POST TIME: 29 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 29 March, 2018 12:27:14 AM
Climate change resilience in Bangladesh and South Asia
Considering all the problems, developed countries should constantly stand by Bangladesh in its effort to build all kinds of infrastructure for helping the rootless people

Climate change resilience in Bangladesh and South Asia

The worst impacts of climate change made Bangladesh, and other South Asian countries including the countries of Himalayan Hindu Kush region vulnerable in many ways. In fact, climate change has changed the way of living, even the lifestyles of the people of the vulnerable countries. As a result, people are confused to decide, for example, what should be the climate resilient efforts. Climate change poses significant risks to our economies, politics, communities, national and global perspectives, and the natural environment.

In reality, climate change has pushed the world back to its problematic situation. The health, agriculture, water, food, lives and livelihoods and the seasonal patterns have changed and made our future unpredictable.  Right now it’s a daunting task in many parts of the world, and the results of failures are easy to see: more hunger and poverty, more flooded homes, families migrating to survive, girls forced into early/ child marriage as their families struggle to make ends meet. Moreover, climate change is not only an environmental issue. It encompasses everything. For many reasons, climate change is a development issue, a human rights issue, a political issue, and a social issue as well.

Experts observed that climate resilience might come down to three things: the ability to adapt to changes, anticipate what might happen next and absorb shocks when they do come along. Efforts to build resilience to climate impacts, from more frequent droughts and stronger storms, to creeping sea-level rise and failed harvests, aim to ensure families, communities and governments can manage and bounce back from them. Make sure communities and countries work to adapt to changing conditions, anticipate shocks and build up capacity to recover.

Climate change poses a great challenge to society, with urgent responses needed that contribute to building resilience and developing adaptation. Building resilience first requires an understanding for the ways, in which the term is understood and articulated by diverse actors in a given situation. In resilience frameworks, key elements have been described for building resilience in the context of a changing climate. We should address the gaps, and to explore how resilience theory can be applied and articulated into practice through the participatory approaches as a means to incorporate and ‘co-produce’ knowledge. Given the scale and complexity of building resilience to climate change, responses require active participation from governments, citizens, scientists, and private sectors.

Resilience means moving from theory to practice through co-production of knowledge.  The general idea of resilience given by the experts refers to the ‘capacity’ of a ‘system’ ‘to recover’ from ‘disturbance’ in order ‘to return to an initial state’. Resilience and its diversity in meanings and understanding gave us an opportunity for co-producing knowledge, fulfilling the demand for the opening up of knowledge systems, with an intensification of relationship and collaboration between science and other actors. And an academic practice more oriented toward society. We find that it is relevant and pertinent to develop co-production processes in the context of resilience to climate change. At least it allows us to communicate resilience from contextualised realities and languages, facilitating the engagement and trust of stakeholders, and establishing the legitimacy of the process.

Nepal-based think tank, intergovernmental knowledge organization, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) organized an international conference in first week of December 2017 on building resilience. Director General of ICIMOD Dr. David Molden talked at the conference about the role of a resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) in the future of a sustainable Asia. Fortunately, I was a participant of that event. Dr. David said, “The Hindu Kush Himalayas provide water, cultural heritage, and livelihoods to more than 210 million people. The region is also a source of water for more than 1.3 billion people living in downstream river basins. Climate change and other changes have already begun to impact ecosystems and communities across the region, and traditional adaptation techniques, which have supported people in mountain areas for centuries, are no longer able to keep up with the rapid pace of change.”  Mountain characteristics like inaccessibility, fragility, niche, and marginally require that we identify specific solutions that address socio-economic and environmental challenges in the mountain context. In order to strengthen mountain communities’ resilience to change, it is crucial to find sustainable solutions that emerge from the latest scientific knowledge and people’s good practices based on their own knowledge, Dr. David added.

