Climate adaptation – Bangladesh style

by Judith Curry

With the Ganges–Brahmaputra delta sinking, the race is on to protect millions of people from future flooding. – Quirin Schirmeier

Bangladesh is a poster child for ‘dangerous sea level rise.’  However, only a small fraction of the sea level rise can be attributed warming oceans (see this previous post).  And the Bangladeshis seem to be doing a pretty good job of adaptation.

The problem

Nature has an excellent article: Floods:  holding back the tide.   Excerpts:

Scenes of disaster are not unusual in Bangladesh. About 6,000 square kilometers of the massive Ganges–Brahmaputra delta, the largest delta in the world, lies less than two metres above sea level. On average, 6,000 people in Bangladesh die each year in storms and floods. In April 1991, a single cyclone, the worst in recent decades, wiped out well over 100,000 lives in the delta and left millions of people homeless.

Risks are expected to climb. Global warming is raising sea levels around the planet by 2–3 millimetres each year. That only adds to bigger problems in the Ganges–Brahmaputra delta, which is sinking so rapidly that the local, relative sea level may be rising by up to 2 centimetres each year. And Bangladesh’s population of more than 150 million people is projected to grow by a further 50 million by 2050, putting more people in harm’s way.

The Ganges–Brahmaputra delta is the dumping ground of the Himalayas. As wind and rain erode the mountain range, massive rivers carry more than a billion tonnes of sediment into the Bay of Bengal each year; in some places, the layer deposited since the most recent ice age is more than one kilometre thick. As in all deltas, this loose material compacts easily, causing the land to sink slowly and the relative sea level to rise. In the past, sediment carried downstream each year would have refreshed the delta. But agriculture, industry and hydroelectric dams have diverted water and choked the flow of sediments, so the land is no longer being rebuilt.

Attempting to hold back the tide

From the Nature article:

Previous efforts at flood defence in Bangladesh have not solved the problems. In 1990, the first flood action plan called for barriers to be built along main rivers: in less than 10 years, some 3,500 kilometres of embankments sprang up. In 2000, the country’s focus shifted towards constructing more storm shelters and improving warning systems — but even so, about three-quarters of Bangladesh’s population remains exposed to severe flooding.

A big part of the problem is a lack of understanding of how the delta’s behaviour differs from one place to another. Embankments might work to some extent to protect the capital, Dhaka; but as Polder 32 demonstrates, they do not always do their job elsewhere

Some flood-control efforts might exacerbate the problems. UK geographers John Pethick at Newcastle University and Julian Orford at Queen’s University Belfast reported last year that water levels at some spots in the most vulnerable southwest are much higher than expected. They concluded that embankments along hundreds of tidal channels, some of which reach hundreds of kilometres inland, have vastly reduced the area of land covered by water at high tide. Because the water is less able to spread out, it shoots farther inland where it can. The result is a huge increase in tidal range in less-protected areas. Tide-gauge records from three locations in the southwest suggest a mean rate of relative sea-level rise of about 5 millimetres per year over the past 30 years, but some local spots have experienced an average annual high-water-level increase of 15–20 millimetres.

Other complicating factors are easier to assess and guard against. They found that the embankments that protect the land from the river and sea had also robbed it of fresh supplies of sediment: during the five decades of its existence, the polder had sunk by a full metre relative to the land outside the embankments because it was not being replenished. On top of that, Goodbred found, local shrimp farmers had drilled holes into the dikes to pipe salt water from coastal rivers into their hatcheries, weakening the barriers.

Although Cyclone Aila brought much suffering to the people, it helped to rescue the land a little. During the two years in which the dikes were broken, the polder rebounded with tens of centimetres of sediment deposited by daily tides. The mud caused havoc in the short term by flooding peoples’ floors and gardens, but offers the possibility of long-term sustainability for delta ground.

All this information will feed into the Delta Plan, which will be written over the next 2.5 years by a Dutch–Bangladeshi consortium of government departments, research organizations and engineering consultants. The Netherlands has pledged an initial €7 million (US$9.7 million) to develop the strategy.

The uncertainty in the science makes it difficult for policy-makers to see how much investment is justified, and what kind, says van Scheltinga. “We’re only beginning to understand how the delta works — but we know enough to do a bit better,” says Goodbred.

In rural coastal areas, Goodbred adds, one solution might be to return to the kind of low, flexible embankments that people in this region built before the 1960s. Locals could raise them in the dry season to keep salty water away, and cut them down in the wet season to allow sediment in. Tidal water must, from time to time, be allowed to flush embanked land, he says, to deposit sediment and thus prevent the polders from sinking over the long term. Homes in these polders, he notes, tend to be on land that sits half a metre or more above the polder basins, so would be protected from the influx.

There are cheaper options, he says. Scientists with the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute in Gazipur have developed salt-tolerant rice to grow in flood-prone plains. In large coastal cities, new homes and public infrastructure could be built on artificially raised land. Near the coast, conserving and planting trees could create a buffer against storm surges.

Adaptation – Bangladesh style

iied has a blog post on adaptation in Bangladesh –  Reality check: climate change and the poor.  Excerpts:

I was also struck by how the community — supported by the local nongovernmental organisation, GSK — has developed a range of strategies and activities to cope with longer floods, higher floodwater levels and the erosion that each year washes away more and more of their crop and homestead land into the nearby Padma River. There was no drama here. And I was deeply affected by the industrious positive way the people of Manikganj District meet these challenges and carry on with daily life.

Many families are moving their homesteads and fodder stores onto raised platforms to keep out of the rising floodwater. They have built small hills with corals and feed stations on top to keep their cattle dry. Similarly, they use chicken houses and portable ovens that can be picked up and moved to dry land during floods.

The ovens even work on the small banana tree rafts that the poorest have built and use during the three or so weeks when the floods force them out of their homes. Families pile goats and all their worldly possessions onto these rafts, and even sleep on them, until the water recedes. Other families have protected their possessions by piling firewood on their roof, or building platforms in their ceilings.

