The Climate Conversation

Four families sitting with their remaining food storage. Due to high salinity, agricultural produce cannot flourish. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.
Four families sitting with their remaining food storage. Due to high salinity, agricultural produce cannot flourish. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.

As a country that has struggled to cope with climate adaptation, Bangladesh has become one of the scapegoats of the climate crisis. Developed countries are often unwilling to take on significant emissions reductions or provide financial assistance to developing countries to help them adapt to the effects of climate change. This story focuses on Bangladesh, which is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to its location in a low-lying delta region and its consequent susceptibility to flooding and rising sea levels. The effects of climate change on Bangladesh include sea level rise, increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, and damage to homes and infrastructure as well as the country’s agricultural sector. This story suggests that developed countries can help Bangladesh cope with climate change by providing financial and technical assistance and by reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases. It also highlights the vulnerability of the Sundarbans mangrove forest in Bangladesh to the impact of climate change.

Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.
The Gabura Union, a small island adjacent to the Sundarbans Forest, is predicted to be submerged in seawater by 2050. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.

Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. However, negotiating one has been challenging due to several factors. One of the main reasons that the recent Conference of the Parties (COP) climate change summit and other international climate conferences have not been able to resolve climate change is that there is a lack of consensus among participating countries on how to address the issue. Developed countries, which have historically been the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, are often unwilling to reduce their emissions or provide financial assistance to developing countries to help them adapt to the effects of climate change.

Another significant barrier in tackling climate change is the need for more political will among global leaders. In some cases, heads of state do not see climate change as a priority, while others are reluctant to take on the economic and political costs of reducing emissions or investing in clean energy due to political purposes. Some countries may be influenced by powerful fossil fuel lobbies which go against climate action. There needs to be greater cooperation and compromise across the globe. Developed countries need to be willing to take on more significant emissions reductions and provide financial support to developing countries which suffer from the effects of climate change. Developing countries, in turn, also need to implement measures to reduce emissions and invest in clean energy, among other climate mitigation initiatives. This can happen through more effective multilateral negotiations such as United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where all countries agree to set emissions reduction targets and support developing countries. All countries must understand that climate change is a global problem for humankind.

Bangladesh is one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The country is located in the low-lying delta region of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and the Meghna River, rendering it particularly susceptible to flooding and rising sea levels. Bangladesh is also prone to cyclones and other extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change. One of the main ways in which climate change is affecting Bangladesh is through sea level rise. The country has a long coastline, and as sea levels continue to rise, the risk of coastal flooding is also increasing, with potentially devastating consequences on the lives of the people in these areas. Many living near the coastline have lost their homes and livelihoods due to sea level rise and coastal flooding. They face food and water insecurity due to increased soil and water salinity.

Climate conversations worldwide involving world leaders have been taking place annually, but nothing is changing. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.

In addition, Bangladesh is experiencing increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as cyclones, floods, and droughts. These events are causing widespread damage to homes and infrastructure and affecting the country’s agricultural sector, a significant source of income for many people in Bangladesh.

Globally rich countries can help Bangladesh cope with climate change through several means. One crucial way is providing financial assistance to help the country adapt to the effects of climate change. This may include funding the construction of sea walls and other flood protection infrastructure, and sponsoring programs to help people in coastal areas relocate to higher ground. Another option is to provide technical assistance to help Bangladesh develop and implement clean energy and other climate mitigation measures. This could include providing funding and expertise to help the country develop renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, as well as to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions from the industrial and transportation sectors. With such support, Bangladesh can take steps to adapt to the impacts of climate change and build a more resilient and sustainable future for its people. Developed countries can also contribute to the race against climate change by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. This will help slow the pace of climate change and ensure that these countries are taking responsibility for their role in the climate crisis.

Many indigenous communities across the Sundarbans Forest have been experiencing extreme weather conditions.
Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.

The Sundarbans Reserve Forest, located in the coastal belt of Bangladesh, is one of the most vulnerable areas in the country. The forest spans over 10,000 square kilometres and is home to various plant and animal species, including the Bengal tiger. However, the forest is threatened by climate change, including rising sea levels and increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events. Sea level rise is one of the most significant threats to the Sundarbans Forest. According to a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels in the Bay of Bengal are projected to increase by up to one metre by the end of the century. This would devastate the Sundarbans Forest, as large areas of the forest will be submerged by seawater.

