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July 31, 2008

Ocean Encroachment in Bangladesh


Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting

bangladesh.jpg

My first reaction upon seeing this story was that someone was having some fun. But it doesn't seem like benthic bacteria . . . So this article from the AFP comes as a surprise, and a reminder that forecasting the future remains a perilous business. With news like this, it seems premature to dismiss skepticism about climate science as fading away, far from it, expect skeptics of all sorts to have a bit more bounce in their steps.

DHAKA (AFP) - New data shows that Bangladesh's landmass is increasing, contradicting forecasts that the South Asian nation will be under the waves by the end of the century, experts say.

Scientists from the Dhaka-based Center for Environment and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) have studied 32 years of satellite images and say Bangladesh's landmass has increased by 20 square kilometres (eight square miles) annually.

Maminul Haque Sarker, head of the department at the government-owned centre that looks at boundary changes, told AFP sediment which travelled down the big Himalayan rivers -- the Ganges and the Brahmaputra -- had caused the landmass to increase.

The rivers, which meet in the centre of Bangladesh, carry more than a billion tonnes of sediment every year and most of it comes to rest on the southern coastline of the country in the Bay of Bengal where new territory is forming, he said in an interview on Tuesday.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that impoverished Bangladesh, criss-crossed by a network of more than 200 rivers, will lose 17 percent of its land by 2050 because of rising sea levels due to global warming.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning panel says 20 million Bangladeshis will become environmental refugees by 2050 and the country will lose some 30 percent of its food production.

Director of the US-based NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, professor James Hansen, paints an even grimmer picture, predicting the entire country could be under water by the end of the century.

But Sarker said that while rising sea levels and river erosion were both claiming land in Bangladesh, many climate experts had failed to take into account new land being formed from the river sediment.

"Satellite images dating back to 1973 and old maps earlier than that show some 1,000 square kilometres of land have risen from the sea," Sarker said.

"A rise in sea level will offset this and slow the gains made by new territories, but there will still be an increase in land. We think that in the next 50 years we may get another 1,000 square kilometres of land."

Mahfuzur Rahman, head of Bangladesh Water Development Board's Coastal Study and Survey Department, has also been analysing the buildup of land on the coast.

He told AFP findings by the IPCC and other climate change scientists were too general and did not explore the benefits of land accretion.

"For almost a decade we have heard experts saying Bangladesh will be under water, but so far our data has shown nothing like this," he said.

Posted on July 31, 2008 12:32 AM

Comments

Wouldn't these sediment also help local sea level to rise?

And shouldn't they be cautious about using the land gain (I mean shouldn't they keep these area has a buffer zone)?

Finally, if this is serious, it should give something to think to those who where quick to blame 1000 of death as a result of GW in Myanmar last spring.

Posted by: Sylvain [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 30, 2008 08:15 PM


Land surface area gained by erosion in higher areas might cause some sea rise it should be very minimal considering the volume of water being displaced. With the current cooling and the contraction of the sea water due to that cooling even if a minimum might even be starting to contribute to some land area gains in low lying areas.

Just a thought,
Bill Derryberry

Posted by: Bill in Vigo [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 31, 2008 09:37 AM


Couldn't this be easily spun to mean that the ice in the Himalayas is melting faster than usual causing (a) more sediment to flow and (b) the entire subcontinent to rise due to the decreased weight of the disappearing ice mass? --It would not be climate-related if it could not be interpreted (spun) more than one way.

Also, I believe there are precedents. The Delmarva peninsula / Chesapeake Bay region were created by massive runoff from glacial melting during warming periods that presumably also increased sea level.

Posted by: George Tobin [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 31, 2008 01:29 PM


"it seems premature to dismiss skepticism about climate science as fading away, far from it, expect skeptics of all sorts to have a bit more bounce in their steps."

And are your steps lighter, too, Roger? While Bangladesh adding net land at sea level shouldn't really be much of a surprise, given all of the silt it receives, how does that lessen our concern about ice sheet and sea level risks, for example? Did you see the recent Lloyd's of London report on these? http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/07/16/marlo-lewis-cei-serves-up-refreshingly-distracting-climate-science-and-policy-distortions.aspx

Posted by: TokyoTom [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 1, 2008 03:56 AM


Tom-

Lately, you've deviated from your fair consistent high level comments here, absent personal attacks. Accusing me of being a climate skeptic is a bit tired, though. I am sure you can come up with something better ;-)

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 1, 2008 06:54 AM


I have often thought it was quite unusual that talk of sea level rise and flooding always assumes a static coast. A static coast is something that is rarely observed in the low-lying coastal areas that would be most effected by rising sea level, which this article so clearly demonstrates. Simply equating sea level rise to a loss of coastline shows a significant ignorance of coastal dynamics by the global warming community.

Also, George Tobin's post assumes a significant increase in river discharges over this time, but I saw no mention of that in the article.

