. This workshop is timely, as Bangladesh and Nepal are currently facing the havocs of thunderstorms, and we are ahead of the incoming floods to fine tune our models.”

Mohammad Shahabuddin, Additional Director General of BWDB was optimistic about the partnership with ICIMOD and shared that Bangladesh could benefit a lot from new tools and technologies developed by ICIMOD-NASA joint venture programmes especially in the field of water resource management and flood forecasting technologies. He added, “The new mobile app for flood forecasting and warning services developed with support from SERVIR-HKH at ICIMOD is indeed a milestone for dissemination of flood warning messages more to the community level.”

Disaster risk reduction and climate services are interlinked. Disaster risk reduction aims to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones, through an ethic of prevention. Disasters often follow natural hazards. A disaster’s severity depends on how much impact a hazard has on society and the environment.

Information about climate, climate change, impacts on natural and human systems, mitigation and adaptation strategies are tailored to the specific user requirements. Climate service users include economic, administrative, political and scientific bodies, within and across sectors and disciplines. The capacity building of national technical services on extreme weather events analysis, the consolidation of a network among scientific, technical institutions to work on shared methodologies to create an objective and harmonized base of information. The aim is to transfer and share the know-how, to expand cooperation in sensitive areas to national, regional level to promote exchanges and collaboration through the application of research products and operational tools. It builds on existing initiatives that have proven to be successful at national level and intends to upscale them to larger geographic areas.

The science examines all climate changes irrespective of the cause of the change, while the international policy process considers anthropogenic climate change only. Both the IPCC and the UNFCCC agree that the human influence on the climate seems likely to push the planet into a climate regime that humanity has not before experienced.

Author is a Poet, Journalist and Writer

Email: parvezbabul@gmail.com

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