Rising sea levels and worse cyclones forced Bangladeshis to take the lead in combating climate change, at home and internationally. Their story has now become open access and can be downloaded for free.
When 500,000 Bangladeshis fled to huge concrete cyclone shelters to escape Cyclone Roanu in May 2016, it has hardly reported. Shelters and warning systems have already cut the death rate from super cyclones by 98%, but because few people died and the shelters were designed and built by Bangladeshis, not by aid agencies, few are aware of this striking progress.
Climate change will cause stronger and more destructive cyclones and Bangladeshis are already acting to prevent their country from drowning. This story is told in Bangladesh Confronts Climate Change: Keeping Our Heads Above Water, by Dr Manoj Roy, from the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University, Joseph Hanlon from the London School of Economics and David Hulme from the University of Manchester. Manchester University. The book has just been made available as a free, open access download.
Three decades ago Bangladeshi scientists recognised that global warming would produce more destructive cyclones, heavier rain, more serious floods - combined with rising sea level when one-tenth of Bangladesh is less than 2 metres above sea level. Scientists and government officials took a two-pronged approach.
First, they prioritised international climate change talks, sending skilled teams that mixed the best government and non-governmental experts. Bangladeshis played a key role in the Paris climate summit last year in which industrialised countries agreed new cuts in greenhouse gases.
Second, they accelerated programmes to deal with environmental damage, which they knew would be made worse by climate change. For example, new rice varieties have made the country self-sufficient, but even newer strains will deal with higher heat and salt intrusion. And it is not just the agronomists and engineers. Local people realised that in a living delta with millions of tonnes of silt being deposited annually, it is possible to raise the land to match sea level rise.
Dr Manoj Roy, from Lancaster University, said: It is exemplary how Bangladeshi academics, scientists, engineers, politicians, civil society organisations and community groups have been working to protect their country from the vagaries of climate change and associated problems, current and forthcoming.
“But this won’t be enough. More efforts are needed – from Bangladeshis themselves, and more importantly, from the international communities. This book concludes that rich industrialised countries and their citizens have a moral duty to help the people of Bangladesh tackle the problem they created.”
Professor David Lewis, of the London School of Economics, said:
“This important new book challenges the passive portrayal of countries of the Global South and critiques the unhelpful ways they have been acted on by international ‘experts’. A highly readable and carefully researched account for everyone interested in the local and global dilemmas posed by climate change." The book has been made open access with generous funding from the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) research programme.Back to News