Climate change in Bangladesh
Climate Change in Bangladesh is an extremely crucial issue and according to National Geographic, Bangladesh ranks first as the nation most vulnerable to the impacts of Climate Change in the coming decades.
Various other models predict the nation's vulnerability. Bangladesh is the nation most vulnerable to global climate change in the world, according to German Watch’s Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) of 2011. This is based on the analysis of impacts of major climate events that occurred around the world in the twenty-year period since 1990. The reasons are complex and extremely intertwined.
Located at the bottom of the mighty GBM river system (comprising the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna), Bangladesh is watered by a total of 57 trans-boundary rivers coming down to it: 54 from neighbouring India and 3 from Myanmar. The country, which has no control of the water flow and volume, drains to the Bay of Bengal over 90% of the total run-off generated annually. 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 2 million people each year. Almost half the population is in poverty (Purchasing Power Parity of $1.25 per person a day). Hence these people do not have the ability to respond to a natural disaster and the government cannot help them.
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 increased occurrence of intense, extreme weather conditions such as the cyclones from 2007 to 2009. In most countries like Bangladesh, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced to 50% by 2020. For a country with increasing population and hunger, this will have an extremely adverse effect on food security. Although effects of climate change are highly variable, by 2030, South Asia could lose 10% of rice and maize yields, while neighboring states like Pakistan could experience a 50% 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 changed sowing dates due to seasonal variations, introducing different varieties and species, to practising novel water supply and irrigation systems. In essence, it is necessary to identify all present vulnerabilities and future opportunities, adjusting priorities, at times even changing commodity and trade policies in the agricultural sector while promoting training and education throughout the masses in all possible spheres.
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 the production of rice since the nation’s birth, from 10 metric tons (MT) to over 30 MT, around 30% of the population is still malnourished. Now more than 5 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% of GDP, contributes to over half the population’s labor force. As pointed out before in the book, in 2007 after a series of floods and cyclone Sidr, food security was severely threatened. Given the country’s infrastructure and disaster response mechanisms, the food yield situation got worse. The loss of rice production was estimated at around 2 million metric tons (MT), which could potentially feed 10 million people. This was the single most important catalyst in the 2008 price increase, 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 Food 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’s side is necessary for the activities to reach fruitful outcomes. Already, there are a cumulative of 11 Ministries and Government divisions involved in this integrated endeavor. In the aftermath of the 'East Pakistan Coastal Embankment plan' (CEP) in the mid-twentieth 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 and a huge threat to crops, livestock and fisheries of the southern delta. There are plans of a USD 3 billion multi-purpose bridge named ‘Padma’ in order to transform the agriculture sector in the region. The government even estimates a GDP increase of around 2% implying that the investment will ultimately lead to economic growth for the country.
In an effort to be a ’Middle Income Country’ by 2021, the country is focusing on increasing agriculture production, productivity, water management techniques surface water infrastructure irrigation, effective fisheries and promoting poultry and dairy development. Biofuels fit into this scenario by acting as machinery fuel as in 2006 the Ministry of Agriculture provided 30% subsidy for diesel to run irrigation for farming, further proposing 7,750 million BDT fiscal disbursement to help almost a million farmers with machinery fuel. This attempt needs social science researchers identifying constraints, agricultural understanding of the complex processes, resilience and indigenous skills of the farmers and technical understanding of efficiency and the role of infrastructure in a combined effort to feed the hungry and provide only additional income by utilizing the available resources at hand, for both food and energy, sustainably with responsible government support and cooperation.
Any discussion of potential land lost to sea level rise in Bangladesh needs to be looked at in tandem with the phenomenon of land accretion, or the creation of new 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 GHG emissions, which primarily causes 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 perused to the exclusion of disaster management, a one major calamity will destroy any so called socio-economic gains. Around 40% – 45% of GHG emissions are required to be reduced by 2020 and 90–95% 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 $200 million and cumulating around further $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 $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 $100 million of public and private finance by 2020, mostly to developing nations. The advisory group comprises high-level officials, researchers, professionals and academics, and they constantly study ways to fund this global initiative.
Another misconception is that this accord’s commitments will divert funding from poverty reduction. The private sector alone contributes more than 85% 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.
- David Braun (October 20, 2010). "Bangladesh, India Most Threatened by Climate Change, Risk Study Finds". National Geographic. Retrieved 2011-12-21.
- Sunny, Sanwar (2011). Green Buildings, Clean Transport and the Low Carbon Economy: Towards Bangladesh's Vision of a Greener Tomorrow. Germany: LAP Publishers. ISBN 978-3-8465-9333-2.
- Brammer, Hugh (2014). "Bangladesh's dynamic coastal regions and sea-level rise". Climate Risk Management.
- Joe Adkins
- Bangladesh Climate Change Trust
- Bangladesh Climate Change at National Geographic
- Climate change in Bangladesh at World Resources Institute
- Climate Change in Bangladesh at World Bank
- Climate Change in Bangladesh: Article at Scientific American
- Climate, Food and Flooding Article at NY Times
- Energy, Environment and Climate Change of Bangladesh at United Nations Development Program
- Big economies of the future - Bangladesh, India, Philippines, Vietnam and Pakistan - most at risk from climate change: Article at Maplecroft