The community is also adapting their use of natural resources. They have built a raised well to stop the floods from polluting fresh groundwater, and we met the woman who manages it and ensures this water is distributed fairly in times of need. New drought- and flood-resistant crops have been planted in the floodplain, and the community also have a resources centre with posters on the walls and a meeting space to encourage learning about sound management of fisheries, forests and agricultural land.

World Resources Institute has a post Adapting to Climate Change in Bangladesh. Excerpts:

Yet, the first people who welcomed us into the village were a group of women that had formed a successful cooperative to address the challenges the floods have brought. Their model is dispersing loans to other women in the village from their collective savings and charging interest on them. Loans in turn are used to buy livestock and other assets that could improve income over the longer term.

Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies (BCAS) and the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB), two organizations active in the area, use this women’s collective to begin helping villages respond to the challenges associated with floods. With financial support from Norwegian Church Aid, these two organizations had identified 17 of the village’s poorest households and decided to raise the foundational platform, or plinth, of their houses by four feet to protect them from the flood waters. A few other households, after seeing the benefits of such raised plinths, in turn made their own investments to raise the plinths of their houses.

With their agricultural lands inundated for months, many households in the area also use a floating bed of compacted water hyacinths to grow vegetables, locally known as baira. These floating gardens fall and rise with the water level and can allow households to grow vegetables for consumption when the flood waters are high. Researchers from BCAS have devised ways to improve the design of such bairas to make them lighter and stay afloat for longer periods of time.

It was clear from our visit to Goalbari that diversifying the ways people could make a living when the area is under water was fundamental to their long-term adaptation. Developing ways for students to go to school and to keep schools open even during floods seemed equally important. Improving access to services for these communities, like drinking water, health facilities and other types of income generating activities were critical to improving people’s resilience to these weather related challenges.

Climate change and other weather related events do, however, present unique challenges that will require us to think in innovative ways. Often project and community-driven approaches like the interventions I mention above are critical to understanding local needs, keeping communities central to decision and planning processes. Yet, they alone are not able to address the greater landscape of environmental services that might be needed to contend with such challenges. For example, drainage issues, often one of the major causes of water logging in delta regions like Gopalgunj, can’t be solved by a narrow focus on communities and may need us to look at regional scales and subnational, national or sometimes even international processes. Similarly, local community-based approaches will also need to address other system-wide activities like access to markets, seasonal migration as an income diversifying source, and trade that could be important resilience-building activities .

Further description of the efforts at Mitradanga  from Chimalaya:

By the time we arrive in Mitradanga it is late afternoon. The sun is beginning to dip over bamboo trellises that trail ripening squash over a mass of water hyacinth. Birds fly low over the surface of the water, black against a peach-pink sky.

It’s a dreamy scene, and I say as much to Shova Biswas, vice-president of the Sonalir Shopnaw (or Golden Dream) forum, who has emerged to greet us. ‘You should see it in the rainy season,’ she says flatly. I have come to the village during the two months of the year when land can be farmed and water is temporarily at bay.

The village sticks out on a thin raised finger of land surrounded by water, close to the Modhumoti river. Located on the intertidal floodplains of south-central Bangladesh in Gopalganj district, it’s facing a three-pronged attack from water-logging, floods and saltwater intrusion.

Shova picks out some of Mitradanga’s defences from our surroundings. The mudcaked men are climbing up out of paddy fields sown with indigenous deep-water and saline-resistant rice varieties; the ducks waddling into their coops are prodigious layers, whose eggs provide both nutrition and an income to plug the gap left by lower-yielding rice.

Houses and water pumps are mounted on to plinths built high enough to withstand floods for the next 30 years. Alongside them stand huge tanks to harvest salt-free, safe to drink rainwater from the skies.

Shova shows us the floating gardens – a strengthened version of traditional models. They are planted with new crops, such as turmeric intercropped with okra, cucumber and chillies.

Is it enough?

Chimalaya has an article – Ready or not: Can Bangladesh cope with climate change? Excerpts:

Major international organizations made the switch to ‘resilience’ from disaster management some years ago. CARE , Plan, Red Cross, Practical Action, Oxfam, Christian Aid, Action Aid and WWF all have ‘climate smart’ frameworks, and all are active in Bangladesh.

Practical Action has built multipurpose flood shelters in the north that lend full-scale protection to livestock and people, and have had huge successes growing pumpkins on sandbars; the United Nations Development Programme is trialing disaster-proof villages, ringed entirely by dykes, with houses mounted on concrete legs. Environmental challenges also drive great innovation in national NGOs. Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha has built a fleet of floating, solar-powered schools. Another outfit sails along the coast offering hospital services.

Bangladesh is awash with climate adaptation projects. But I am left wondering: what makes for success? And how do you know when you see it? In the capital Dhaka, I track down Bangladeshi scientist Saleemul Huq, leading climate adaptation expert, and author for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IP CC).

The theory is, of course, that if you are well prepared you will suffer less. ‘In many ways Bangladesh is better adapted than even the US,’ he says. ‘Take Hurricane Katrina. That’s a technologically advanced and rich country watching the thing coming but not being able to protect its own citizens – particularly the poorer citizens.

‘I’ve been working on adaptation for the last 10 years in the Least Developed Countries of Africa and Asia, and Bangladesh is several steps ahead of anybody else.’

Bangladesh has certainly played its hand well on the international stage. Politicians have eloquently challenged Western nations to open up their borders to refugees. They write hardhitting op-eds in leading broadsheets and lay responsibility squarely at the feet of polluting nations. And they are at the front of the queue when it comes to adaptation funding.

Only, until now, very little has materialized – $18 million to be precise. Most of the money coughed up by industrialized nations has gone to large economies like China and India to finance ‘mitigation’ in the form of energy efficiency (translation: slightly less polluting coal-fired power stations than before).

The villagers have a solution. ‘Stop air pollution and give us financial help to survive this,’ they say. It resonates with UN climate negotiations: stop damaging, pay for the damage.

Shova has another suggestion: ‘Take us to your country if it gets bad here.’ Evan Sarkar prefers Canada: ‘They’ve got more space.’

