Climate Change

Bangladesh experienced 185 extreme weather events between 2000 and 2019: ICCCAD report

Cyclone casualty in the country reduced from 300,000 in 1970 to 35 in 2022

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Monday 19 February 2024
Photo for representation: iStock

Between 2000 and 2019, Bangladesh experienced 185 extreme weather events, making it the seventh most vulnerable country to climate change, according to a new report released by the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in collaboration with Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) on February 11, 2024.

According to Global Climate Risk Index 2021, the top six countries were Puerto Rico (unincorporated territory of the United States), Myanmar, Haiti, Philippines, Mozambique and The Bahamas from 2000 to 2019.

The most significant climate threats were identified to be tropical cyclones, sea level rise, heavy rain and floods, extreme heat and droughts.

The report Climate Change Impacts in Bangladesh- What Climate Change means for a Country and its People highlighted the country’s vulnerability to climate change.

The report revealed that climate impacts have led to the degradation of ecosystems, livelihoods and infrastructure, with rising heatwaves contributing to heat stress among workers, resulting in loss of life and reduced productivity.

Flooding, rising sea levels and saline soil intrusion have forced people to leave their homes, affecting land and food security. 

Climate change caused the pre-monsoon rain that destroyed the summer paddy crop in 2017 and contributed to a 30 per cent hike in rice prices. 

The major flooding of the Brahmaputra River in 2017 inundated at least 480 community health clinics and damaged some 50,000 tube wells, essential for meeting communities’ safe water needs.

On average, the country has already lost an estimated $1 billion annually, due to cyclone-related damages.

Alongside extreme weather, sea level in Bangladesh is rising by 3.8-5.8 millimetres per year, faster than the global average.

According to the report, in southern Bangladesh, projected sea level rise could displace 900,000 people by 2050 and more saline waters could disrupt fisheries, disproportionately affecting coastal communities.

The report stated that Bangladesh is recognised as a global leader in adaptation and resilience, together with risk and disaster management.

In Bangladesh, the adaptation policies and local initiatives have saved many lives and averted the worst impacts of climate change.

Community-based early warning systems, strengthening of polders, coastal afforestation and elevated housing have reduced the human cost and damage of extreme weather events.

Due to the country’s Cyclone Preparedness Programme, the number of people who have died during cyclones has fallen from 300,000 from Cyclone Bhola in 1970 to 35 from Cyclone Sitrang in 2022.

Plots of land enclosed by embankments, known as polders, are integral to adapting to climate change in Bangladesh. There are now 139 polders along Bangladesh’s coastal zone, protecting around 1.2 million hectares (about 25 per cent) of the coastal zone.

Smallholder farmers in the south-central, northern and north-eastern wetlands of Bangladesh practice floating agriculture.

Needs bolder adaptation response

Even with accelerated climate action, continued warming and more extreme weather will stress adaptation efforts in Bangladesh, making it harder to protect lives and livelihoods. 

The accelerating impacts of climate change in Bangladesh highlights an urgent need to scale up international action against climate change.

Overall, Bangladesh’s ability to continue responding to climate change requires multiple strands of action: 

  • National coordination and government investment
  • Locally led adaptation
  • Equitable loss and damage financing
  • A large-scale shift to secure, low-carbon energy

Currently, the government of Bangladesh spends approximately 6-7 per cent of its annual budget on climate adaptation, about 75 per cent of which comes from domestic sources. However, scaling up adaptation measures as outlined in the National Adaptation Plan (2023-2050) will require seven times the current spending.

Loss and damage is often categorised as economic or non-economic, though the two categories are interconnected. In December 2023, COP28 agreed on a loss and damage deal, with pledges totalling approximately $655 million. 

Bangladesh supports a loss and damage mechanism that upholds principles of climate justice and collectively addresses the extensive adaptation finance needs of vulnerable countries.

Additionally, supporting the communities most at risk of climate impacts requires transitioning away from fossil fuels.

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