Bangladesh – a postcard of climate change injustice

Climate Change is about as unfair as it is inequitable. All too often we see that those suffering the most severe climatic impacts are those that have contributed the least to the climate change problem, and have the least resources to adapt and cope. This issue has been termed ‘Climate Justice’.

One could say that the issue of Climate Change Injustice is most prevalent in Bangladesh, which has been identified as one of the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of a changing climate. The poor, and particularly Women, are the most vulnerable, since they live in the most climatically-vulnerable areas, and are heavily dependent on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods and income, and they lack the financial resources to adapt and cope with these harsh climatic challenges.

The harsh impacts of climate change are already apparent in Bangladesh. More intense and more frequent cyclones, storm surges, flooding, drought, erosion, and changes in river flows frequently culminate in devastation around the country. Sea level rise alone is estimated to claim 17% of Bangladesh by 2050, forcing approximately 20 million people to relocate. These climatic changes will have far-reaching adverse implications for food security, agriculture, water resources, poverty, biodiversity, health and infrastructure. Although Bangladesh has been making good progress to meet its economic development and poverty alleviation goals, 40% of the population still live below the poverty line and 62% of households lack access to sanitation. Thus, climate change is compounding the existing problems of overpopulation, poverty, pollution, lack of access to potable water, and poor health care and infrastructure.

In the capital of Dhaka, these climatic pressures are evident from the increasing vast number of climate refugees migrating from rural areas. Every year, approximately 400,000 new migrants enter this already massively overpopulated and extremely polluted city. Dhaka is the fastest-growing megacity in the world, and by 2050 the population is projected to reach a whopping 40 million. The vast majority of these new migrants move to Dhaka’s extensive slums and shantytowns, which account for almost half of the cities total population. Although most of these climate refugees plan on returning to their rural homes, more than 90% of slum residents never leave because they cannot save enough money to move.

Despite these challenges, the people of Bangladesh continue to smile and go about their daily lives. They are seasoned to cope with climatic challenges and try to remain optimistic, however, deep down they are truly concerned about their future, and are calling on the world to take action on mitigating climate change. Although we are starting to see more adaptation projects, NGOs and funding trickling into Bangladesh, we have undoubtedly seen a complete lack of international dedication towards the emissions reductions required to halt climate change, particularly by the most carbon-polluting industrialised nations. However, the reality is that in a ‘Business as Usual’ scenario the future looks grim.

We can only hope that these stories of climate change injustice in Bangladesh can create a sense of urgency for the world to unite to mitigate climate change… after all, we are all one people with one shared future.

……Bangladeshis per capita carbon footprint remain amongst the lowest in the world.

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