Crop production is predicted to decrease by up to 32 per cent by 2050, by which time there will be an extra 130 million mouths to feed.

JC reflections

Bangladesh’s problem is primarily one of population – a very large and growing population with demands to feed more and more people places more people in the most flood – vulnerable regions (also most fertile)as they attempt to eke more productivity out of their limited land.

Climate change is a small part of their current problems, but but the Bangladeshis are concerned about future alarming prospects for their country – whether or not these concerns will be realized, remains to be seen.

Big engineering projects are often ineffective and sometimes do more harm than good;    the approach being taken by the Dutch-Bangladesh consortium seems like a good one.

Bangladesh has been quite effective at playing the international aid game, which is now largely torqued from general development aid  into climate-related aid – mitigation, adaptation, and reparations.  Two points here:  mitigation funding (largely going to China) is directly competing with adaptation aid, that is serving humanitarian and development needs that exist now.  In terms of ‘bang per buck’, I suspect that that the adaptation funding, if wisely used, is money that is much better spent.

The adaptation measures being taken in Mitradanga are fascinating; not only are they effective, but they actually make sense in context of the local culture.  The rest of the world can learn something from Bangladesh.

 

 

 

90 responses to “Climate adaptation – Bangladesh style

  1. michael hart

    At least the Dutch are in a position (often below sea level) to take the issue seriously when offering help or advice. I wouldn’t buy land-drainage from Greenpeace.

  2. “Farmers practise intensive successive cropping, growing one crop of rice with the flood waters (June-October), a second rice crop with irrigation and finally a third winter crop in the dry season from November to February.”
    http://www.new-ag.info/en/country/profile.php?a=1834

    Triple cropping. Many farmers would like to have soil as productive as theirs. It seems they are making progress with tripled rice production over the last 30 some years. It’s magic soil, with risks and inconveniences.

  3. Subsidence may be the issue, but it will be blamed on global warming because there’s money to be made. Always follow the money.

    • nottawa rafter

      Based on the Nature article about 10% of the problem could be sea level rise vs 90% subsidence. It’s a safe bet that in the MSM the 90% is left out of any stories. This is a population and economic problem which calls for adaptation and solutions accepting that fact. Instead, this will be a poster child for the CO2 issue which will detract from the root problem. Although much more serious, this situation is similar to the Chesapeake Bay Region where 50% of the “sea level rise” is subsidence which is in turn a derivative of accelerated groundwater abstraction. The popular perception ignores half the problem.

  4. The 1876 Bangladesh cyclone is one of the deadliest known climate events. While sea level rise is a slow centuries old process with nothing new about it, huge populations living in low lying and hurricane prone locations – like Bangladesh delta and New York – are very exposed to massive events like that of 1876 (or like a Cat 3 at landfall in NY 1938!).

    Stopping a coal power plant somewhere or coming up with ingenious ways to tax a fragment of thin air may not be among the best engineering and conservation measures for such places. Hurricanes, natural rises in sea level, natural land/river/estuary change and man-made subsidence/erosion are vast problems. When you have a vast problem, it pays to talk first about the problem and not about something else. Never easy, I know.

  5. “Bangladesh’s problem is primarily one of population….”

    No, Bangladesh’s primary problem is its economic system.

    According to the above, the centrally planned operations of the “elite” are as likely to do more harm than good. The term unintended consequences comes to mind. Yet the adaptation on a local basis is surprisingly (to central planners) successful.

    Imagine what the people of Bangladesh could accomplish in adapting to weather and climate if their economy ranked better than 196th on the world.

    • the centrally planned operations of the “elite” are as likely to do more harm than good.

      Throughout history, that has always seemed to be the issue – central planning means poor performance.

      • It’s not just poor planning by the elites – it’s the elites ensuring they remain in power. That’s beginning to be a problem in the US.

    • Rob Starkey

      It is not really the economic system it is the corruption. A business can NOT rely on being able to have reliable water, power, sewage, etc. Government officals are more concerned with getting kick backs than getting infrastructure built.

  6. The Adaptation excerpts show the capacity of people on the ground to work with their situation. No central planning or GHG emissions reductions needed, thank you. This is normal human beings, doing what normal human beings do: adapt, improvise, address the issues of their particular situation. The external assistance was very closely targeted to specific local issues, not derived from large-scale remote strategizing. I’m sure there are lessons here for those who would heed them, but they would not be in the interests of those who favour large-/global-scale externally devised megaplans.

    • Faustino,

      This is normal human beings, doing what normal human beings do: adapt, improvise, address the issues of their particular situation.

      Nah. You’ve definitely got that wrong The bureaucrats and politicians in Canberra, Washington, Ottawa, London and Brussels know better than people out in the real world. :)

      Oh, and of course the scientists in white coats in CSIRO end East Anglia know better too.

      Taxes and raising price of energy and banning the most viable energy sources will solve all problems.

      Don’t you know anything, Faustino?

  7. “In terms of ‘bang per buck’, I suspect that that the adaptation funding, if wisely used, is money that is much better spent.” – JC

    In the short-term possibly….but if then further adaption is reuqired…. and then further…

    Ever heard of this little phrase?- an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    • A stitch in time, saves nine.

    • Steven Mosher

      look before you leap.

      ever wonder why we have cliches for imponderable choices.?

    • Willis Eschenbach

      Michael | June 13, 2014 at 1:24 am | Reply

      Ever heard of this little phrase?- an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

      Sure. And if there were an ounce of prevention that actually worked, I’d definitely think about it. I’m always interested in cost-effective solutions.

      Unfortunately, instead of an ounce of prevention, what we have instead is Obama’s coal plan. Instead of an ounce, it will be billions and billions of dollars of “prevention”, … and it is calculated that it MAY make a difference in temperature of two hundredths of a degree … or not.

      Sorry, Michael, but when the “ounce of prevention” insurance costs a hundred times more than the possible payout, I’m not buying …

      Unfortunately, a side effect of the “ounce of prevention” war on coal is that it drives up electricity costs in poor countries like India and Bangladesh, condemning them to increased privation, poverty, and death. Perhaps you could ask them what they think about your “ounce of prevention” …

      w.

