By Dan Shapley
Bangladesh could be ground zero for the geo-strategic
fallout from global warming, if some of the nation's best national security
minds have it right. And that makes Cyclone Sidr a big glaring warning
signal. Shockingly, it's a warning signal that the major U.S. media is
Cyclone Sidr is, as I write, churning with Category 4
strength toward Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal, where nine of the world's
13 deadliest hurricanes have struck. The official forecast, which has proven
unreliable so far for this storm, predicts a decrease in strength to
Category 1 storm before landfall -- still a formidable force.
The critical issues that will determine the destruction
and death visited on Bangladesh and/or northeastern India, as our Storm
Pundit points out, is the
strength of the storm at landfall and the size of the storm surge.
(Other than The Daily Green, the only big names in U.S. media to report on
the cyclone are Bloomberg and Reuters, according to a Google News search.)
The frequency and intensity of hurricanes has not been
definitively linked to global warming; there's robust scientific debate on
that point. The certainty of sea level rise, however, is undisputed; it's
just the degree to which, and speed with which, the waters will rise that is
Even if storms don't get stronger, the storms that do hit
Bangladesh -- and any other coastal areas -- will cause greater destruction.
Simply, there will be more water, closer to people -- and any storm surge
rearing up will go higher and farther, and do more damage.
When it comes to global warming impacts, Bangladesh is
often a focal point because it is a nation of 142 million people living in
low-lying, flood-prone river deltas -- and because it's a predominantly
Muslim nation in a volatile, fast-growing neighborhood. Bangladesh is
expected to grow in population by a staggering 100 million people in the
coming decades -- the same time frame during which those storms that make
landfall will be more destructive.
Two think tanks, the Center for Strategic and
International Studies and the Center for a New American Security, spent a
year producing "The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National
Security Implications of Global Climate Change," which was released just
days ago. The title speaks for itself, and Bangladesh figures prominently.
Notably, the report deals with a very immediate time
frame: 30 years. In other words, this generation. The overriding point: A
child born today will, at age 30, be staring at a very different, and much
more dangerous world, thanks to global warming. Further, it considered three
scenarios: one that is a near certainty, one likely and one possible. I will
only be referencing the scenario considered to be a near certainty, based on
the accumulated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
"It is a scenario in which people and nations are
threatened by massive food and water shortages, devastating natural
disasters, and deadly disease outbreaks," the
relevant chapter reads. "It is also inevitable."
Importantly, the report makes clear that security risks
will arise "as much (due to) local political, social, and economic factors
as by the magnitude of the climate shift itself."
Back to Bangladesh, which according to the report, "will
be threatened by devastating floods and other damage from monsoons, melting
glaciers, and tropical cyclones that originate in the Bay of Bengal, as well
as water contamination and ecosystem destruction caused by rising sea
sound like a place I'd want to live. And the authors assume many
Bangladeshis will come to the same conclusion. In short: Refugee crisis.
That explosive population will look for new homes --
"which will foment instability as the resettled population competes for
already scarce resources … Others will seek to migrate abroad, creating
heightened political tension not only in South Asia, but in Europe and
Southeast Asia as well."
India is already building a 2,100-mile, 10-foot tall fence
on its border with Bangladesh. The nation was only born 36 years ago, in a
violent schism with Pakistan. Since then 14 governments have come to power
and lost it, four of them via military coup. (Read: "local political, social
and economic factors.")
That instability is a factor in "rising Islamic
extremism," according to the report. And global warming, the report
concludes, will help stoke that latent extremism and propel it into new
In other words, Cyclone Sidr matters -- not only to the
142 million in its path. Not only to everyone with a conscience and a
concern for human life in an unfamiliar part of the world. It should matter
to every American, since by now it's abundantly clear that our fortunes have
become tied to the fates of nations around the world with extreme Islamic
Global warming could help make Bangladesh into a new
ground zero for extremism, and Americans haven't even seen the warning sign
flashing. It says Cyclone Sidr.
Source: http://www.thedailygreen.com/ 14 November 2007
(Published one day before SIDR struck Bangladesh, on 15 November)