To prevent future loss of lives and livelihoods, continuing to invest in risk reduction, is important to build the ‘adaptive capacity’ of individuals and societies to reduce the impact of future hazards. Communities also are working to anticipate shocks better in many parts of the world, through things like early warning systems and more accurate forecasts, created for districts rather than just states or regions, and passed on to farmers through simple technology, such as mobile phones. Sometimes just making people more aware of the growing risk of shocks, and that something can be done to prepare is a key step.

When shocks do come, plenty of things can help communities survive and manage: savings accounts, remittances, insurance that pays out based on weather triggers, and government welfare safety nets, among others.  All aim to prevent people falling into a worsening spiral of poverty when they are forced to sell livestock or land, or take children out of school to survive. Making sure women, minorities and others whose important voices may have been ignored become part of decision making.

Women and climate change resilience

Women should be the key to resilience. Women carry the traditional/ indigenous knowledge on climate change adaptation, and resilience. But unfortunately, women suffer most due to worst impacts of climate change, and any disaster.

Research shows that 80 percent of people who have been displaced by climate change are women. Long droughts place greater demands on rural women to support their families and communities, as men move closer to urban areas for work. Women's vulnerability to environmental challenges is compounded by existing social and economic disparities that sudden catastrophic events help magnify. Much as climate change is accelerated by human behaviours, the impact of weather and climate events is influenced by societal structure. Disasters do not affect all people equally.

Experts observed to call for greater awareness of the burden women already bear in adapting to the changing world. For instance, the resource shortages caused by climate change force women and girls to spend more time searching for water and fuel than they do earning income or studying. When the effects of climate change don't present themselves as emergencies that grab our attention on the evening news, but rather as slow-onset changes in landscapes and livelihoods, the most severe social consequences are for women and girls.

Progress on environmental problems can be achieved without simultaneously addressing the general inequalities experienced by women worldwide. There is need for proper planning and monitoring of projects means to adapt and mitigate climate change effects in the country in order to ensure intended results. States must contribute to the promotion of transparency, accountability and good governance in climate change finance. It should evaluate awareness of citizens on different aspects of climate change, status of renewable energy projects from a beneficiaries’ perspective, level of transparency, accountability and participation in the management of climate change funds.

Not everyone’s circumstances are equal, though, and climate change resilience varies widely from place to place. It depends how exposed and sensitive each place is, and how well it can both prepare for the climate event and deal with it afterwards. In theory, building resilience is touted as one way to deal with climate change impacts. However, in practice, there is a need to examine how contexts influence the capacity of building resilience.

Climate change mitigation

Mitigation is action taken to reduce activities that are the human-induced causes of climate change. These activities include burning fossil fuels, deforestation and livestock farming, all of which increase concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. By taking measures to reduce emissions of GHG, or remove them from the atmosphere via forest planting or underground storage, for example, individuals and institutions can mitigate climate change.

Mitigation has policy implications for the major sectors of the economy: energy, transport, construction, industry, agriculture, forestry and waste management. To mitigate their activities, these sectors have several options. For example, they can use renewable energy instead of fossil fuels to reduce the amount of GHG released into the atmosphere. Or they can use energy efficient lighting and electrical appliances to reduce their energy consumption. Permits and incentives are a useful way of encouraging this kind of mitigating behaviour.

The benefits of these mitigation actions, aside from the global benefit of reduced GHG emissions, include improved air quality, reduced health costs, increased energy efficiency, and better energy security.

Success depends on global cooperation. Many developing countries do not want to be denied the opportunities that have previously benefited their more industrialised neighbours. They argue for compensation in mitigating climate change.

Climate change mitigation and adaptation are not mutually exclusive but are key partners in any strategy to combat climate change. As effective mitigation can restrict climate change and its impacts, it can also reduce the level of adaptation required by communities and nations.

Climate change adaptation and resilience in South Asia

Climate change adaptation is a response to global warming and climate change, that seeks to reduce the vulnerability of social and biological systems to relatively sudden change and thus offset the effects of global warming. The UNFCCC defines it as actions taken to help communities and ecosystems cope with changing climate condition. The IPCC describes it as adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.

