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Climate gnaws at Bangladesh: Latest WB report portrays grim future amidst extreme weather

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Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013

Staff Correspondent


Many are still living on the embankment along the Shibsa river at Jaulakhali of Dacope upazila in Khulna. They moved here after Aila hit the area in May 2009 but could not go back, as the cyclone had washed away their homes. People in the southern region are the worst victims of climate change in the country. Photo: Pinaki Roy



Bangladesh will become one of the worst-affected South Asian countries due to global warming, says the World Bank. With rising sea levels, extreme heat, and more intense cyclones threatening food production, livelihoods and infrastructure, the warming climate will also slow poverty alleviation, says the global lender.

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics prepared a scientific report for the bank that was released yesterday. It forecasts a two degrees Celsius rise in the world’s average temperature in the next decades.

“Bangladesh faces particularly severe challenges with climate change threatening its impressive progress in overcoming poverty,” Johannes Zutt, World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Nepal, said in a statement.

The report cited Bangladesh as one of more “potential impact hotspots” threatened by “extreme floods, more intense tropical cyclones, rising sea levels and very high temperatures”.
Cyclone Sidr, which struck the country in 2006, exposed 3.45 million households to inundation. The report says in 2050 as many as 9.7 million people could be inundated by three metres of water if such a storm strikes.

Considering the present warming trends, the report warns that even 20 to 30 years from now shifting rain patterns could leave some areas under water and others without enough water for power generation, irrigation or even drinking. South Asia is already experiencing a warming climate, it notes further.

The report looks at the likely impacts on agricultural production, water resources, coastal ecosystems and cities across South Asia by the present day increased temperature (0.8 degree Celsius), and a possible two-degree Celsius and a four-degree Celsius increase. The report projects that the consequences for South Asia will be even worse if the global average temperature increases by four degrees Celsius by 2090.

In that scenario, which is likely unless action is taken now, South Asia will suffer more extreme droughts and floods, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and declines in food production. Flood affected areas could increase by as much as 29 percent for a 2.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise in Bangladesh, says the report.

The report notes the impacts of progressive global warming would be the hardest on the poor and poor harvest and associated income loss from agriculture will continue the trend of migration from rural to urban areas. If the sea level rises 65cm in 2080, around 40 percent arable land will be lost in southern Bangladesh, the World Bank has said in a news release.

It notes about 20 million people in the coastal areas arre affected by salinity in drinking water and rising sea levels; and more intense cyclones and storm surges could intensify the contamination of groundwater and surface water, causing more diarrhoea outbreaks. “In South Asia, it is urgent to do prevention work, some of which is already happening,” said Isabel Guerrero, World Bank vice-president for South Asia.

“Bangladesh is at the forefront. We have projects and a large multi-donor fund that works on having early warning systems for floods and embankments when there are floods to protect crops and fields and to prevent destruction of the urban infrastructure … it is very important that the countries in the region have a voice in the global conversation about climate change.”

Many of the worst climate change impacts can be avoided by keeping the warming below the two degrees Celsius but the window for action is narrowing rapidly, the World Bank says. It has stressed the need for urgent action to build resilience through economic development and addressing risks to agriculture, water resources, coastal infrastructure and health.

“This new report outlines an alarming scenario for the days and years ahead — what we could face in our lifetime,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “The scientists tell us that if the world warms by 2°C — warming which may be reached in 20 to 30 years — that will cause widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat waves, and more intense cyclones. In the near-term, climate change, which is already unfolding, could batter the slums even more and greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the Earth’s temperature.

“These changes forecast for the tropics illustrate the level of hardships that will be inflicted on all regions eventually, if we fail to keep warming under control,” Kim said. “Urgent action is needed to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to help countries prepare for a world of dramatic climate and weather extremes,” he added.



Source: thedailystar




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