Page 13 - Respond 2018 Magazine
P. 13


          to defend these homes may be more pertinent than the
          technical accuracy of measuring equipment.

          Veteran Bangladeshi climate researcher Ahsan Uddin
          Ahmed is sceptical of mass migration predictions. Accepting
          that salinity is going to push northwards and some crops will
          become unviable, he nonetheless places great faith in the
          capacity of Bangladeshis to adapt.

          “Salinity is no longer a hopeless scenario,” he tells Climate
          Home from the office in his Dhaka apartment, expounding
          knowledgeably on mango orchards, pond sand filters and
          capillary action. “Through innovation and research, the tide
          has been diverted in a different direction.”

          The government is adding 30cm to the height of
          embankments, he says: “There is no reason we would not
          be able to match up with the gradually rising sea level. Our
          economy will allow further protection.”

          The experience of communities like Kolbari and Gabura
          shows the fragility of such gains. For all their ingenuity
          adopting shrimp cultivation, a tropical storm dealt a huge
          setback. At category one, Aila was not even an exceptionally
          strong cyclone.

          And traditional defences may be counterproductive. The
          levee that was supposed to protect Gabura became a
          liability when the floodwater got in and could not get out

          A 2015 study concluded that embankments do more harm
          than good, causing the land to subside.
                                                               But if the medium-term prognosis is not as clear-cut as
          Recovering from such crises is putting a drag on     official rhetoric implies, the ultimate destination of human-
          Bangladesh’s economic growth, with the Asian Development   caused global warming is sobering.
          Bank forecasting annual climate losses by 2050 will amount
          to 2% of GDP.                                        Surging Seas’ “seeing choices” interactive shows that 2C
                                                               temperature rise – the upper limit countries have agreed
          But none of these vulnerabilities, real as they are, lead   to try and stay below – is consistent with 4.7m of sea level
          inevitably to migration.                             rise. That turns most of southwestern Bangladesh – and the
                                                               city of Chittagong in the east – blue on the map. Unchecked
          Alex Randall, migration expert at UK-based NGO Climate   pollution locks in sea level rise that ultimately swamps
          Outreach, argues it is futile to try and quantify climate   half the country, including its three biggest cities: Dhaka,
          migration. “Large numbers of people are already moving   Chittagong and Khulna. The timescale for this could be
          from rural areas in Bangladesh into cities. It makes more   anywhere from 200 to 2,000 years.
          sense to see climate change as a force that adds to this
          existing trend, rather than trying to pick out a number of   “It is very plausible that the amount of carbon we put in the
          people who will move because of climate change,” he says.  atmosphere between today and 2050 will determine whether
                                                               Bangladesh can even exist in the far future,” says Strauss.
          In some cases, climate impacts may even prevent people   “Our emissions pathway does not make a big difference
          moving, he adds, as they become too poor to make the   for mid-century sea level rise. It makes a consequential
          leap. “The ways in which climate change will re-shape   difference by the end of the century and it makes an
          patterns of rural to urban migration in Bangladesh are not   existential difference after that for Bangladesh.”

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