Climate change in Bangladesh is a pressing issue. According to National Geographic, Bangladesh is one the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change.Bangladesh being located on the Tropic of Cancer receives fairly direct radiation throughout the year & maintains relatively high temperature.
The Earth is warming and its climate is changing. Indeed, measurements show that the Earth has warmed by 0.74ºC over the last 100 years. Warmer surface temperatures heat the oceans, melt ice sheets, and alter weather patterns across the globe.
As a result sea levels have risen globally by 10–20 millimeters during the 20th century and snow cover has receded by about 10 percent since the 1960s, with a 5-kilometer retreat in the alpine and continental glaciers. In the Arctic, where the expanding ocean absorbs more heat, the ice cover has retreated faster than the global average. If this melting continues, science predicts that summers in the Arctic will be ice free within 100 years.
Bangladesh lies at the bottom of the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna (GBM) river system. Bangladesh is watered by a total of 57 trans-boundary rivers flowing to it: 54 from neighbouring India and three from Myanmar. The country, which has no control of water flows and volume, drains to the Bay of Bengal. Coupled with the high level of widespread poverty and increasing population density, limited adaptive capacity, and poorly funded, ineffective local governance have made the region one of the most adversely affected on the planet. There are an estimated one thousand people in each square kilometre, with the national population increasing by two million people each year. Almost half the population is in poverty (defined as purchasing power parity of US$1.25 per person a day). The population lacks the resources to respond to natural disasters as the government cannot help them.
In the 2017 edition of Germanwatch’s Climate Risk Index, Bangladesh was judged to be the sixth hardest hit by climate calamities of 180 nations during the period 1996–2015.
It is projected that, by 2020, from 500 to 750 million people will be affected by water stress caused by climate change around the world. Low-lying coastal regions, such as Bangladesh, are vulnerable to sea level rise and the increased occurrence of intense, extreme weather conditions such as the cyclones of 2007–2009, as well as the melting of polar ice. In most countries like Bangladesh, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced to 50 percent by 2020. For a country with increasing population and hunger, this will have an adverse effect on food security. Although effects of climate change are highly variable, by 2030, South Asia could lose 10 percent of rice and maize yields, while neighboring states like Pakistan could experience a 50 percent reduction in crop yield.
As a result of all this, Bangladesh would need to prepare for long-term adaptation, which could be as drastic as changing sowing dates due to seasonal variations, introducing different varieties and species, to practicing novel water supply and irrigation systems.
With a larger population facing losses in arable lands, climate change poses an acute risk to the already malnourished population of Bangladesh. Although the country has managed to increase its production of rice since the nation’s birth — from 10 million metric tons (MT) to over 30 MT — around 30 percent of the population is still malnourished. Now more than five million hectares of land are irrigated, almost fourfold that in 1990. Even though modern rice varieties have been introduced in three-fourths of the total rice irrigation area, the sudden shift in population increase is putting strains on the production. Climate change threatens the agricultural economy, which, although it counts for just 20 percent of GDP, contributes to over half the labor force. In 2007, after a series of floods and Cyclone Sidr, food security was severely threatened. Given the country’s infrastructure and disaster response mechanisms, crop yields worsened. The loss of rice production was estimated at around two million metric tons (MT), which could potentially feed 10 million people. This was the single most important catalyst of the 2008 price increases, which led to around 15 million people going without much food. This was further worsened by cyclone Allia.
National and international policies
Given the frequent climate change-based catastrophes, Bangladesh needs to enhance food security by drafting and implementing new policies such as the 2006 National Sausage Policy. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) supported this policy through the “National Food Policy Capacity Strengthening Program” (NFPCSP). There is also an initiative for the start of a “Food Security Country Investment Plan” enabling the country to secure around US$52 million under the “Global Agriculture and Food Security Program” (GAFSP), making it Asia’s first recipient. More work and better implementation from the government is necessary for activities to reach fruitful outcomes. Already, 11 ministries and governmental agencies are involved in this integrated endeavor. In the aftermath of the “East Pakistan Coastal Embankment plan” (CEP) in the mid-20th century, Bangladesh has recently started work on the “Master Plan for the South”. The southern coastal area is vulnerable to the ill-effects of global climate. Crops, livestock, and fisheries of the southern delta are threatened. There are plans for a US$3 billion multi-purpose bridge named “Pad ma” to transform the agricultural sector in the region. The government estimates a GDP increase of around two percent as a result of the project.
In an effort to achieve middle income country status by 2021, the government is focusing on increasing agriculture production, productivity, water management techniques, surface water infrastructure, irrigation, fisheries, and promoting poultry and dairy development. Bio fuels fit into this scenario by providing energy for agriculture. In 2006, the Ministry of Agriculture provided a 30 percent subsidy to diesel to power irrigation for farming, further proposing a 7,750 million BDT disbursement to help almost a million farmers with fuel.
Bangladesh loses land to rising sea levels, but gains land from sediment deposits. The effects of sea level rise and land accretion in Bangladesh are highly regional and variegated. Natural land accretion, paired with targeted policies to secure such land for farming use has the potential to partially mitigate the effects of land lost.
