The global and local context of climate change

Climate change will have a major impact on health and wellbeing globally, and densely populated low-lying countries such as Bangladesh will be particularly badly affected.

Climate change is predicted to have a major impact on our world. Average global temperatures are projected to rise by several degrees during this century. The world is likely to experience more extreme weather events and rising sea levels. Coastal regions will be vulnerable to flooding and contamination of fresh water supplies with seawater. 

These climate-related changes will have a profound impact on human health and wellbeing. As well as the direct impact of extreme weather events, changing weather patterns are likely to alter the distribution of disease-causing organisms. Droughts, flooding and rising sea levels will threaten the homes and livelihoods of may millions of people, particularly those living in coastal regions. Large-scale population movements are likely and there is a risk of social conflict as resources such as water and food become scarce. 

The situation in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to climate change. It is likely to experience floods in the wet season, and potentially droughts in the dry season if neighbouring countries limit cross-border fresh water supply. It is also likely to face more extreme weather events given its location at the top of the Bay of Bengal on the cyclone path.

There are concerns that the ranges of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, kala-azar and Japanese encephalitis virus infections could increase with climate change. Cholera outbreaks may also become more frequent as sea surface and river temperatures rise.

Health may be affected in other ways. Many people work outdoors, and heat stress is already occurring in urban areas. Rising salinity levels in coastal districts are likely to reduce crop production, contributing to food shortages and under-nutrition. Increased salt intake may also exacerbate conditions such as hypertension. 

Increased intensity of monsoon rains will cause flooding, and more frequent extreme weather events are likely to displace large numbers of residents of low-lying areas. These people are likely to migrate to cities, particularly informal settlements, where environmental conditions are typically poor.