Land and life are closely entwined in Bangladesh. Over 80 per cent of the country's 115 million people live in the rural sector. The land area of 148,393km2 is mainly the deltaic plains of the Ganges and Brahmaputra River systems. The prevailing climate is monsoonal, and the dominantly agricultural economy is attuned to its wet and dry seasons.
Lands are frequently flooded by heavy rains, over-full river channels, and sea surges associated with cyclones. Disasters are relatively common. Changes in climate in Bangladesh could, therefore, have serious implications for local economies and human welfare. This is the theme that is explored in this chapter.
The main relationships between society and climate are identified so that the impacts of a changing climate, especially natural hazards, might have on society can be appraised. Understanding of the main relationships between society and climate will help assess the socio-economic vulnerability or resiliency of the country should it in future experience a period of rapid climate change.
This theme is explored through four main questions: How does the current climate affect Bangladesh society and economy? What societal trends may influence the vulnerability of Bangladesh to changes in climate? What are the possible socio-economic impacts of climate change on Bangladesh in future? Urban areas have unique characteristics that render their residents and assets particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Many large urban centers are located along coasts or in low-lying areas around the mouths of major rivers, placing economic capital and human populations at risk of climate-related hazards including sea level rise and flooding from severe precipitation.
Recent literature illustrates the economic and social challenges facing cities around the world as a result of climate change including energy shortages, damaged infrastructure, increasing losses to industry, heat-related mortality and illness, and scarcity of food and water. These challenges are interrelated.
Economic losses make it difficult for residents to maintain their livelihoods and can therefore exacerbate social issues including poverty and hunger. At the same time, some demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of cities can make them especially vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Bangladesh should place emphasis on capacity building and disaster management, institutional and infrastructure strengthening, development of research and low carbon technologies in order to create an inclusive and truly comprehensive mitigation scheme.
Governments should develop national action plans on climate change adaptation and to allocate fixed proportion of national budgets to check on the effects of climate. Engagement in constructive debate on the issues of technology and production transfer should be encouraged.
Many of the worst climate impacts could still be avoided by holding warming below 2°C, and urgent action is needed to build resilience through economic development to risks to agriculture, water resources and coastal infrastructure.
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.
Bangladesh would need to prepare for long-term adaptation strategy and it is necessary to identify all present vulnerabilities and future opportunities, adjusting priorities and trade policies in the agricultural sector while promoting training and education throughout the masses in all possible spheres.
The writer is a poet and columnist
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