      • Nerd of the bureaucratic persuasion. Acronym fer
        mull-effect-rigid-despotism peut-etre?

      • Darn, it’s these low life lights! ‘Null” not ‘mull.’

      • On the subject of preventing, it’s surprising that anybody, surveying present world events, would be stepping away from any reliable domestic energy source.

        Back to the silly ’70s? And I’m not talking about disco, leisure suits and orange shagpile.

      • Steven Mosher

        That’s the paradox of adaptation – always playing catch-up, reacting to what has already passed,

        Wrong:

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1386978/The-Japanese-mayor-laughed-building-huge-sea-wall–village-left-untouched-tsunami.html

        The issue is deciding the following on a local basis.

        1. What does history tell us is likely within the reference time frame we are concerned about.
        2. What other information ( say climate models) tell us is likely beyond this.
        3. How much additional design robustness do we want and can we afford
        beyond this.

        For the short term, the 2 or 3 decades , NONE of the change in the pipeline can be mitigated. This is what the best science says. we have decades of change in the pipeline. mitigation will do nothing for this. zip.

        These questions cannot be answered with any sort of precision at a local level . However, we know, based on the best science, that adapting to sea level rise on a continental basis ( for the US that is) is cheaper than mitigation.

      • mosher, you dill, is there a mtigation vs adaptation dispute in relation to tsunami’s???

      • Though mosher does raise an interesting adaptation scenario; try to move his sea wall to Bangladesh and you’re looking at spending something like the entire Bangladeshi GDP on it.

      • Mitigation = transition off of low-grade fossil fuels
        Adaptation = get used to not depending on high-grade (dwindling) and low-grade fossil fuels

        A distinction without a difference.

        How long can they play these rhetorical games?

    • Penny wise, pound foolish.

    • David Springer

      Have you ever heard of a pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure?

      That’s what the warmist whackos are peddling.

    • If adaptation is so wonderful, why is it that it’s still required?

      That’s the paradox of adaptation – always playing catch-up, reacting to what has already passed,

      If your only strategy is catch-up, then you’re always behind the game.

  8. Latimer Alder

    Gosh.

    Humans are very good at observing, understanding and adapting to their local circumstances.

    Who knew?

  9. As in all deltas, this loose material compacts easily, causing the land to sink slowly and the relative sea level to rise. In the past, sediment carried downstream each year would have refreshed the delta. But agriculture, industry and hydroelectric dams have diverted water and choked the flow of sediments, so the land is no longer being rebuilt.

    Right. Call in the engineers. Here’s an uncosted conceptual solution. Pump the land up a bit. Use the CO2 from power stations to pump it. Make an impermeable layer by grouting then pump the CO2 in below to raise the land level a few mm per year.

  10. The real issue is the grubbing out of mangroves, which have historically stabilised the delta, to provide areas for growing crustacea like shrimps and prawns; fish farming..

    Stop this form of farming and the delta would go back to what it was.

    There is no sea level rise, no significant CO2-AGW.

  11. The labour force performing any adaptation measures should be provided directly by wealthier nations, rather than in the form of funding to UN bureaucracies. China and Russia can provide workers for the regions where the US is not welcome. Increase in wage rates can be offset by circumventing expensive UN administration costs. Domestically, this approach would be a lot more politically palatable. Sure some kind of framework is needed but the UN seems to be the worst choice right now.

  12. Berényi Péter

    Bangladesh’s problem is primarily one of population – a very large and growing population with demands to feed more and more people

    Yes, population density in Bangladesh is high and increasing. However, there is no population explosion there any more and that’s an important point.

    see UN World Population Prospects

    Population aged 0-14 is already decreasing for the last 2 decades, so all the increase is coming from people living longer, which is a good thing. No exponential growth is possible by increasing life expectancy alone.

    Two factors bring about this result, increasing educational level of girls and decreasing infant &. child mortality. And this is what’s happening all over the world. Praise the Lord.

    • “Bangladesh’s problem is primarily one of population – a very large and growing population with demands to feed more and more people places more people in the most flood – vulnerable regions (also most fertile)as they attempt to eke more productivity out of their limited land”. “Not a problem”?

      I think Judith is absolutely 100% correct. Population growth is a difficult political position for anyone looking to influence the voting masses and keeping the message simple. If man can influence climate (a given) then massive population growth is a big deal. A planning problem for politicians that cannot plan.

  13. Does it take a villager to raise the cry ‘Stop air pollution and send money’?

    Does anyone believe inculcating this belief will help anything?
    =====================

  14. Cambodia recently, trip to their inland lake and stilt and floating villages. Water level must rise by 6 meters over a very large area in the wet season for months. Dwarfs the Bangladesh problems but people seem to cope quite well. Not a problem really.

    • It is a problem and not a simple one. the numbers make a Cambodian solution impractical. There’s a lot of people there. And they’re very poor. And they really have nowhere else to go.

      Here’s a suggestion. Let’s go help them deal with subsidence and add 8 inches of margin to give them resilience just in case there’s a little sea level rise coming their way. What say you?

      • Tom Fuller,

        A better way is to give them, and the rest of the world, greater capacity to adapt, not tell them how to adapt. We help them build their own riesiliance – no thriveability – by doing all we can to maximise economic growth throughout the world.

        And guess how we do that? It the opposite of what the Left advocates. It’s by fostering capitalism, freer trade, globalisation and multinational corporations, Oh yea, and freedom of speech.

      • We give them food at the same time we teach them agriculture. We give them medicine at the same time as we train their doctors and nurses. We back their microlending at the same time we teach family finances.Why can’t we help them sculpt their floodplains at the same time we teach them how to do it without us?

        What is it about environmental degradation that makes it different from the rest of the problems besetting the third world?

      • Tom Fuller,

        What is it about environmental degradation that makes it different from the rest of the problems besetting the third world?