Regardless of international efforts to mitigate climate change, communities throughout South Asia need to adapt to changing environmental conditions. These communities include millions of people who are vulnerable to climate change due to the geographic characteristics of where do they live, the seasonally dependent nature of their livelihoods, and a high prevalence of extreme poverty.

I had the opportunity to attend the COP 22 event of UNFCCC in Marrakesh, Morocco in November 2016. The climate summit in Marrakesh has given, according to the expert, “go ahead” on developing the “rule-book” for the Paris Agreement, including the global adaptation goal, adaptation communication systems, and finance assessment systems for building resilience. In Asia, Bangladesh ranks third after Myanmar, Philippines and is followed by Pakistan, Vietnam and Thailand.  According to Global Climate Risk Index 2017’ estimates nearly 11,000 extreme weather events occurred between 1996 and 2015,  which caused over 528,000 deaths worldwide, resulting in around US$3.08 trillion in associated financial loss.

At the international conference on resilience at ICIMOD Nepal in December 2017, regarding committing to resilience-building solutions, mapping the way forward, Nand Kishor Agrawal, a climate change adaptation and resilience expert of ICIMOD Nepal talked about it. Nand Kishor said, “In the next few years, actions on commitments by global leaders as part of several important conventions, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Sendai Framework, will determine the future of sustainable development, climate change and resilience building.”  Appropriate policies and actions in the mountains are generally not on the main agenda of global discourse but they are crucial to achieving global goals. In order to strengthen efforts to position the mountains as a key concern in the global agenda, it is crucial that actors in mountain regions make their voices heard. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to understand change and raise awareness on resilience from a mountain perspective, to develop options and opportunities for developing resilience building solutions for the Hindu Kush Himalaya, and to foster partnerships for action by linking global processes and strengthening regional cooperation, Nand Kishor opined.  

Climate change vulnerability status of Bangladesh

Bangladesh ranked sixth among the world’s top 10 countries most affected by extreme weather events in the last 20 years, according to the Global Climate Risk Index by the think-tank German watch. On an average, a total of 679.05 people died in 185 climatic events in Bangladesh within the period of 1996 to 2015. As a result, the country lost 0.7324 percent of its GDP. The annually published Global Climate Risk Index analyses to what extent countries have been affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (e.g. storms, floods, heat waves). Bangladesh sits at the head of the Bay of Bengal. The sea surface temperatures have seen a marked rise over the years. Scientists estimate the climate change in Bangladesh could lead to one of the largest mass migrations in human history.  Bangladesh is considered one of the countries at risk to the effects of climate change; and the coastal area is most vulnerable. Climate change is perhaps the most widely discussed issue among the recent global environmental changes and research studies show that it links to natural disasters affect the social and economic wellbeing of populations. Climate change is happening at both global and local levels and would lead to adverse impacts. Agricultural production, population health, and natural ecology had already been affected by climate change in their justification with more extreme weather events.

Coastal population financial life has been affected by climate change and due to a lack of job opportunities, to maintain the household expenses, some of the families and in some cases the heads of the households are leaving the village and migrating to different cities. The impact of climate change will be felt by different parts of the world and by different people. Poor countries like Bangladesh are going to be worst hit.

According to the fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations, climate change fallout for Bangladesh is very gloomy. The pace with which at present the sea level is rising, by the year 2050, 35 to 50 million people would become climate change refugees in this country alone. The ice of Greenland and Antarctica is melting faster than any other time at present. Besides displacing this huge number of people, by that time, green house emission would also cause temperature to increase by 5 to 7 degree Celsius.

In the South Asian region, countries like Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka among others are also becoming victims of climate change. And the scourge that Bangladesh is facing, is greater than other countries. Considering all the problems, developed countries should constantly stand by Bangladesh in its effort to build all kinds of infrastructure for helping the rootless people who have already lost their belongings to super cyclones. These cyclones have already created a great number of internal climate change refugees. Regional cooperation of South Asian countries and the Hindu Kush Himalaya is urgently required to build climate change resilience.

The writer is an independent journalist

Email: parvezbabul@gmail.com