Facing Rising Seas

As we continue our dangerous experiment with the Earth's climate, it's expected that extreme weather and natural disasters will become more frequent and intense. The water cycle will become so unpredictable that droughts, floods, and rising sea levels could cripple entire cities and countries. With its low elevation and severe tropical storms, Bangladesh is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, though it has contributed little to the emissions that are driving it. Located at the bottom of the mighty GBM river system comprising the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Meghna, Bangladesh is watered by a total of 57 transboundary rivers, 54 from neighboring India and 3 from Myanmar. Climate change and variability have already had an impact on the lives and livelihoods of people living in coastal areas of Bangladesh. Floods, tropical cyclones, storm surges, and droughts are becoming more frequent and will be more severe in the coming years and decades. Scientists expect rising sea levels to submerge 17 percent of Bangladesh's land and displace 18 million people in the next 40 years. Seas in Bangladesh could rise as much as 13 feet by 2100, four times the global average. In an area where land is often a thin brown line between sky and river, nearly a quarter of Bangladesh is less than seven feet above sea level, such an increase would have dire consequences. Entire islands are already slipping into the sea from a combination of sea level rise and river erosion.