Climate change, environment

First Hand Insights on Climate Change Impacts in Bangladesh: An interview with Susmita Saha

This is an updated reprint of a 2016 interview.

In February 2022 the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) released a dire warning. (1) “This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

“The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F). Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. People and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit, said scientists.”

This nightmare is becoming all too real. In April 2022 temperatures on the Indian subcontinent have reached new highs well before the start of the summer season. (2) “Temperatures in India remain high amid ongoing heat waves that have plagued the country with dry, sweltering weather since early spring. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) stated that its March maximum temperatures were the highest in nearly a century and a quarter, and rainfall was only running about a quarter to a third of normal.”

“A large majority of Indian households live in poverty and lack air conditioning, increasing the population’s vulnerability to heat. Older adults are especially at risk from high temperatures. The sky-high temperatures exemplify the overlap between natural variability and the effects of human-caused climate change, which are known to make heat waves more intense and prolonged.”

At the end of April “several cities across the nation registered highs over 109 degrees (42.8 Celsius); the city of Wardha in the west-central state of Maharashtra soared to 113 degrees (45 Celsius).” Temperatures are forecast to increase in the coming weeks…

What does climate change look like to someone from the Indian subcontinent?

I met Susmita Saha through Facebook. She liked a previous article I had written on the subject of climate change and I reached out to her to connect. Since then we message each other each day.

Knowing that the impacts of Climate Change will be hardest felt in places like Bangladesh I wanted to get her view of what is happening and how it affects her daily life. I asked her to start by describing her background, age, and upbringing.

“I am Susmita Saha. I live in Jhalakati, Barisal division, Bangladesh. I am 23. Currently I am a student of disaster management in Patuakhali Science & Technology University. I am studied in the science group. Originally I wanted to be a doctor to save lives & to serve the poor people in our community & help society… But I couldn’t… I then I decided to study in disaster management… It’s a challenging subject for me to obtain knowledge to mitigate the impacts of various hazards or disasters in our country….”

I asked her if she seen any impacts from climate change on where she lives? And how are things changing?

“Yeah. Actually I have noticed the impacts of climate change in my living area as well as my varsity (university) nearby area. Since my childhood I had hardly remembered that during summer season the temperature was medium but now due to climate change, the temperature is increasing at a high rate. We live in the southern part of our country… and most people’s main occupation is agriculture. So excessive temperature reduces moisture content in soil & the agricultural production is also reduced day by day due to climate change. It is a concerning factor for us whereas it hurts to our economy. Secondly, due to climate change, the intensity & frequency of meteorological & hydrological hazards also increases. Their impact on my community is really hard. Their ability to cope decreases due to the repeated impacts.”

She continued, “Some indirect impacts such as social conflict & violence also increases day by day.”

Wow…

I know that temperatures in India recently have been very high. Are you experiencing the same?

“Yeah….definitely… But not like India….but temperature is increasing in our country also.”

Water is a huge issue. I stated there is expected to be less water coming from Himalayan glaciers. Does that affect where you live? Do you get water from glaciers in your rivers? Do you see lower levels of water in rivers?

She responded, “Actually my varsity is situated near in one of the Sea beach Kuakata in our country…. And my hometown is embedded with many rivers. The Barisal division is called ‘division of rivers’. So this allows me to witness the nature of rivers due to climate change. In monsoon, the river level increase. Sometimes it is overloaded…. Just I know this… Your question makes me think to this matter…but instantly I don’t have clear idea about that.”

I asked what the economic situation in Bangladesh is.

Susmita responded, “Now we gain middle income country…. Although it is lower medium…..we are trying to gain a better economy….”

As temperatures rise even more in the next 10 years how do you think that will affect the economy?

“Obviously… It does… Ours is an agricultural country. In northern part of our country, temperature rise influences drought & salinity intrusion on that locality. The production hampers a lot. In the northern regions specially Rajshahi, Rongpur, Ponchogaur district faces many problems due to temperature rise. As the agricultural production decreases due to moisture loss & irrigation problems, the prices of daily commodity also increases. This effects on our economy. This impacts on our GDP. Also, the people who are engaged directly or indirectly with agricultural practices, they have to replace & change their main occupation due to the impacts. They migrate on cities to search for a new livelihood. As a result, this creates an increasing pressure on society… These are some of the effects related to our economy.”

Great points. I asked, are you optimistic about the future?

“Yeah… we are… Actually we believe on our positive will. Already our government & our other stakeholders give a concerning eye on that impact to reduce the negativity of disaster.”

I responded, “That’s great. I think we are facing a disaster, but I am optimistic.”

Her answer to me, “Obviously… We have to James.”

I asked If you could change one thing to affect climate change, what would you want to change?

“I think climate change is dependent on various things…one thing cannot change anything…. Climate will change & I think it’s her nature…we should adopt with the changing climate. We should adopt with the climate change. That’s all there is to it.”

People in the west do not normally get to talk to people in places like Bangladesh, or India, or Ethiopia. What would you want to tell Americans? Is there a message you want them to learn?

Susmita responded, “Yeah…definitely. We face the worst part of climate change & we should integrate as one world, not like America, India not Bangladesh….climate change is that matter which is not only confined for one country but  for every country, for every citizen in our planet.”

Sage advice…

Since the interview, Bangladesh was struck by cyclone Roanu that killed 29 and displaced over 500,000 people. Susmita is safe and finishing her studies. (3)

NOTE: Susmita Saha has granted permission to reprint the above conversation with minor changes.

To discuss how climate change may affect your financial plan please feel free to email me at james.cox@glic.com

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2022-137443 exp 5/24

  1. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/resources/press/press-release
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2022/04/25/india-record-heat-march-april/
  3. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-36351574

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