The latest episode of The President’s Inbox is live. This week Jim sat down with Sarang Shidore, the Director of Studies and a Senior Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute.
In this special series of The President’s Inbox on climate change, Sarang Shidore, the director of studies and senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the impact of climate change in the Bay of Bengal region. This series is made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
They discussed the Bay of Bengal and the consequences of climate change on Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Thailand. Sarang authored a report earlier this year for CFR’s Center for Preventive Action titled “Climate Security and Instability in the Bay of Bengal Region.”
Here are four highlights from their conversation:
1.) The Bay of Bengal is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The region is home to hundreds of millions of people, low-lying terrain, densely populated cities, major river systems, and rain-dependent agriculture. As a result, all four countries are vulnerable to the extreme flooding and drought that climate change is likely to produce.
2.) The region faces two major climate change-related threats: rising temperatures and rising sea levels. Rising temperatures can result in more rainfall in shorter spells, though it may not rain when farmers need it for their crops—or they may get so much rain that crops are washed away. Thailand, for one, is already experiencing a lower rice yield than normal because of climate change. At the same time, sea levels are rising. That can ruin natural aquifers and threaten cities. Bangkok could be underwater as soon as 2050.
3.) Climate change will make the region’s cyclones even more intense. The Bay of Bengal is prone to cyclones (what Americans call hurricanes). Climate change is producing more intense storms that that will dump more rain and move more slowly across a region. Cyclones can tear through critical infrastructure and wash away crops—forcing a country to rebuild.
4.) Many of the countries in the Bay of Bengal have made progress in building climate resiliency. Bangladesh has improved its resilience to natural disasters like cyclones, where the death tolls once were measured in terms of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands. Sarang says, “Bangladeshi policymakers talk now about the losses of livelihoods and physical infrastructure, no longer so much about the loss of life.” But planning for natural disasters won’t stop the disastrous consequences of climate change on its own. Climate change includes both “extreme weather events” and “slow onset events” like lower rice yields in Thailand. Climate change may come at the region faster than it can adapt.
Other episodes in the climate change series: