POST TIME: 23 January, 2019 11:18:03 PM
Bangladesh’s vulnerability to climate change
Bangladesh must look beyond agriculture so that when climatic shocks hit, the people and the economy are better equipped to handle them

Bangladesh’s vulnerability to climate change

According to a report published in this newspaper on Wednesday Greenland is melting faster than scientists previously thought, with the pace of ice loss increasing four-fold since 2003. The fate of Greenland’s huge glaciers in the south-east and north-west has long been viewed as a key factor in global sea level rise. Greenland is the largest mass of ice in the northern hemisphere covering an area about seven times the size of the United Kingdom and reaching up to 3km (2 miles) in thickness. This means that the average sea level would rise around the world by about seven metres, more than 20ft, if it all melted. That is why Greenland, though remote, is a focus of research which has direct relevance to countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including Bangladesh. And this comes after Bangladesh was ranked seventh among the countries most affected by extreme weather events in two decades since 1998.

While major economic powerhouses in Europe, Asia and the America continue to bicker over the preventive measures against climate change, the cost of inaction will mean that countries like Bangladesh may see the average annual temperature rise by 1-1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2050. Alarmingly we could be looking at wiping out achievements of preceding decades and a return to earlier poverty levels as agriculture production takes a hit thanks to submergence of low-lying regions and lower annual rainfall. Rising temperature will result in a rise of vector-borne and other infectious diseases. If the dire predictions of scientists come true, Bangladesh could be looking at a loss of nearly seven per cent of its GDP, or USD 171 billion. The numbers are mind-boggling because entire population centres in the country are vulnerable.

Given the fact that Bangladesh is recognised as both one of the most vulnerable to climate change, but has also contributed very little to global greenhouse gas emissions, it gives Bangladesh moral leadership in climate negotiations. This moral leadership is an asset for putting pressure on industrialised countries to consider special needs and vulnerabilities of the least developing countries. But the effect of this moral leadership is more symbolic than real: It has given stronger visibility to vulnerable countries like Bangladesh. Bangladesh must take cognisance of these hard truths and start investing in new economic areas. The country must look beyond agriculture so that when climatic shocks hit us, the populace and the economy are better equipped to handle them.