The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) successive reports are the most valued evidence of climate change’s drastic impacts on society, economy, and the natural system. These reports have served to alert laymen and policymakers alike about the changes the world has witnessed over the years and will witness in the future.
IPCC reports gather information from three working groups. Working group (WG) I is associated with physical science and understands the evolution of climate change. WG II is concerned with the impacts of climate change; including vulnerabilities and possible adaptation methods. WG III, meanwhile, focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Since 1990, five assessment reports have been published by IPCC and the sixth is yet to come. The first and second IPCC Assessment reports focused on emphasising the impacts of climate change.
They played a huge role in creating the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), highlighting the risk to lowlanders’ and convincing nations to adopt the Kyoto Protocol.
However, the “call to action” was fairly weak during the third assessment report. The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 2005, achieved its main requirements, primarily by setting binding targets for the countries responsible for 55% of the world’s total CO2 emission.
Nevertheless, the fourth and the fifth report was much stronger, and portrayed the need for adaptation in countries like Bangladesh while limiting global warming to 1.5°C. The sixth assessment report from the WG I was published in August 2021.
It clearly stated that human activities have definitely raised the global temperature by over 1°C. Human induced climate change has resulted in more frequent and more intense extreme weather events like floods, cyclones, wildfire, and heat waves. It also called for urgent action.
Bangladesh, being a nano emitter, is particularly concerned about the upcoming AR6 WGII reports, since; a slight rise above 1.5°C will lead to dire circumstances for the country, which is already bearing the most tragic aftermath of climate change.
Additionally, it was recently recorded that the mean temperature of the country is rising at a rate of 0.2°C per decade. Experts also highlighted an increase in annual rainfall which had been observed since 2011.
Two-third of the country being less than 15 feet above the sea level makes Bangladesh one of the most vulnerables to rapid sea-level rise. Extrapolation of present data has allowed scientists to estimate that by 2050, one in every seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced due to climate change impacts, resulting in 18 million climate migrants.
However, migration and loss of land is one of many effects a rising sea-level can have. Salinisation is one such effect. In the last 35 years salinity has increased by 26%, heavily impacting the agriculture sector.
Increasing salinity also raises drinking water scarcity in coastal areas. Around 10 million people are forced to consume saline water, leading to increased health problems such as cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
Bangladesh ranks as the 7th most vulnerable country to climate change and has received significant attention in the last IPCC reports including the AR6 WG I report. However, in the upcoming AR6 WGII report the country must receive attention for its remarkable progress in achieving resilience.
In the last fifty years Bangladesh has moved from being vulnerable to being resilient and now uncountable success stories in climate change adaptation, claiming the title of “Global Leaders in Adaptation.”
We expect the AR6 WGII reports to be the most comprehensive version portraying us as an adaptation role model. One such example is the reduced number of deaths caused by cyclones.
As a result of an increasing number of cyclone shelters and improved early warning systems, deaths have been reduced by 100 fold in the last 50 years. The country now has more than 14,000 shelters, capable of holding 2.4 million people.
Despite being the adaptation leader, we still have room to improve. Although the increased number of cyclone shelters has reduced deaths over the past few years; Bangladesh still lacks policies to address loss and damage generated after cyclone or any other climate change induced disasters.
Embankments, a crucial part of the adaptation plans, often are ineffective when it comes to flood control. The country promoted conversion of agricultural lands into commercial shrimp aquaculture as an adaptation practice caused by increased salinity during the 1990s.
With the support of the government and NGOs, shrimp farming has increased tenfold as Bangladesh once were the second largest exporter of shrimp. Unfortunately, the economic benefits of this sector are solely gained by the rich farmers, while the small farmers suffer.
Additionally, conversion of agricultural lands has increased salinity in soil, destroyed local ecosystems, and impacted freshwater fishes. Other challenges include gender disparity which is already a pre-existing issue in the country.
Freshwater scarcity often forces women and adolescent girls to use salt water during menstruation leading to multiple health hazards. Reports also highlighted an increasing rate of (pre)eclampsia and gestational hypertension in pregnant women of coastal areas, as they are more prone to drink saline water.
Therefore, Bangladesh desperately needs new transformative adaptation measures which will be integrated in local and national policies and will benefit communities at all levels.
Regardless of all the challenges, the Bangladeshi government, along with NGOs, has made significant progress in achieving resilience and addressing gender disparity in climate vulnerable communities. It is now in a journey to achieve prosperity.
The country has also moved towards nature-based solutions and local adaptive measures. It is not afraid to deviate from traditional adaptive measures and is not hesitant about sharing its mistakes in this adaptation journey. Countries going through the same phase should definitely take notes in order to avoid such mistakes.
Thus, Bangladesh now can be introduced as a country bearing dual identities; first as one of the most vulnerable entities and second as adaptation champion.
Originally this article was published on 28 February, 2022 at THE BUSINESS STANDARD .
About The Authors
Dr. Saleemul Huq is the Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB). Email: [email protected]
Md. Bodrud-Doza is the Manager at the ICCCAD at IUB. Email: [email protected]
Khandker Tarin Tahsin is a Junior Research Officer at the ICCCAD at IUB. Email: [email protected]