Nearly 12 million people live in poverty in the coastal regions of Bangladesh. The climate already poses a challenge to the lives and livelihoods of these households, seen vividly in the damage caused by Cyclone Roanu a few weeks ago. New projections published by the World Bank suggest climate change will pose an even more severe challenge over the next three decades.
“Climate change is a major issue for all of us, but particularly the poor and vulnerable”, said Research Director Asli Demirguc-Kunt, who recently hosted a Policy Research Talk on the issue. “It’s been leading to crop failures, natural disasters, and the spread of water-borne diseases, and it’s an important push factor for migration.”
Lead Environmental Economist Susmita Dasgupta, the main speaker at the event, presented the results of a seven-year body of research projecting the likely impact of climate change in coastal Bangladesh through 2050. Dasgupta’s projections highlight three current and growing risks with severe consequences for the poor: cyclonic inundation, river salinity, and soil salinity.
Perhaps the most visible of all threats, cyclones destroy lives and livelihoods with alarming regularity in coastal Bangladesh: severe cyclones strike every three years on average. Rising sea levels—a direct result of climate change—will increase the land surface exposed to high levels of cyclonic inundation by more than 50 percent.
Rising river salinity presents a less visible but equally damaging threat. River salinity increases health risks, causes a scarcity of drinking water and water for irrigation, and reduces the number of fish species—a critical source of protein for many households. Dasgupta projects a more than doubling of the number of poor exposed to saline rivers.