• Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022
  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

The battle for half a degree

  • Published at 07:03 pm May 22nd, 2017
  • Last updated at 05:34 pm May 23rd, 2017
The battle for half a degree

The World Economic Forum has persistently pointed out “climate change” as one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century.

The primary human activity affecting the amount and rate of climate change is greenhouse gas emissions, which increases the greenhouse effect and causes Earth’s surface temperature to rise.

Given the fact that Earth’s average land temperature has warmed nearly 1 degree Celsius in the past 50 years as a result of human activity, global greenhouse gas emissions have grown by nearly 80% since 1970, and atmospheric concentrations of the major greenhouse gases are at their highest level in 800,000 years, it’s no surprise that curbing the alarmingly rising temperature is the most important and best possible way to reduce and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

To strongly respond to the risks of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5C, the Paris Agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016.

The Bangladesh scenario

Vulnerable countries including Bangladesh strongly urged to set a 1.5C target instead of 2C because “2C goal being backed by all major blocs would seal the fate of hundreds of millions of people in countries like Bangladesh, the Philippines, Sudan, and Vietnam,” Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) declared.

Though Bangladesh has negligible share in total (0.4%) and per capita emission, it is one of the victims of the consequences. Its struggle is with both adverse impacts of climate change and the major blocs emitting large shares of emissions to keep the temperature below 1.5C.

With average temperatures in summer already rising above 33C, the “once in a thousand days” hot weather will be double for 2C than that for 1.5C, according to Erich Fischer’s study.

Bangladesh has been affected by different climatic problems already. It has suffered 170 large scale disasters between 1970 and 1998. The frequency of flooding is increasing, with catastrophic floods occurring more regularly.

If global warming continues and temperature crosses the ceiling of 1.5C, the situation will be more cataclysmic. Analysis of Carl-Friedrich Schleussner suggests that heat wave (warm spell) duration will be up to two months at 1.5C or up to three months at 2C in tropical regions, heavy precipitation intensity will be 7% and 10% in South Asia, and global sea-level rise will be 40cm and 50cm -- for 1.5C and 2C, respectively, by 2100.

Impacts from 1.5C rise could be manageable for Bangladesh with comprehensive plans and actions, but 2C rise will be out of control for Bangladesh, even for the world

Those changes will affect Bangladesh and the 0.5C temperature increase will make the impacts more severe. Bangladesh will initially lose its suitable weather due to the rise in heat wave duration.

Side effects

This effect will produce more side effects on agriculture, water resource, people, etc. Farming seasons will be altered and farmers will be affected by crop damage, low productivity, higher cost for additional irrigation, etc.

Again, extreme heat will call the disastrous storms and cyclones which will harm people, crops, trees, etc. 3% more heavy precipitation intensity in monsoon will cause more water-logging and floods; 10cm additional sea level rise will make the situation grimmer.

More areas will be affected and the intensity of weather calamities will increase.

Sea level rising will cause salinity intrusion and destroy the fresh water ecosystem. Salinity of soil will harm the agriculture and forestry.

Moreover, simultaneous and/or combined impacts can cause even greater damage.

Displacement of coastal people is the most crucial effect of climate change. According to Affan Chowdhry and TuThanh Ha, sea levels could rise to submerge land currently home to 12.5 million people in Bangladesh for 2C temperature rise, while the figure could be 3.6 million for 1.5C temperature rise.

What a difference

It clearly shows the difference an additional 0.5C could make. In short, impacts from 1.5C rise could be manageable for Bangladesh with comprehensive plans and actions, but 2C rise will be out of control for Bangladesh, even for the world.

Bangladesh has emphasised on own emission controlling to limit temperature rise. It will save its own environment and also contribute to the global action for confronting climate change.

It will develop the moral ground for advocacy campaign against emissions and supporting temperature ceiling below 1.5C. According to Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Center: “2 degrees contains significant risks for societies everywhere; 1.5 looks much more scientifically justifiable.”

And a World Bank report revealed that Bangladesh will be among the most affected countries in South Asia.

So, Bangladesh needs to work to develop strong alliance among vulnerable countries to pursue the goal of temperature ceiling below 1.5C.

Armin Zaman Khan is a development practitioner and social entrepreneur based in Dhaka. She is currently driving the scaling up of rural e-commerce initiative at the Access to Information Program of the Prime Minister’s Office and leading a startup on the side.