        ‘That’s a strawman arguing tactic. I didn’t say anything of the sort. I didn’t pick one type of aid over any other. What I am saying is that aid is not the best way to help people. Freeing up trade (and the other things I listed) is the best way to give the poor countries long term help (and ourselves as well). But the rich countries do;t want to do that. ‘We all practice trade protectionism. And the Left are the major block.

        Giving aid to poor countries instead of free trade is like giving the doll to the unemployed instead of creating jobs for them.

        BTW, I am not saying no to all aid. What I am saying is it is the wrong priority. We’d achieve much more by fostering the freeing up of trade and the other things I listed.

      • No problem.
        “If the ship is floating, it’s not sinking”
        Like all the fuss about AGW.
        All the people in Bangladesh are alive, eating, drinking, living and coping in millions without any real aid.
        They have done it for hundreds of years.
        They look after themselves. They do it themselves. They all got there without us interfering and they know how to live there and how to cope.
        If this is the case then there is not really a problem.
        Except for westerners wanting everybody to be western and enjoy western standards and go to western universities and end up basically useless in a real world living situation.
        What Western educated slacker could survive in rising waters, grow food on a floating garden and still enjoy life. Most what we consider poor people I saw in Cambodia were much happier and content with their lifestyle than the hassled western tourists.

  15. One of the things Bangladesh doesn’t have is cheap electricity. One of the things that provides cheap electricity is coal fired power plants. One of the things that non-governmental agencies like GreenPeace, Worldwild Life Federation, Sierra Club etc, prohibit is cheap electricity because that means fossil fuels. One of the most agregious and obstructionist groups to Bangladesh’s survival are the environmental agencies. All governments should withdraw their larges. USA billionaires need to wake up to their global destructiveness with their financial support of the CO2 focused environmental movement.

    Hope springs eternal.

    • RiHo08

      Indeed!
      +1

    • I agree with you that it is a shame that so many conspire to deprive Bangladesh and other places of cheap electricity. I agree with you that Bangladesh should have access to finance for coal power plants–unless someone wants to finance clean energy instead. I agree with you that Greenpeace et al have been criminally insane on this issue.

      So let’s help them.

      • From below:

        Bangladesh’s economic freedom score is 54.1, making its economy the 131st freest [out of 178] in the 2014 Index. Its overall score has increased by 1.5 points since last year, reflecting improvements in trade freedom and business freedom that offset a notable decline in freedom from corruption. Bangladesh is ranked 27th out of 42 countries in the Asia–Pacific region.

        Over the 20-year history of the Index, Bangladesh has advanced its economic freedom score by over 10 points. The overall score increase has been relatively broad-based in six of the 10 economic freedoms including trade freedom, business freedom, and fiscal freedom, the score for which has improved by more than 20 points.

        Nonetheless, Bangladesh continues to be considered “mostly unfree” due to a serious lack of progress in other critical areas of economic freedom. The country has lagged in promoting the effective rule of law. The judicial system remains vulnerable to political interference, and property rights are not strongly protected. Lingering corruption further undermines enforcement of the rule of law and hampers the emergence of more vibrant economic activity.

        But yes. Let’s focus instead on cheap coal (ignoring the cost/benefit tradeoffs of doing so), engaging in magical thinking that the resources to provide them with energy from cheap coal will materialize with a snap of the fingers, and bashing environmentalists, and pretend that if the environmentalists just weren’t around, cheap coal would solve the network of problems that create poverty and vulnerability to environmental degradation in places like Bangladesh.

        Let’s hold the poor in Bangladesh hostage to scoring points in the climate wars.

        Same ol’ same ol’.

  16. John Smith (it's my real name)

    Question –
    WAIS and EAIS – do they consist of “land ice” or “sea Ice”?
    skepticalscience.com seems to tacitly admit that Antarctic “sea ice” is increasing but “land ice” is in dangerous decline.
    If oceans are warming, how does global sea ice volume remain stable?
    (the ’79 to 2014 chart looks flat to me)
    Wouldn’t ice in the total system be somewhat fungible?

    • Jim Cripwell

      John, you write “skepticalscience.com seems to tacitly admit that Antarctic “sea ice” is increasing but “land ice” is in dangerous decline.”

      First, your questions are waaaay off topic. I suggest you wait for the next Open Thread, and try again.

      But you raise a very important issue. The warmists, charlatans selling snake oil, can dodge and weave, but one thing they cannot dispute is hard, measured date. The extent of Antarctic sea is something that is measured, daily. So SkS does not “tacitly admit” anything. They are forced to acknowledge that, despite the warmist’s predictions, Antarctic sea ice extent is setting records.

  17. Bangladesh’s economic freedom score is 54.1, making its economy the 131st freest [out of 178] in the 2014 Index. Its overall score has increased by 1.5 points since last year, reflecting improvements in trade freedom and business freedom that offset a notable decline in freedom from corruption. Bangladesh is ranked 27th out of 42 countries in the Asia–Pacific region.

    Over the 20-year history of the Index, Bangladesh has advanced its economic freedom score by over 10 points. The overall score increase has been relatively broad-based in six of the 10 economic freedoms including trade freedom, business freedom, and fiscal freedom, the score for which has improved by more than 20 points.

    Nonetheless, Bangladesh continues to be considered “mostly unfree” due to a serious lack of progress in other critical areas of economic freedom. The country has lagged in promoting the effective rule of law. The judicial system remains vulnerable to political interference, and property rights are not strongly protected. Lingering corruption further undermines enforcement of the rule of law and hampers the emergence of more vibrant economic activity.

    http://www.heritage.org/index/country/bangladesh

    Bangladesh Agriculture …
    [ ... ] Population pressure continues to place a severe burden on productive capacity, creating a food deficit, especially of wheat. Foreign assistance and commercial imports fill the gap, but seasonal hunger (“monga”) remains a problem. Underemployment remains a serious problem, and a growing concern for Bangladesh’s agricultural sector will be its ability to absorb additional manpower. Finding alternative sources of employment will continue to be a daunting problem for future governments, particularly with the increasing numbers of landless peasants who already account for about half the rural labor force. Due to farmers’ vulnerability to various risks, Bangladesh’s poorest face numerous potential limitations on their ability to enhance agriculture production and their livelihoods. These include an actual and perceived risk to investing in new agricultural technologies and activities (despite their potential to increase income), a vulnerability to shocks and stresses and a limited ability to mitigate or cope with these and limited access to market information.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Bangladesh#Agriculture
    My bold.