As a Least developed country (LDC), Bangladesh is exempt from any responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are the primary cause of global warming. But lately this has been the rallying factor for policy makers to give off higher amounts of emissions in nearly all sectors with disregard for the environment. Large developed industrial nations are emitting increasing quantities of GHGs. The country cannot go far in their struggle with reducing emissions and fighting global warming with the considerable scantily supported funding and help it receives from the international community. There exist plans such as the “National Action Plan on Adaptation” (NAPA) of 2005, and the “Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan” (BCCSAP) of 2009.
BCCSAP states that an integrated approach is necessary and the only way to gain sustainability is where economic and social development is pursued to the exclusion of disaster management, as one major calamity will destroy any socio-economic gains. Around 40–45 percent of GHG emissions are required to be reduced by 2020 and 90–95 percent by 2050. This is using the 1990 GHG concentration levels as a benchmark. With higher population and rapid industrialization, Bangladesh should be on its way to developing a low-carbon path given it initially receives significant financial and technical support from the international community and national goals of economic growth and social development is not hampered. But a more holistic short-term plan is also necessary. Bangladesh has established the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) and the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF) allocating US$200 million and cumulating around further US$114 million respectively. Although 3000 cyclone shelters were constructed with over 40,000 trained volunteers and 10,000 km of embankments erected, Bangladesh should not only place emphasis on capacity building and disaster management but also institutional and infrastructure strengthening, development of research and low carbon technologies in order to create an inclusive and truly comprehensive mitigation scheme. Even though it is agreed that the willingness and cooperation of the current UNFCCC parties (194 member states as of 2011) is necessary to help the nation, funds like the Special Climate and LDC, Adaptation Fund should be easily made available.
Foreign aid and funding
Various countries have pledged to provide funding for adaptation and mitigation in developing nations, such as Bangladesh. The accord committed up to US$30 billion of immediate short term funding over the 2010-2012 period from developed to developing countries to support their action in climate change mitigation. This funding is available for developing nations to build their capacity to reduce emissions and responds to impacts of climate change. Furthermore, this funding will be balanced between mitigation and infrastructure adaptation in various sectors including forestry, science, technology and capacity building. Moreover, the Copenhagen Accord (COP 15) also pledges US$100 million of public and private finance by 2020, mostly to developing nations.
Another misconception is that this accord will divert funding from poverty reduction. The private sector alone contributes more than 85 percent of current investments for a low carbon economy. In order to maximize any future contributions from this sector, the public sector needs to overcome the political and bureaucratic barriers the private sector has to face towards a low carbon future.
There are cascading effects of climate change, with some areas becoming drier due to more heat and evaporation, such as the Sahel, the Mediterranean basin, Southern Africa, and parts of Southern Asia. Other areas are experiencing increased and more variable precipitation, particularly the east of North and South America, Northern Europe, and Northern and Central Asia. Over the past 50 years, weather patterns have also become more variable. Storm duration and peak winds of tropical cyclones have increased, together with ocean warming. These impacts do not register as apocalyptic events. However, increased exposure to droughts, floods, and environmental stress are beginning to take their toll on communities in climate-vulnerable parts of the world. In South Asia, the impacts of higher temperatures, more variable precipitation, more extreme weather events, and sea level rise will likely continue to intensify. These changes are already having impacts on the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor people who remain exposed to climate risks.
The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear. The causes of global warming, the extent of climate change, humanity’s contribution to it, and the consequences for development have all been vigorously disputed. The broad science has now settled and with rare unanimity a broad scientific consensus holds that climate change is a consequence of human activities. Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (NO2) are the main greenhouse gases that are produced through human activities – primarily the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. These GHGs trap heat inside the atmosphere and warm the surface of the Earth.
Understanding Greenhouse Effect
The composition of the atmosphere is important in determining the Earth’s climate because certain naturally occurring gases, such as CO2 and water vapor, allow the passage of incoming short-wave radiation while trapping much of the long-wave radiation reflected from the Earth’s surface, in much the same way as a greenhouse operates (see figure below). Life on Earth is made possible because of this effect, which maintains the global mean surface air temperature at around 15°C (59°F). As the volume of these “greenhouse gases” increases, so too does the Earth’s temperature. Temperature changes in turn alter climate systems. A complex feedback loop may emerge whereby a change in one factor, such as temperature, changes another factor, such as the volume of water vapor, which either reinforces or offsets the initial temperature change. A substantial part of the uncertainty in projecting future climate change is due to an incomplete understanding of these feedback processes.
Primary impacts of climate change: Bangladesh Context
Bangladesh is widely recognized to be one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. The country is already experiencing the adverse impacts- hotter summers, irregular monsoon, untimely rainfall, heavy rainfall over short period causing water logging and landslides, little rainfall in the dry season, increased river flow and inundation during monsoon, increased frequency, intensity and recurrence of floods, crop damage due to flash floods and moonsonal rain, crop failure due to drought, prolonaged cold spell, salinity intrusion along the coast leading to scarcity of potable water and redundancy of prevailing crop practices, coastal erosion, river bank erosion, deaths due to extreme heat and extreme cold etc. (CCC, 2008).
