Arctic ice coverage is very crucial against the threat of global warming because it acts as a refrigerator to cool down the earth. Instead of absorbing heat from outside sources, the ice reflects back all the heat it gets from the sun into space and helps cool down the earth. As greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere, they cause temperature rise in the troposphere. Global warming affects the Arctic more than any other region of the world. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in 2010, the air temperature of the Arctic had increased approximately 4° Celsius compared to a 1968 – 1996 reference period. Satellite data shows that over the past thirty years, arctic ice coverage has decreased 30% by the end of September – the month that marks the end of summer melt season (NSIDC, 2019). As the ice of the Arctic melts, it flows into the ocean and causes sea level rise. If all of the ice sheets of Greenland melt down and flow into the ocean, they will cause the sea level to rise by 7 meters, or 23 feet, and this sea level rise will cause the earth to rotate more slowly (NASA, 2019). If the sea level keeps rising, it will cause lots of coastal land to become submerged under water. This means that those people who are living in coastal line areas will become homeless and eventually need to relocate.
Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to climate change because of its geographic location, low elevation, high population density, and inadequate infrastructure. It has been estimated that by 2050, 1 in every 7 people in Bangladesh will be displaced due to the effects of climate change, and 18 million people may have to be relocated due to sea level rise. 2/3 of the population of Bangladesh live on the coastal line. It is projected that by 2050, with a 50 cm rise of sea level, Bangladesh will lose 11% of its total land, and this will affect 15 million people who are living in the coastal line (EJF, 2019).
When I was in Bangladesh in 2014, I went to visit one of my school friends whose family lives near the river bank of the Padma River. During the tidal cycle in the morning time, some lower ground goes under the water, and in the evening time, that extra water goes away. Therefore, those lands remain empty: no agriculture or planting can be done on those lands because of regular flooding. I saw a broken road go towards the river and end. When I asked if the road was actually meant to end at the river side or not, people responded that the road was supposed to go straight through for a few kilometers to another village, which was totally gone underneath the river water. People pointed out some broken electric pillars still standing in the water. One elderly person told me he had to move his house multiple times because the river took his land. People here in Bangladesh are always in fear that at any time, they can lose the last piece of land that they have and become homeless. Lots of people just build temporary huts in which to live. They live in extreme poverty: most of them don’t have food to eat, and their children can’t go to school because their school has been covered by the river water. When people lose their land, the majority of them move to cities like Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. A study conducted in 2012 found that about 1500 families relocated to cities, mainly in Dhaka, and almost all of them cited the changing environment as the main reason for their relocation. People who lose their land because of climate change often end up in urban slums.
Climate change, or global warming, causes mean temperature rise in the earth; therefore, this excess heat melts the ice in the Arctic and in other regions. This leads to sea level rise which affects the people who live in low-lying coastal areas. Many people lose their houses and lands due to sea level rise, and in many cases, they have to relocate as a result.