Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to adverse climate change impacts, suffering economic losses of over $12 billion over the past 40 years.
Two-thirds of Bangladesh is less than five metres above sea level. In low-lying plains, intrusion of saltwater due to sea-level rise contributed to intensification of food insecurity, unemployed agricultural workers, and spread of water-borne diseases.
About 2.5 million people experiences shortages of drinking water and water needed for irrigation in the Southwest and Northwestern regions of Bangladesh. People in Bangladesh have a small contribution to global emissions (0.47 metric tons CO2 per capita) but are highly vulnerable due to the climate change impacts on agriculture, livelihood, water, and health sectors which push people below the poverty line with socioeconomic insecurity and leading to displacement. The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the vulnerability of climate change victims.
On August 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest assessment report titled 'Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis', commonly known as IPCC AR6. The report reads, since 2011 (measurements reported in AR5), GHG concentrations have continued to increase in the atmosphere, reaching annual averages of 410 ppm for carbon dioxide (CO2), 1866 ppb for methane (CH4), and 332 ppb for nitrous oxide (N2O) in 2019.
In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years. Global surface temperature in the first two decades of the 21st century (2001-2020) was 0.99 [0.84-1.10] °C higher than 1850-1900.
The report also reads that,
- The global mean sea level increased by 0.20 m [0.15 to 0.25] between 1901 and 2018.
- Ocean warming accounted for 91% of the heating in the climate system, with land warming, ice loss and atmospheric warming accounting for about 5%, 3% and 1%, respectively. Therefore, in the scenario analysis, it is virtually certain that the land surface will continue to warm more than the ocean surface.
- Global warming of 1.50C to 2.00 C will be exceeded during the 21st century.
- The frequency and the intensity of extreme events, such as Hot extremes, Tropical cyclones, Heavy precipitation, Marine heatwave, and Agricultural and ecological drought have increased since the 1950s.
- Over South Asia, East Asia and West Africa, increases in monsoon precipitation due to warming from GHG emissions were counteracted by decreases in monsoon precipitation due to cooling from human-caused aerosol emissions over the 20th century.
- With every increment of global warming, changes get larger in regional mean temperature, precipitation and soil moisture i.e. with small changes in global warming larger changes occur on a regional scale.
- At the global scale, extreme daily precipitation events are projected to intensify by about 7% for each 1°C of global warming (high confidence). The proportion of intense tropical cyclones (categories 4 to 5) and peak wind speeds of the most intense tropical cyclones are projected to increase at the global scale with increasing global warming.
- Monsoon precipitation is projected to increase in the mid-to long term on a global scale, particularly over South and Southeast Asia, East Asia and West Africa apart from the far west Sahel.
As per the projections, Bangladesh will face increased flooding in the floodplain due to heavy precipitation, intensified tropical cyclones, increased unplanned urbanisation and growth of cities, increased aridity due to soil and groundwater depletion due to the decrease in mean rainfall, and coastal flooding as a result of sea-level rise.
This year the 26thUN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is going to be held in Glasgow, Scotland where the released report comes as a simple reminder that the countries need action driven by science.
Now, it is the time for the world leaders, the private sectors, non-governmental sectors and individuals to act together with urgency and do everything it takes to protect our planet and our future in this decade and beyond.
Considering the predictions, the IPCC has made for the region, the country needs to hit the planning board immediately to develop effective climate mitigation and adaptation techniques.
Bangladesh has already set an example of tackling climate change through its different climatic actions including adaptation and mitigation. Also, the government has been playing a very important role in international negotiations and discussions by raising voices and concerns of the most vulnerable countries.
This year in Glasgow, the government of Bangladesh is also aiming to sensitise the global leadership in taking the appropriate climate actions in the aftermath of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Brac is also closely working with the government of Bangladesh to minimise the risk of climate change in the current crisis of the pandemic.
Following the earlier projections of IPCC, Brac has taken a number of initiatives including building the resilience of the communities living in low-lying areas through developing extreme event tolerant infrastructures, promoting rainwater harvesting systems as an adaptation tool, climate-smart agriculture and large-scale afforestation in the hot spots.
However, the latest report indicates that the precautions we have taken are not enough and we have to move faster in a deliberate way to save the communities which are at risk.
Also if we want to achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the collaboration of the government and non-government sector is a must to reach the community those who are outmost need right now. Simultaneously, the knowledge of local people has to be taken into consideration while taking adaptation measures.
The writer is the Director, Climate Change Programme, Brac and Brac International. He can be reached @ [email protected]