Posted by: Jim Clarke [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 1, 2008 05:50 PM


Roger, you`ve made what seem to be rather puzzling remarks about how "skeptics" are likely to feel in the face of news that Pakistan nay at present be adding net land area. How are such supposed feelings by skeptics justified by the news, much less relevant to discussions of science or policy? If so, why don`t you help us by spelling out why? If not, why do you speculate on them?

Yes, I am disappointed by your level of analysis on several of your posts, for reasons that I have directly expressed. But my criticisms are not "personal attacks", nor was my question to you about your feelings an "accusation" that you are "a climate skeptic". I`m sorry that you took it that way, but my intention was simply to point out the lack of any apparent relevance to what seemed to be your chief analytical remarks.

Posted by: TokyoTom [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 1, 2008 10:13 PM


Tom,

As a climate crisis skeptic, I am simply astounded that you do not know the answers to your own questions. Let me be very simple. AGW is a theory. Theories are tested by how well they make predictions. One of the predictions made by the AGW theory is that rising sea levels will flood low lying coastal areas. In fact, this prediction is the biggest single prediction driving the call for CO2 mitigation policy, as rising sea levels are expected to be the most costly and least adaptable results of AGW. Bangladesh is widely recognized as one, if not the most, vulnerable coastal region in the world to the effects of rising sea levels from AGW. These scientists are pointing out that what is actually happening is far from of what the AGW theory predicts, lending support to those of us who believe the theory is not correct and that calls for immediate action to avoid impending doom are unsupported by the evidence.

Are there other possible explanations that would allow the theory to still be accurate despite its failures at prediction? Sure. You can make up any explanation you want to save face and try to keep the research funds rolling in, but the more the science has to back-peddle, the less support it will have.

Posted by: Jim Clarke [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 2, 2008 06:26 AM


Jim,

Rivers delatas carry soil to the sea, so unless they`re heavily dammed and their water flows diverted, they are generally expected to build up. Where does any climate change theory say that the Ganges and other rivers that feed the delta of Bangladesh are supposed to magically stop flowing to the sea?

I`m sorry, but "what is actually happening" in Bangladesh (besides is far from clear) is not at all contrary to what the AGW theory predicts - which, as far as is relevant to Bangladesh, is simply that sea levels will continue to rise generally, and may rise sharply if ice sheets disintegrate. Well, tell me what rivers in Bangladesh bringing silt to the sea tell us about either?

Posted by: TokyoTom [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 2, 2008 06:47 PM


Tom,

The river argument is a straw man. The theory predicts a crisis regardless of river sediment deposits. The physical evidence indicates that this 'most vulnerable region' is not moving towards crisis, but is in fact, moving in the opposite direction. This is good news. To think of this as anything other than positive news demonstrates cognitive dissonance.

Roger's comments are completely rational. We should all be happy Bengladesh is not being inundated and that a theory predicting such may be in error.

Posted by: Jim Clarke [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 2, 2008 10:04 PM


Jim,

There is nothing more scarier to a true believer than an averted crisis. Nothing can be more disastrous to them than mitigation having little to no conceivable effect and adaptation saving lives of millions. How else can these people re-organize the world order to their own advantage.

Posted by: Sylvain [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 2, 2008 10:41 PM


I urge everyone to study climate-change impact reports on Bangladesh where you'll find many grandiose predictions such as increased droughts in the dry season, increased floods in the wet season and increased storms. But to justify these claims the authors only ever use global temperature predictions from GCM's. Not local GCM predictions which are totally inaccurate. Nor local statistics, which show no actual rising temperatures and no net change in floods, droughts, cyclones or monsoons since records began in the 50's, 60's and 70's. Since everyone just ritually ignores the actual data it wouldn't surprise me in the least if the sea temperature and sea level there were also static. Few people will have actually bothered to check.

Furthermore it is abundantly clear that any effects from a slowly rising trend, even if it were actually evident in the real data, would be totally dwarfed by the massive inter-seasonal variations that Bangladeshis have to cope with just now. When the water can rise 3 metres in a single day who is supposed to worry about 30 mm a century?

Worse, Bangladeshis problems stem entirely from poverty. With more affluence they'd cope just fine - just like the Dutch in fact. The IPCC and others tacitly assume the world community should stand back and allow this disgraceful poverty to continue into 2050. In fact by making fuel more expensive they'd propose to increase poverty. The moralistic, holier-than-thou tone adopted by the warmers when talking about the impacts on the poor is not based on the actual realities. It is simply more chattering-class hypocrisy with zero thought behind it.

Posted by: JamesG [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 3, 2008 11:21 AM


Jim: What is the relevance of this? "This is good news. To think of this as anything other than positive news demonstrates cognitive dissonance." Whose "cognitive dissonance" are you commenting on? Where on this thread (or elsewhere) is smeone suggesting that the build up of silt in Pakistan is bad news?

