A CLOSE LOOK
Bangladesh has a moderate summer but its luck may run out in future
A slow but sure change in the pattern of seasonal cycle is taking place in this part of the world. Climatologists have sounded alarm bell ringing about the rising temperature, only more so for countries in the South Asian region. Central and north-west India and eastern Pakistan are smarting under scorching heat waves with temperature rising as high as 50-51 degree Celsius. It was the warmest March on record in India and at least in 60 years in Pakistan. April was the hottest on record in India in 122 years and Pakistan had its hottest ever April.
So, the pattern of a warmer May was, according to climate scientists, 100 times more likely. Early reports estimate 90 deaths and 10-30 per cent less crop yield in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab on account of the heat wave. The casualty figures would have been many times higher but for the successful heat-health early warning system both countries have used after the 2015 such heat waves when thousands perished due to the excessive heat and heat-related causes.
Clearly, this unfolds a spectre of the nightmarish climatic condition the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Sixth Assessment Report predicted. The report said that heat waves and humid heat stress which was later named wet bulb temperature would be more intense and frequent in South Asia this century.
To our pleasant surprise, Bangladesh apparently ---of course a layman's observation ---has been spared the blistering heat waves. Although Rajshahi had some tough time to stay cool, the rest of Bangladesh was mercifully blessed with early rains and an overcast sky for most of Baishakh and till the first half of Jaistha on the Bangla calendar, the time when heat becomes unbearable. Only rarely did the sun come out of the hazy sky and unleash its burning power. Instead, moderately frequent rains and storms had a good share to leave a cooling impact on the weather. The Bay of Bengal had its occasional lows to signal a few cyclones but all those dissipated without wreaking large-scale havoc except some limited destructions in different areas.
Now climate scientists have indicated that the country along with West Bengal is going to have an early monsoon. The question is, if this fluctuating seasonal cycle is just one-off or it will continue for some years. As for the heat waves India and Pakistan are experiencing, the news is alarming indeed. According to a UK Met Office study, such heat events are going to occur more frequently than before. It recons 'the probability of exceeding a heat event like the one that occurred in 2010 would only be expected once every 312 years'. To everyone's dismay, record-breaking temperatures of this order are now expected every 3.1 years. By the end of the century, the chances could increase to every 1.15 years, the study concludes.
This is no joke. If this happens, there is no chance that as a natural corollary of this, Bangladesh will still enjoy an overcast sky and frequent early rains to have a cooling effect on the environment in the summer. Rather the chances are that the sphere of heated zone will expand with the ice on glaciers of the Himalayan mountain range melting fast. This year has triggered floods of almost unprecedented order in the Sylhet region because of heavy rains on the Indian side upstream. Earlier there was alarming news about the melting of glacial ice.
There has been unusual weather freakishness all across the globe. The villain of course is a warming climate. Instead of focusing on this life-and-death issue and making more money available to stem the rot, world powers are now engaged in a tussle to increase their spheres of power and dominance. Donald Trump may have his many failings but at least he withdrew from such a global rivalry of influence. The Biden administration has brought it back and the climate issue has apparently been relegated to the back burner. His foreign policy has been the prime instigator behind the war in Ukraine.
The neat result is that the commitments made by governments to abide by the Paris Agreement may now fall through. According to the agreement, the global response to the threat of climate change had to be strengthened so much so that temperature this century could be kept well below 2.0 degree Celsius ---preferably 1.5 degree Celsius ---above the pre-industrial level. If the commitments are not honoured, nations including the most powerful and advanced will have to grapple with frequent and devastating natural calamities. The favour Bangladesh has enjoyed this time will be a distant dream too.