Due to climate change, the Sundarbans Forest faces other consequences. For example, the forest is experiencing increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as cyclones and floods. Not only have these events caused widespread damage to the plant life and the biodiversity of the forest, the livelihoods of the people living in and around the forest have also been adversely affected. Many people have lost their homes and land to flooding, forcing them to relocate to higher ground. The impacts of climate change on the Sundarbans Forest are also likely to have knock-on effects on the people living in the surrounding areas. Extreme weather events have caused widespread damage to homes and infrastructure, affecting the people’s livelihoods in the region. For example, many people rely on fishing and cultivating land in and around the forest for their livelihoods, and extreme weather events can significantly impact these industries. As the forest is damaged by sea level rise and extreme weather events, these people are also becoming increasingly affected by climate change.

Fishing communities face extreme poverty due to the lack of fish available in the rivers.
Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.

The impact of climate change on the health of people living around the Sundarbans is also significant. As a result of sea level rise and increased flooding, many people are at risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. Extreme weather events are increasing salinity across the coastal belt of Bangladesh. Women are experiencing uterine cancers, infertility, and skin diseases. Men, too, are suffering from fertility problems and other health issues. Due to the loss of livelihoods and displacement, many people face food insecurity and malnutrition. In addition to these immediate consequences, climate change also exacerbates the region’s existing social and economic inequalities. People in marginalised communities living in poverty are disproportionately affected by climate change, as they have fewer resources to cope with its effects and have less access to services and support.

Climate change has led to a growing number of people migrating from these areas, searching for better opportunities and escaping the adversities of climate change. Most climate migrants from coastal belt areas of Bangladesh are moving to urban areas, such as the capital city of Dhaka and other major cities. These migrants often seek better job opportunities and access to services and support. However, many migrants face challenges in their new locations, such as a lack of affordable housing and discrimination. The future remains uncertain for those still living in coastal areas of Bangladesh and fighting the climate crisis. Many people living in these areas are among the country’s most marginalised communities, making them particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Climate conversations worldwide involving world leaders and major international organisations have been taking place every year, but they fail to understand the severity of the problem, especially for the people suffering at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. These issues should not be mere topics of conversation housed in a conference room. Rather, immediate action is required to save the world and the future.

Climate change is accelerating the displacement of inhabitants across the coastal belt of Bangladesh. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.
Climate change is accelerating the displacement of inhabitants across the coastal belt of Bangladesh. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.
Women around coastline areas of Bangladesh face increased salinity, a major cause of uterine cancer.
Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.
Women around coastline areas of Bangladesh face increased salinity, a major cause of uterine cancer. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.
Due to climate change, extreme heat and salinity are causing a decline in birth rates across the coastal belt in Bangladesh.
Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.
Due to climate change, extreme heat and salinity are causing a decline in birth rates across the coastal belt in Bangladesh. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2022 – 2023.
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About the author

Mohammad Rakibul Hasan

Mohammad Rakibul Hasan is a Dhaka, Bangladesh-based documentary photographer, filmmaker, visual artist, and art educator. His work explores human rights, social development, politics, the environment, and spirituality. Hasan was nominated for many international awards and has won hundreds of photography competitions worldwide, including the Lucie Award, One World Media Award, Human Rights Press Award, and Allard Prize. His photography projects have been exhibited in Photo Basel, Shanghai Photo Festival, NordArt Festival, Berlin Photo Festival, Belgrade Photo Month Festival, Indian Photo Festival, and many other galleries worldwide. He pursued a one-year certificate in creative practices at the International Centre of Photography. Hasan holds a postgraduate certificate in photography from Falmouth University and an undergraduate certificate in Art History and Philosophy from Oxford University. He also pursued a postgraduate diploma in photojournalism from Ateneo de Manila University and graduated in film and video production from UBS Film School at the University of Sydney and received a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in photography from Falmouth University. Hasan works as a visual journalist for ZUMA Press, Redux Pictures, Inter Press Service (IPS), and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. He is a consultant photographer and filmmaker for the World Health Organisation, UN Women, Oxfam, Red Cross, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, ActionAid, WaterAid, and many other international non-profit organisations. The °CLAIR Galerie in Switzerland exhibits his artworks. He is a Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Fellow and a former TEDx speaker. He is a 2022 Oxford Climate Journalism Network (OCJN) fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. Hasan is currently pursuing a master’s degree in photography at Falmouth University via distance learning.

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After travelling on foot for over 300 kilometres from Myanmar, where ethnic cleansing is taking place, a family member finally reunites with others in a mountainside field near the border of Bangladesh and Myanmar. Photograph by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2017.
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