"We should all be happy Bengladesh is not being inundated and that a theory predicting such may be in error." "May be"? I'm sorry, but why don't you actually address my point and what the AGW theory predicts? As I summarized, my understand is is that the prediction, as far as is relevant to Bangladesh, is simply that sea levels will continue to rise generally, and may rise sharply if ice sheets disintegrate - with impacts expected to be noticeable some 50 - 90 years down the road. How does the latest news, if correct, at all contradict AGW theory?

Sylvain: What's the matter, is it too challenging for you to address a real person rather than a strawman?

"Nothing can be more disastrous to them than mitigation having little to no conceivable effect and adaptation saving lives of millions."

You show not the slightest familiarity with the IPCC reports, which stress the overriding importance (and benefit-to-cost ratio) of adaptation in low-lying regions. If it's not too hard for you, you can find the Working Group II Report "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" here, in the language of your choice: http://www.ipcc.ch/.

"How else can these people re-organize the world order to their own advantage"? Don't let it screw up your world-view too much, but the Working Group II Report stresses the need for greater funding - by the wealthy, developed nations - of projects to enhance adaptation in the poorer and more vulnerable nations, and this is certainly a significant post-Bali agenda item.

JamesG: "Nor local statistics, which show no actual rising temperatures" Care to actually test this against the IPCC reports, or do you too prefer to remain among the uninformed?

"it is abundantly clear that any effects from a slowly rising trend, even if it were actually evident in the real data, would be totally dwarfed by the massive inter-seasonal variations that Bangladeshis have to cope with just now. When the water can rise 3 metres in a single day who is supposed to worry about 30 mm a century?"

Excellent point. Maybe THAT's why the Working Group II Report actually stresses ADAPTATION?

"Bangladeshis problems stem entirely from poverty. With more affluence they'd cope just fine - just like the Dutch in fact."

The second is obvious, the first is also just as obviously an overstatement. Even if wealthy, free and well-governed people lived in Bangkadesh, they'd face problems from typhoons and river flooding.

"The IPCC and others tacitly assume the world community should stand back and allow this disgraceful poverty to continue into 2050."

This is nonsense. I challenge you to demonstrate this, using the IPCC reports.

"In fact by making fuel more expensive they'd propose to increase poverty."

More confusion. The wars of the "caring" caring Bush administration have greatly contributed to making fuel more expensive. It could also have something to do with increased demands from economic growth in China, India, Brazil etc. Let's also think a little bit about the effects of direct/indirect carbon pricing in the West: a little basic economics shows that this has the effect of DAMPENING Western energy demand and thus creates a small subsidy to the developing nations in the form of prices that would otherwise be even higher. This differential is, in fact, one of the ones that is fuelling the development of poorer nations by shifting industry there.

"The moralistic, holier-than-thou tone adopted by the warmers when talking about the impacts on the poor is not based on the actual realities. It is simply more chattering-class hypocrisy with zero thought behind it."

Thanks for showing so well that all of the strawmen, projection, lack of critical thinking and hypocrisy that you criticize among the "warmers" are also thriving among the "skeptics".

Posted by: TokyoTom [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 3, 2008 09:49 PM


TT
I challenged you to look at the real data and to look at the impact reports which blithely ignore them in favour of model projections. You obviously didn't, but here is one for you - they are all similar. Note the zero trends everywhere! Note the reliance on entirely unsuitable and clearly unrepresentative models!
ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a1247e/a1247e02.pdf
There are many others like that but that should do to make you realize that you are being misinformed about Bangladesh. In fact any true environmentalist should know that of the many ecological problems in Bangladesh potential global warming is very low on the list.
See:
http://www.eco-web.com/editorial/050307.html
"The major environmental concerns for Bangladesh are deforestation, deteriorating water quality, natural disasters, land degradation, salinity, unplanned urbanization, discharge of untreated sewage and industrial wastes, and so on."

Yes I am aware that adaptation is much recommended but it is misguided towards rising sea levels rather than the basics mentioned above. More money in fact is being directed towards those impact assessment leeches than ever reaches the poor.

It is also difficult to demonstrate a "tacit" assumption but it is truly abundantly clear from the many statements about the poor being worst hit by global warming and Bangladesh being always the first name mentioned. It would be rather more honest to admit that the poor are also worst hit by rising fuel prices: Except that it hits them much quicker and harder.

You can blame Bush all you like about rising oil prices but isn't that what you wanted? Yes indeed it's capitalism that brought them but scary and unrealistic warming scenarios certainly don't help. And now that you see the effects on the poor do you realize yet the true human cost of further hiking prices?

If current energy policy is misguided then IPCC are partly responsible. But we could agree at least on the increase in the availability of alternative fuels but clearly it has to be done without making things worse.

Posted by: JamesG [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 4, 2008 10:00 AM


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