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WB: Rising temperature to decrease living standards of 134m Bangladeshis

  • Published at 12:06 pm September 26th, 2018
Finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, centre, World Bank Bangladesh country director, Qimiao Fan, second from right, along with other guests at the launching ceremony of 'World Bank Regional Flagship Report' in Dhaka on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 Mahmud Hossain Opu/ Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh's average annual temperatures are expected to rise by 1.0°C to 1.5°C by that time

The rising temperature of the country could cost it 6.7% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and affect more-than three-quarters of its population by 2050, warned the World Bank (WB) on Wednesday.

“In the last 60 years the region’s average temperatures have increased and will continue rising, which is affecting agriculture, health, and productivity. This could cost Bangladesh 6.7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product and depress the living standards of more than three-quarters of the country’s population by 2050,” said the Bank in a report.

The WB report, "South Asia's Hotspots: The Impact of Temperature and Precipitation Changes on Living Standards," was released in Dhaka.

The report said that climate change is already a pressing issue for Bangladesh.

The report said that by 2050, the annual average temperature of the country is projected to increase by 1.0°C to 1.5°C under a climate sensitive scenario, and 1.0°C to 2.5°C under a carbon sensitive scenario.

“134 million people in Bangladesh today live in locations that would become moderate or severe hotspots by 2050 under the carbon-intensive scenario,” it added.

Rapid erosion in coastal areas has inundated dozens of islands in the Bay of Bengal. Already the sea has contaminated ground water in many areas which supply drinking water for coastal regions, rendering land less fertile and eventually barren, said World Bank Bangladesh country director, Qimiao Fan. 

Climate change in Bangladesh could start mass migration in human history, said Qimiao Fan.

He said in recent years, river bank erosion has annually displaced between 50,000 to 200 thousand people and the annual economic losses due to weather and climate related hazards over the last 40 years are estimated at about 1.5% of GDP every year.

Most vulnerable districts

Chittagong Division will be the most vulnerable to the changing climate by 2050, the report says. Seven out of the top 10 most affected hotspot districts – where changes in average temperature and precipitation will have a negative effect on living standards – will be in the Chittagong Division.

Cox's Bazar and Bandarban, the top two climate hotspots, may suffer a more than 18% decline in their living standards, followed by Chittagong, Barisal, Dhaka, Khulna, Rajshahi, Rangpur, and Sylhet. 

“Cox’s Bazaar is already one of the poorest areas in the country and the environmental impact of housing another one million people in the area was very visible. If you look at the deforestation, what used to be wooded hills years ago are now barren hills,” said Hartwig Schafer, WB Vice President for South Asia Region, describing his experience after visiting a Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazaar. 

“What I have seen in Cox’s Bazaar is not a surprise”, said Schafer, adding that it is also not surprising that Cox’s Bazaar has been identified as a hotspot of Bangladesh for climate change impact. 

If this situation continues, the living standard will decline by 20% in the area by 2050, he added.

Recommendations to reduce impact

The global lender said, enhancing opportunities in the nonagricultural sector could potentially reduce the effect of changes in average weather on living standards. The report also urged building infrastructure to build resistance. 

According to the report, a 15% increase in nonagricultural employment would attenuate the effect of weather changes from 6.7% to 1.4%. Similarly, a 30% increase in the share of nonagricultural employment would not only reduce the negative effect of changes in average weather but would also result in increased living standards.

“From the World Bank, we have committed ourselves that one third of our lending goes to finance climate change activities. We are supporting innovative ideas and projects to build resilient infrastructure,” said Schafer.

In Bangladesh, currently we have a portfolio of about $10 billion and of this, $1.5 billion is to help to build resilient infrastructure to combat natural disasters, he said.  

Lauding Bangladesh’s progress in facing natural disasters, Schafer said Bangladesh is a model across the globe in terms of early disaster warning systems.

Meanwhile, the WB also stressed the need for financing to tackle climate change issues to reduce its impact on people’s lives. 

The country's climate change financing needs remain very significant, following ratification of the Paris agreement in 2016.  Bangladesh will require significant international support in the form of financing, technology transfer, and capacity building, said Qimiao. 

Bangladesh and the World Bank have a fruitful and longstanding partnership in building resilience to climate change, delivering investments of around $1.5 billion in the last few years, alongside knowledge and technical assistance in many sectors, he added.

The author of the report and World Bank Lead Economist in the South Asia Region, Muthukumara Mani, said the weather changes might result in lower per capita consumption levels—further increasing poverty and inequality in what is already one of the poorest regions of the world.

“Identifying hotspots will help policymakers in finding specific locations and household types where resources are needed the most to address the rising risk to living standards,” he said.