Monday, March 9, 2009

Bangladesh: the nature's labratory on disaster


Cyclones. Monsoons. Floods. Hurricanes. Nature has never been gentle with Bangladesh. Climate change will accelerate its cycles.

"We are nature's laboratory on disasters," said Ainun Nishat, the International Union for Conservation of Nature's representative for Bangladesh. "We don't have volcanoes. But we have every other natural disaster you can think of."

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), decades of steadily rising greenhouse gas emissions thousands of miles from Bangladesh are trapping the sun's heat in the atmosphere and creating fundamental changes in the climate. Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries on earth, has almost no control over the cause. Here, the average person emits about 0.3 tons of carbon dioxide each year -- compared to about 20 tons annually for the average American.

But when it comes to seeing the effects of climate change, Bangladesh has a ringside seat. Average global temperatures have risen in the last 25 years, and 11 of the warmest years on record have been occurred in the past 13 years. Glaciers are melting, and across the world, rates of storm surges in some areas and droughts in others are steadily rising.

Already, hydrologists in Bangladesh say, catastrophic floods that once were expected every 20 years are happening almost every four years. According to dozens of published studies, including those from the IPCC, other indicators of what is expected to happen here -- and in some cases already is happening -- include:

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