Friday, January 4, 2008

Is global warming drowning Bangladesh?

Daily Star (Bangladesh), an analysis by Md Saiful Haque: The impacts of global warming will be felt across the globe. …In South Asia, seasonal variation of water will increase. Water resource scarcity with enhanced climate variability will intensify. More than a billion people will experience water stress in the region. There's high risk of rain, riverine and glacier-melt related floods. Flooding due to sea-level rise and deterioration of water quality will intensify. And what's more grim, there are uncertainties in the projections.…

…Climate change is likely to heavily hit Bangladesh by breaking down agricultural systems, which would seriously affect Bangladesh, leaving large sections of people facing malnutrition, worsening freshwater scarcity, increasing risks of fatal diseases, and triggering mass displacement due to recurring severe floods and storms like the recent Cyclone Sidr.

Bangladesh's location and topography make it particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change and also hard to protect, where the rivers are constantly shifting, making it difficult to build up protective banks or large dikes to hold back the sea. The soil here is mud and, as such -- not steady. About one million people a year are displaced by loss of land along rivers due to constant river-bank erosion, and this is increasing. People are little aware of the effect on them of sea level rise and a warming climate. Because of its poverty -- 78 percent of its population lives on less than $2 a day -- Bangladesh cannot afford the kind of defences planned in Europe.

…According to the latest UN Human Development Report (HDR) released in November, Bangladesh is among the countries to be worst-affected by climate change that may cause a large-scale reversal in human development. Describing the effects of climate change on the poorest countries as horrible, the HDR states: "Those who have largely caused the problem -- the rich countries -- are not going to be those who suffer the most in the short term. It is the poorest, who are not contributing significantly to green house gas emissions, who are the most vulnerable."

The HDR report titled 'Fighting Climate Change' cautioned "Business-as-usual scenarios will trigger large scale reversals in human development, undermining livelihoods and causing mass displacement." UNDP administrator Kemal Dervis, in his introduction to the report, said: "It is the poor, a constituency with no responsibility for the ecological debt we are running up, who face the most immediate, and severe, human costs."

With only 15 percent of world's population, rich countries account for nearly half of global carbon dioxide emissions, with the United States -- the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases -- leaving a carbon footprint that is nearly 70 times higher than in Bangladesh.

There's not much Bangladesh can do. Unless developed countries cut their greenhouse emissions, our efforts will be undercut. The country is particularly vulnerable because it has a low institutional capacity and lacks resources to combat the changing climate. But the immediate consequences of climate change are in Bangladesh -- and also in Africa. …. Without aid from richer countries to pay for more durable raised roads, hospitals and other infrastructures, Bangladesh will be unable to handle more disasters like deadly Sidr and frequent, ravaging deluges.

With sea levels rising and rivers swelling in the coming decades, vast areas of the country would disappear, sparking an exodus of climate refugees. The terrible question is, where will they go?...

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