Nation's vulnerability inspires two pioneers to warn of looming catastrophe
Many people have done their bit building awareness about climate change, but few come from countries that will be the first affected by that ill-portending event. Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change and few people there have taken the problem seriously. That is now being addressed by two Bangladeshis who deserve to be better known outside and inside their country.
Atiq Rahman and Saleemul Huq are not as well known as Al Gore, but all are linked to climate change studies - Mr Gore by bringing the issue into the public domain and the two Bangladeshis by their early recognition of what was coming and by pushing their research deeper into academia, demanding that others take note.
The Bangladeshis have become references in studies on climate change and the environment. Mr Huq was a lead author of the chapter on Adaptation and Sustainable Development in the third assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which came out in 2001, and a co-ordinating lead author of the chapter on Adaptation and Mitigation in the fourth assessment report that came out in 2007. Mr Rahman was also a lead author of both reports.
Both work to educate the population while looking into how to mitigate the looming catastrophe.
The IPCC last year announced that climate change was augmented by the environmentally disturbing activities of people. The two field workers brought to light facts that laid the foundation of proof through scientific and empirical research that we are playing a negative role. From then on it was clear this was a problem that had to be addressed.
As Mr Gore continued on his lecture tours and as heated debates followed in his wake - with some insisting he exaggerated figures and others questioning the facts - what was made available by the two Bangladeshis and their co-operating teams of researchers gave support to the theory and anchored the way forward in strong positions of activism.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh suffered severe storms and floods which seemed to verify what was pointed to - the phenomenon of a worsening cycle of erratic weather patterns that will bring even more devastation. The topic of climate change is here to stay.
Thus the joint award of the Nobel Peace Prize for Mr Gore and the IPCC. In January, the winners of the Champions of the Earth Award 2008 were announced. Among them was Mr Rahman as executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies.