Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, June 28, 2007

By Adnan M. S. Fakir and Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

We don't know about you, but the current weather shifts in Bangladesh are driving us nuts. One morning, it's rain, rain, rain and Fakir wants to make a kolapatar raft for Diya to float on; a few days later, it's all about the unbearable summer heat, with Igloo lollies melting precisely in 5 minutes 43 seconds. Most of us choose to 'harmlessly' blame God for every little thing that goes wrong in our lives, be it constipation or fluctuating weather conditions. However, the root of the problem lies inside a man-made disaster on Mamma Earth, namely, Global Warming.

A Global Warning!
We have been hearing about global warming for a long time, and most of us pay little heed to it. Yet this is a major issue Bangladesh is already suffering from; the recent weather anomalies, flooding and hill erosions in Chittagong are prime examples. The major contributor to global warming is the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing a steady rise in the Earth's temperature by trapping excessive ultraviolet rays from the sun. Burning carbon fuels (petrol, diesel etc.) and coal is the prime source of carbon dioxide in Bangladesh.

Global Warming on Bangladesh:
Sea Level Rise: The melting of the polar ice caps (with helpless cute polar bears dying) and similar icy mountainous regions are causing almost an exponential rise in sea level. At the beginning of the 19th century, sea level rise was at 1 mm/year; now, due to global warming, since 1992 it is 2.9 mm/yr. If you calculate, you will find that from 1992 till 2007 sea level has risen by 4.35 cm. This might seem negligible, but you can already see its effect on Bangladesh; the recent flooding of Chittagong is a prime example. Bangladeshis should worry; being one of the largest deltas in the world, our chances of becoming an aqua-civilization are greater than that of many others.

It's predicted that by 2100, the sea level will rise to up to 88 cm more, and by 2050, fishes will be hanging out at in Barisal, Khulna, the southern parts of Chittagong, and parts of Dhaka..

Rising Ocean & Global Temperatures: Feeling hot during summer? Well, it's only going to get much hotter. With more ice melting, less UV rays are reflected back and are absorbed into the waters causing rising ocean temperatures, and also rising global temperature. Heat strokes killed thousands when temperature peaked at 56º C in Multan, Pakistan in May. On a world scale, Pakistan isn't very far from Bangladesh, and we can already feel the heat coming here.

Hurricanes: A higher ocean temperature causes stronger hurricanes. Although global warming does not increase the number of hurricanes, it intensifies them with more moisture, making them more destructive. Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are technically the same thing, except they have different names depending on the oceans from which they originate. Category 5 is the strongest, and used to be very rare, until in 2005 five of them conceived and shook the Earth. While Katrina was the most publicized, Japan had a record of 10 typhoons in 2006. We had seen an unusual sudden low depression turning a devastating storm in September, 2006 killing thousands of fishermen in Bangladesh. Recently even, the unusual May 15th cyclone and tidal surges hitting the coastal districts caused a lot of damages. Even now, the coastal areas are lying in Signal-3 and the situation is en route to worsen, displaying the effects of global warming.

Ocean Acidification: 35% of the carbon released is absorbed into the oceans lowering the pH level and making the seawaters more acidic. This acidity destroys the aquatic habitat of thousands of sea creatures, and disrupts the food chain.

This eventually leads to more algae blooms in the seas. However, some other forms of organisms thrive in this environment, which is not necessarily good; Japan had sightings of tens of thousands of rare giant jellyfishes last year. The effects are also being seen in Bangladesh; on June 11th, the Daily Star reported the catching of an unusual poisonous puffer fish or potka in Cox's Bazaar. This may appear normal but is not and the ecosystem in the Cox's Bazaar waters is being greatly harmed.

Soil Moisture: Higher temperature reduces soil moisture from the land. This causes soil to crack and dry up, literally becoming dead. This is greatly affecting one of our greatest allies in fighting global, which is the Amazon, where rivers and riverbeds are drying up. In Bangladesh some parts are being flooded while others are losing their soil moisture and becoming infertile.

Mountain Erosion: If you have been reading the news recently, you would be familiar with this concept. The mountains are cut for agriculture or urbanization. When there is excessive rainfall, due to changing wind patterns caused by global warming, the soil on the mountains erodes, leading to sort of an avalanche of soil. It recently occurred in Chittagong where the death toll is already at 128.

Few contributors to global warming from Bangladesh:
The Baby Boom Generation: Between 160,000 BC and 1945 AD, the population increased only by an estimated 2 billion as per several findings. From just 1945 to 2005, however, called the Baby Boom Generation, the population increased by a further 4.1 billion! This is no joke! Bangladesh's population has been increasing profoundly, although at a decreasing rate. The relation? More population requires more resources, which eventually lead to more carbon emission in the atmosphere. Have less kiddos, people!

Wildfires: With the increasing global temperature, reduced moisture in the air, forest fires have dramatically increased even in Bangladesh. It has also been found that the increased global temperature also dramatically increased the number of lightings, causing the forest fires. While no major such fire has occurred in Bangladesh yet, there have been a lot of cases of smaller ones than before. This is a double edge, because not only then are there fewer trees to convert the carbon dioxide to oxygen, but the fires also release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Deforestation: A large number of people don't realize that with every tree down, they are losing another supply of oxygen, another natural dam for flood control, another habitat for almost-endangered species and one of the best natural reflectors of UV radiation from the Sun. The roots of the trees hold onto the soil, hence preventing the soil to collect the surrounding riverbeds. With fewer trees for rooting, the soil easily runs into the rivers and deposits at their beds. This causes the rivers to overflow, thus flooding surrounding land. Like we mentioned before, this should be particularly scary for Bangladeshis because we have a dense network of rivers all over country. In case you are wondering, drying up rivers isn't a solution!

Over to You
This sounds unbelievable most of the time, but you CAN help in changing all of this. Whenever you raise your voice to support “<>Stop Global Warming<>” campaigns, you're stepping out from a crowd of unaware and ignorant people. Every time you plant a tree (wherever you can); you're making a small, yet significant difference in the Earth's ecological balance. Travel in CNG-driven vehicles to make sure your transport isn't emitting any harmful gases. Encourage your friends, neighbors and families to plant more trees, especially helping hands at your homes. A friend of mine once explained the positive effects of planting trees to her maidservant, and apparently, she went back to her village and convinced others to plant trees. As the story goes, that year their village wasn't flooded as devastatingly as it happens every year. Hard to believe, but true! If we step up now, we might be able to save our Mamma Earth before it's too late to make a difference. After all, we have only one. As Captain Planet had said, “The power is yours!”





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