    Helicoptering money and pumps and dikes into Bangladesh will help but not solve the over arching problems of poverty and a growing population.

    • Yep. You’ve hit the nail on the head. The government there is the problem. That is the case for many countries in the third world. Yet, look at Iraq. What a mess. I guess the people of Bangladesh are stuck in their situation since no country in its right mind would attempt regime change now.

      Maybe the cold war approach was best, where undercover CIA operatives worked to destabilize regimes?

  18. @- JC
    “In April 1991, a single cyclone, the worst in recent decades, wiped out well over 100,000 lives in the delta and left millions of people homeless.”
    “Climate change is a small part of their current problems, but but the Bangladeshis are concerned about future alarming prospects for their country – whether or not these concerns will be realized, remains to be seen.”

    The concerns are already realised.

    http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Shamsuddin_Shahid/publication/225363113_Trends_in_extreme_rainfall_events_of_Bangladesh/file/32bfe50f78553143fd.pdf

    The trend towards more extreme rainfall is clearly detectable. Population, rather like the geography of the delta is largely an unchangeable given. Perhaps future damage from increasing extreme climate events is also unavoidable. Adaption can go so far, but adapting to the next century of rapid sea level rise from the loss of the WAIS and the increasing mass loss from the Greenland icecap is probably beyond Bangladesh. Either that large population will be refugees, or dead.

  19. Bangladesh used to be part of the more technically advanced Pakistan. Right now Pakistan is going through a critical energy transition.

    ” When Sui gas was discovered in 1952 it was estimated that this energy source will last us for at least a hundred years. We were all set for three generations. For a hundred years we knew our stoves will stay warm, literally. Then, growth happened. Lots of it. Suddenly, unbelievable as it may have seemed once, we’d run out of gas. Gas was gone.”
    http://tribune.com.pk/story/325560/chasing-a-pipe-dream-three-reasons-why-thar-coal-will-not-save-pakistan/

    Should we believe any of this?

    “It is important to measure the potential of Thar coal in terms of megawatts of power per day because the kind of coal that Thar has, is of little use besides conversion to electricity onsite. Lignite, which is the least energy intensive form of coal, according to some definitions, is not coal at all. In fact, it is considered a dirty energy source lying somewhere on the spectrum between coal and peat with carbon content between 25% to 35%. The fixed carbon content of Thar coal is less than 22%. The low carbon content translates into low energy generation capacity, which means that if energy is invested into transporting the lignite from source to point of consumption, the net energy output of the mining, extraction, transportation and conversion process becomes less than zero; you end up investing more energy making energy out of coal than you get out of it in terms of megawatts. In order to get any energy out of lignite, it has to be converted into electricity almost entirely onsite; where it is being mined. Which brings us to the first reason why Thar coal will not save Pakistan.

    There isn’t enough water”

    Are these all lies created by socialist churnalists? Or are these facts in the ground?

    From earlier this year:

    “Last week, angry residents staged demonstrations in Rawalpindi and nearby Islamabad, the capital, with some rallying outside government power offices. The protests spread over the weekend to other neighborhoods in both cities, and demonstrators burned tires in the streets. Many said the fuel crisis has dashed their confidence in the six-month-old government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which has provided little explanation or hope for relief.

    In November, the federal minister for petroleum and natural resources acknowledged that the country was facing its worst gas crisis — a shortage of about 3 billion cubic feet per day, or about 75 percent of national demand. Experts said this was a result of a mix of depleted domestic reserves, rising consumer use and stalled plans to import gas from overseas.

    To date, however, the most visible government response has been a contentious decision to order a sharp cut in prices for vehicle fuel. In return, nearly half of Pakistan’s 3,400 gas stations have closed, leaving frustrated cabbies, minivan drivers and others to scramble desperately to find fuel. “

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/pakistanis-protest-fuel-shortages-criticize-sharif-as-they-suffer-through-frigid-winter/2014/01/09/95ab0ace-75d6-11e3-bc6b-712d770c3715_story.html

    Adapt to that.

    • Good article, WHT.
      Nat gas production is going up.

      http://www.eia.gov/countries/country-data.cfm?fips=pk

      And from another paper:

      Figure 27. Gas consumption evolution by sector in Bangladesh

      shows the vast majority of growth in natural gas consumption has been in the power/industrial sector. Also, in the ’80’s a move was made to power vehicles by natural gas.

      Also from this article,
      An assessment of Yet-to-Find reserves at an unrisked value for all of the basins studied suggests 3.6 billion barrels of oil and 66.3 Tcf of gas, but over the last few years there has actually been a decline in the country’s
      gas reserves.
      (end of quote)

      So, probably the fact that the oil and gas industry is mostly state owned is the problem. As the article points out, India’s proven reserves have increased. India’s O&G industry might also be government owned – I don’t know.

      http://www.oxfordenergy.org/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/NG-77.pdf

      • Markets are sensitive to inflection points and undulation points in supply and demand curves. Recall how the USA economy reacted starting in 1970.

        Production will continue to go up as there is little other choice given the market demands. But it is slowing and the price pressure is put on the consumers. That is why there is unrest and the temptation to burn brown coal, the stuff one grade above peat moss.

      • Here is an interesting twist to the shale oil story in the US. Shale oil is a low viscosity, high quality oil. But many year ago, refineries in the US geared up for the oil they expected to be available, heavy crude. The spent billions on this and now can’t take good advantage of the light shale oil. If this doesn’t change, we will have no choice but to export the light crude or shut in production.

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2014/01/31/why-americas-crude-oil-export-ban-should-be-lifted/

      • More from that article:

        Naturally, with less demand for their product at home, the U.S. shale producers want to be able to export their oil to less complex overseas refineries where they can get higher prices. One of the most vociferous proponents of lifting the ban is Harold Hamm, the billionaire founder and CEO of Continental Resources CLR +1.28%, one of the biggest producers in the Bakken. Hamm gave his testimony to the senate yesterday, explaining that contrary to popular belief U.S. oil is being exported, but as refined fuels, not crude oil.