Although the rich countries and economic policy instruments are largely responsible for the climate crisis but its impacts are affecting especially the poor countries very unevenly and disproportionately. The Fourth Assessment Report of IPCC (IPCC 2007) report has described climate change impacts for different region of the globe with very high and high confidence. The report identifies Bangladesh as one of the worst victims of climate change, although one of the lowest per-capita emitters historically and currently. In Bangladesh, the impacts of higher temperatures, more variable precipitation, more extreme weather events, and sea level rise will likely continue to intensify.
– In Bangladesh, average temperature has registered an increasing trend of about 1°C in May and 0.5°C in November during the 14 year period from 1985 to 1998. (Mirza and Dixit, 1997; Khan et.al.,2000; Mirza 2002)
– The annual mean rainfall exhibits increasing trends in Bangladesh. Decennial rain anomalies are above long term averages since 1960s. (Mirza and Dixit, 1997; Khan et.al.,2000; Mirza 2002)
– Serious and recurring floods have taken place during 2002, 2003, and 2004. Cyclones originating from the Bay of Bengal have been noted to decrease since 1970 but the intensity has increased. ( Cruz et.al., 2007)
– Frequency of monsoon depressions and cyclones formation in Bay of Bengal has increased.
– Water shortages has been attributed to rapid urbanization and industrialization, population growth and inefficient water use, which are aggravated by changing climate and its adverse impacts on demand, supply and water quality.
– Salt water from the Bay of Bengal is reported to have penetrated 100 km or more inland along tributary channels during the dry season. (Allison et.al,. 2003)
– The precipitation decline and droughts has resulted in the drying up of wetlands and severe degradation of ecosystems. ( Cruz et.al., 2007)
Areas and communities potentially be impacted by climate change
Nonetheless, nature is harsh on Bangladesh. The country could be considered as the nature’s laboratory on disasters. Except volcanoes, someone can think of any other natural disasters in Bangladesh. The rivers swell with summer monsoons, filling Bangladesh’s vast flood-plain and submerging a quarter to a third of the land in a typical year -and up to two-thirds in the worst of years. Several cyclones usually tear through the heart of the country each year, drowning people in storm surges and ripping up trees and homes. Less sudden calamities-droughts in the country’s few highland areas, erosion of the river banks and coastlines — also rob people of food and land. No country and people know this better than Bangladesh, where millions of people suffer from disasters in each year. This is due to its unique geographical location, dominance of floodplains, low elevation from the sea, high population density, high levels of poverty, and overwhelming dependence on nature, its resources and services.
Therefore, in the context of country’s multifaceted vulnerability to national disasters the most critical impacts associated with climate change in Bangladesh are: i) flood and drainage congestion; ii) reduced fresh water resources and availability; iii) occurrence of morphological processes e.g. erosion; and iv) an increased intensity and frequency of natural disasters e.g. cyclone, storm surges, floods and droughts.
Sudden disasters associated with climate change are most likely to cause profound impact in the i) South Central, South East and South West low-lying coastal areas especially prone to tropical cyclone, salinity ingression and sea-level rise; ii) The heavily populated river basin areas, especially prone to monsoon flooding and river erosion; iii) haor and hilly areas, especially prone to flash floods; and iv) low-lying coastal islands, and river based Chars, where communities are already highly vulnerable to climate-related hazards.
Alam and Laurel (2005) noted that the population living in the coastal areas is more vulnerable than the people living in other areas.
Communities, people of those areas are at the fore-front of any risk and vulnerability though Climate change will affects everyone, though will not affect everyone equally. On the other hand people concentrated in the country’s different country’s different Agro Ecological Zones ( AEZs) will suffer at various degrees from weather extreme events. A study (CCC 2009a) on the impacts of climate change on different Agro Ecological Zones noted that;
– Severe and moderate river flood prone areas are mainly located in the floodplains of major rivers ( e.g. Brahmaputra-Jamuna, Meghna estuarine and low Ganges river floodplains), the Haor basin and lower Atrai basin.
– Areas prone to moderate and severe flash floods include mainly the northern and eastern piedmont plains and Chittagong coastal plains.
– Drought prone areas are mainly located in the in the western part, with very severe areas concentrated in the Barind Tract and adjacent to the upper Ganges-Padma river floodplain areas.
– Active floodplains of the major rivers Teesta, Brahmaputra-Jamuna, Ganges-Padma, and the middle and young estuarine floodplains of the Meghna are the major areas prone to river erosion.
– Areas prone to cyclone are located in the exposed coastal areas of the Ganges tidal plain, Meghna estuarine floodplain and Chittagong coastal plain.
– Major salinity intrusion takes place in the Ganges tidal plains, with the salinity front extending into the high Ganges river floodplain and Gopalgonj-Khulna Beels in some dry months.