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Climate Change: Future risk and vulnerabilities

17 November 2022


Prof Dr Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder :
Climate change is not a recent phenomenon. Warmer temperatures are changing weather patterns and disrupting nature's normal balance. This poses numerous dangers to humans and all other forms of life on Earth. The effects of climate change have become more acute in Bangladesh. It has experienced some of the strongest storms ever recorded, major flooding, and property losses over the last decade. Unfortunately, the country is already experiencing the worst effects of climate change, and these extreme weather events will only worsen without action. Now the effects of climate change in Bangladesh with the eighth-largest population in the world are being felt heavily. This may have serious consequences for the rest of the world, ranging from problems with economic growth to severe social unrest. On the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR), every person and government is asked to take part in building more disaster-resistant communities and nations. The United Nations General Assembly designated October 13 as the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction as part of its declaration of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR). The Sendai Framework's Target G, which significantly increases the availability and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments for people by 2030, will be the focus of the 2022 International Day.
Bangladesh is the innocent victim of climate change
Several hydro-geological and socioeconomic factors contribute to this, including Bangladesh's location in South Asia, its flat deltaic topography with very low elevation, and its extreme climate variability caused by the monsoon, which results in acute water distribution over space and time. Its high population density and poverty incidence, and the fact that the majority of its population is dependent on crop agriculture, which is highly vulnerable to climate change. All of these factors contribute to the country's high vulnerability to climate change. Over the years, Bangladesh's relationship with powerful storms from the Bay of Bengal has left a path of devastation and death. At least 31 people died as a result of Cyclone Amphan (May 20, 2020), an exceptionally strong cyclonic storm that also devastated at least 1,76,007 hectares of agricultural land in 17 coastal districts. In Khulna, it also completely or partially destroyed 83,560 establishments. Although Bangladesh will be at the forefront of these global challenges, the nation does not contribute much to the world's carbon emissions. According to Our World in Data's Bangladesh country profile, Bangladesh generates 0.56 tons of CO2 per person, compared to 15.52 tons in the US and 7.38 tons in China. This is viewed by many as a climate injustice. Cases like these are among the key justifications given by developing nations for their demand that rich nations support their attempts to shift to clean energy. The threat posed by climate change and its effects is already evident, notwithstanding the energy shift that is now taking place.
Future risk and vulnerabilities
As climate change intensifies, these effects will become more prominent. According to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of Working Group II (WGII) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate-related disasters caused the loss of almost 850,000 families and 250,000 hectares of agricultural land; this led to crop failure, which raised the price of rice by 30 per cent between 2014 and 2021. Bangladesh's average elevation is less than 10 meters above sea level, which makes the country more vulnerable to sea-level rise and the increased frequency and strength of extreme weather events like tropical cyclones caused by climate change. More rain, strong winds, and storm surges are the primary dangers posed by this type of cyclone. The predicted sea level rise is linked to groundwater pollution, a lack of fresh water, a decline in biodiversity, a decline in aquaculture, and frequent floods. Flooding occurs every year already, and experts believe that during the next century, rainfall will rise by 10 to 15 per cent. For instance, in July 2021, floods affected more than 25 per cent of Bangladesh. About 4.7 million individuals and at least a million households were impacted by this. The Sundarbans, which include the biggest mangrove forest in the world and are home to around 26 million people, are at risk from rising groundwater salinity. Additionally, IPCC (AR6) studies showed that salinity and arsenic pollution are more common in the Indo-Gangetic Basin than depletion. With changes in land use, decreased stream flows, and higher storm surge flooding, the salinity rate will continue to rise. It also highlighted note of the fact that deltas, which are subject to both riverine and coastal inundations, are particularly susceptible to floods.
Economic and non-economic loss and damage
Bangladesh was mentioned 430 times in total in AR6 of WGII. The most overlooked but crucial ecosystem function in the nation the coral reef was another area of emphasis for the IPCC. The sole coral reef island in Bangladesh is St. Martin Island, which generates $ 33.6 million for the region's economy annually. In, the southern region of the nation, cyclones, floods, riverbank erosion, saline intrusion, and drought have also led to agricultural failure, changes in the composition of fish species, demolished homes, and less alternatives for a living. Non-economic loss and damage include the following categories: loss of life, loss of ecosystem services, loss of psychological well-being, health effects, and cultural loss. These categories are rarely measurable. Additionally, the post-disaster scenario for the towns is further complicated by the regular infiltration of salty water from storm surges onto embankments, roadways, culverts, and shrimp farms these are severely impacted by climate change and will significantly increase if we do not make a sustainable world.  
Bangladesh must make sure that its response to climate change is disaster-resistant and sustainable for the future. The 11th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is sustainable cities and communities. To achieve this goal, we need to build a resilience disaster plan to save our cities and communities. Now, climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction are the needs of the hour. The IDNDR is a great opportunity to spread the message and raise awareness about the importance of future risk reduction and resilience disaster planning for climate change. Early warning systems, cyclone shelter construction, embankment construction, and polder construction were originally used in Bangladesh as possibilities for coastal adaptation. Given its sensitivity, Bangladesh has taken a variety of steps to adapt to climate change. The government has changed its usual course of rapid "response and alleviation" to one that is more comprehensive and long-term called disaster risk reduction or DRR. Although it provided immediate relief to the residents, one adaptation strategy involved converting harvestable land to shrimp cultivation ponds. However, this practice was viewed as a poor adaptation because of the long-term effects it had on the community, economy, and environment. The availability of funding for resettlement, handling the relocation of communally owned lands, dealing with climate-induced migration, and handling loss and damage claims are additional problems for Bangladesh. A national education strategy should be followed in the case of a climate emergency to ensure that education can continue in areas prone to disaster. UNICEF aims to enhance district-level cooperation for preparedness and response. It's high time we must act to make the world sustainable.

(The writer is the Dean at the Faculty of Science, Chairman of Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh, Joint Secretary at Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon and Chairman at Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies).

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