        “Unlike exports of crude oil, exports of gasoline and other refined products are not restricted. Under current law, our government is subsidizing some U.S. refiners – many of which are foreign-owned – by giving them the ability to buy American oil at artificially low prices yet sell petroleum products into higher-priced global markets,” says Hamm. “In fact, with exports approaching 4 million barrels per day, petroleum products are America’s second leading export, making up 9 percent of the U.S. total.”

        Industry insiders have told me, laughingly, that some of the refined product being exported is pretty darn close to light crude. “All you have to do is spit in it and you can call it a refined product,” one executive said. What the oil drillers object to is that when it comes to exporting such lightly processed petroleum products, it’s the refiners, not them, who make the extra margin. Lifting the export ban will allow drillers to grab some of that extra margin by sidestepping the refiners and selling their crude directly to the global market, like what Hamm wants to do.

      • Why would anyone think that shale oil was anything but a flash-in-the-pan, last-gasp, bottom-of-the-barrel attempt by prospectors to take advantage of what remains from a nonrenewable and finite supply of crude oil ?

        I ask that because it is a logical question of anyone that studies the discipline known as Earth Sciences, a department of which this blog is associated with.

        Are you deniers delusional about everything and anything to do with science that intersects with capitalism? Since you are always sticking your head in the sand you should realize that there is not much oil left under there.

      • Webby goes ballistic. Show where I said oil of any kind is a limitless resource! You can’t, because I didn’t. You are really fond of putting words in my mouth, aren’t you?

    • About 30 years ago I participated in an appraisal of privately owned natural gas properties being sold in Pakistan. I´ll try to keep this simple, but the bottom line is a large portion of Pakistan´s hydrocarbon provinces are in either:

      a. Regions where the geology is complicated by the melánge of sand, silt and mud coming off the mountains which popped up when India hit Asia. These clastic rocks were deposited very fast, are thick, and have abnormal pressures. The geology leads to high well costs.

      b. Regions where the geology is complex in the mountain chains, which also happen to be the areas where tribes are somewhat independent and shoot at intruders with enthusiasm.

      c. Government owned.

      There are a few exceptions to the three conditions I explained. However, the bottom line is that Pakistan has SOME additional gas production potential. And it also has a huge population with a creepy government and creepier Islamist rebels. The only way they can get natural gas is from Iran or Qatar, and this gas will be expensive.

      They have some alternatives, for example they could burn coal from Australia and supplement it with interruptible wind power (they are used to power cuts). The best option may be urgent SUBSIDIZED World Bank loans to build very efficient coal fueled generation plants and the wind turbines in an integrated system, and possibly an LNG gasification plant so they can use it for their vehicle fleet in the future. I would also add a program to subsidized soap operas with heroines who only have one or two children and do very well compared to their peers who have half a dozen.

  20. I think India is getting ready to arrest Greenpeace and their ilk.

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/06/12/uk-india-projects-idUKKBN0EN1CV20140612

    Bangladesh should do the same and hold all the evil non-brown (but brown coal burning) “environmentalists” for ransom (or call it a waste disposal fee if you like.)

  21. Off topic… Chris Mooney noted two large hurricanes in the eastern pacific basin. IIRC (really uncertain), Bob Tisdale once wrote that certain hurricanes/cyclone reduce the potential for el Nino to form. (in the western tropics they can trigger them, but..?)

  22. The dishonesty of those fearful of AGW in regards to the issue of sea level rise is astounding.

    At a local level, changes in land height generally dominate actual changes in sea level. This is true in Bangladesh and it is usually true elsewhere.

    Judith writes- “Bangladesh’s problem is primarily one of population”

    Here is where I disagree with Judith. I would state that Bangladesh’s problem is primarily one of corruption. Yes they have a large population, but the reason that their large population is not developing educationally and that their country does not have better infrastructure is due to a culture that promotes rampant corruption. Ask people who have actually tried to do large amounts of business in the region.

    Their corruption is not something for the USA to solve. We have our own dysfunctional governmental problems we can’t seem to fix.

  23. R Johnson-Taylor

    Bangladesh’s food problem is not just a problem of population growth, but of flooding land with sea water, deliberately, in order to facilitate shrimp and prawn farming, to such an extent that the land used for the more normal agrarian farming is unable to meet demand. Land once inundated by the sea is difficult to reclaim

    http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/1070713/europes_prawn_obsession_devastating_local_communities_in_bangladesh.html

    • It seems if the seawater inundation was halted, the monsoons would rinse out the salt. And as the main post points out, flooding is good for the soil – both in rebuilding and replenishing with nutrients. The main problem there is the government.

    • What is the best use for the land? Rice production? Mangrove? Prawns?

      The linked article is clearly in favor of mangroves or rice but provides no numbers or hard data to support their assertion.

      • It depends. They COULD go for rice, forget the prawns, eat the rice and forget any imports because their textile industry doesn´t provide enough cash. Or they could try more intelligent prawn culture methods.

        The greenish media seems to have an endless amount of articles about the “enviromental damage” caused by people in undeveloped nations trying to use the land to do something more effective than an Early Neolithic lifestyle. I even read articles and statements about how nice it would be to return us to a medieval age utopia. What they leave out is the means they would expect to use to genocide 95 % of the world´s population.

  24. From the article:

    The climate change crusaders, who have been at it for a quarter-century, appear to be going clinically mad. Start with the rhetorical monotony and worship of authority (“97 percent of all scientists agree!”), add the Salem witch trial-style intimidation and persecution of dissenters, and the categorical demand that debate about science or policy is over because the matter is settled, and you have the profile of a cult-like sectarianism that has descended into paranoia and reflexive bullying. Never mind the scattered and not fully suppressed findings of climate scientists that the narrative of catastrophic global warming is overstated, like nearly every previous predicted environmental apocalypse. It matters not. The recent crescendo of scary government climate reports and dutiful media alarm has paved the way for the Obama administration to throw its weight around in ways that would make Woodrow Wilson blush.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/climate-cultists_794401.html

  25. See jump-to article by Ross McKitrick:

    In our NAS presentation we showed graphs of the data in Mann’s “CENSORED” results, in which the hockey stick shape completely disappears. That is, even applying Mann’s biased methods, after dropping the few bristlecone pine series there is no remaining hockey stick shape. The claim in Mann et al. (2000) about robustness to the exclusion of the tree ring data was obviously misleading.

    The difference between deliberate misrepresentation and outright lying has a lot to do with what if anything you do after being caught spreading whoppers. “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are but tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  26. Questioning the wider social significance underlying Mann’s hockey stick:

    “The story continued on from there and much more could be said. The intensity with which so many people have followed the story, and its continuing relevance via the ongoing Mann v. Steyn lawsuit (as well as others), indicate to me that it is more than just an academic spat about proxy quality and scores. I suspect that the whole episode has wider social significance as an indicator of a rather defective aspect of early 21st century scientific culture.” (ibid @ CONCLUSION)

  27. David L. Hagen

    Mitigate or Adapt to Cyclones?
    1970 cyclone: Bhola Cyclone 500,000 deaths 222 km/h wind
    1991 Cyclone Gorky 140,000 deaths 240 km/h
    2007 Cyclone Sidr high Category 4 – 3,406 deaths 215 km/h
    Deaths have been reduced in part by the cyclone shelters Bangladesh has been building – for use as both Shelters and Schools

    Fact: Himalayan erosion created the Ganges/Brahmaputra Delta and causes delta expansion.
    A Study of Morphological Changes in the Coastal Areas and Offshore Islands of Bangladesh Using Remote Sensing doi:10.5923/j.ajgis.20130201.03
    Note:

    Table 2. Erosion and land accretion in the coastal and offshore islands areas of Bangladesh, 1977-2010. Total Erosion 491 sq km Accretion 630 sq km

    “during 1750-2000 period progression took place towards south and southwestward. The country gained a land of 2146 square kilometers during that period.”

    The Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers in Bangladesh: basin denudation and sedimentation HYDROLOGICAL PROCESSES Hydrol. Process. 13, 2907±2923 (1999)

    Of the total suspended sediment load (i.e. 1037 million tonnes)transported by these rivers, only 525 million tonnes (c.51% of the total load) are delivered to the coastal area of Bangladesh and the remaining 512 million tonnes are deposited within the lower basin, offsetting the subsidence. Of the deposited load, about 289 million tonnes (about 28% of the total load) are deposited on the flood plains of these rivers. The remaining 223 million tonnes (about 21% of the total load) are deposited within the river channels, resulting in aggradation of the channel bed at an average rate of about 3.9 cm/yr

    Ground water extraction, sediment diversion and peat compaction, cause subsidence.
    Groundwater Resources Development in Bangladesh: Contribution to Irrigation for Food Security and Constraints to Sustainability

    In the highly populated urban areas, most noticeable in Dhaka city, recharge to the aquifers is much less than abstraction of groundwater. The lowering trend of groundwater level during the last 32 years is 20 to 30m with an average decline of more than 1.0 m/year . . .This lowering of the water level leads to increased pumping cost, abandonment of wells, and land subsidence.

    Mississippi Delta subsidence primarily caused by compaction of Holocene strata.

    We find that millennial-scale compaction rates primarily associated with peat can reach 5 mm per year, values that exceed recent model predictions. Locally and on timescales of decades to centuries, rates are likely to be 10 mm or more per year. We conclude that compaction of Holocene strata contributes significantly to the exceptionally high rates of relative sea-level rise and coastal wetland loss in the Mississippi Delta, and is likely to cause subsidence in other organic-rich and often densely populated coastal plains.

  28. Chimalaya has an article – Ready or not: Can Bangladesh cope with climate change?

    “Bangladesh is awash with climate adaptation projects. But I am left wondering: what makes for success? And how do you know when you see it? In the capital Dhaka, I track down Bangladeshi scientist Saleemul Huq, leading climate adaptation expert, and author for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IP CC).”
    ….
    “They write hardhitting op-eds in leading broadsheets and lay responsibility squarely at the feet of polluting nations. And they are at the front of the queue when it comes to adaptation funding.”

    What make for success? Pretending that your land sinking at 20mm/y is somehow due to sea levels rising by 2mm/y and then trying to guilt trip the rest of the world by spinning AGW.

    “Most of the money coughed up by industrialized nations has gone to large economies like China and India to finance ‘mitigation’ in the form of energy efficiency (translation: slightly less polluting coal-fired power stations than before).”

    And there in lies the whole problem with lying about the scientific evidence to achieve and agenda. If the problem is falsified the resources will go to the wrong the solution.

    The chinese don’t need any help in destroying western economies and it sounds like the bangladeshi could do with some of the BILLIONS being wasted on farcical attempts to reduce climate change by one or two hundredths of a degree.

    The CO2 scam is the most monumental failure from whatever side of the simplistic left vs right political divide it is viewed from.

    Except for those who aim to control the $100 BILLION / year environmental slush-fund, devoid of any legal accountability or auditing.

  29. @ Greg

    “The CO2 scam is the most monumental failure from whatever side of the simplistic left vs right political divide it is viewed from.”

    It is not a failure if you are in the money laundering business. In THAT world, it is the most successful scam in history. And looks to continue into the foreseeable future.

    Surely you have noticed that as billions are confiscated from earners and funneled into ‘aid’ programs, the only obvious aid-ees are the bureaucrats doing the confiscating and their counterparts in the thugocracy target countries. Of course the thugs invariably use part of their largesse to fund the individuals and organizations who sent the largesse, thus ensuring an essentially never-ending supply of said largesse.

  30. Good article with in dept analysis. But the challenges Bangladesh face in terms of climate changes are very different than many other countries. Because of poor infrastructure any small climate change can cause a huge effect on the country. More environmental research and action needed to encounter this analysis in Bangladesh.