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The Country Disappearing in Rising Tides



인간이 야기한 기후변화는 지구의 평균 기온을 현저히 상승시켰다. 1970년대 이후 해수면 온도가 꾸준히 상승하고 있는데, 1980년대 이후로는 더욱 뚜렷한 온난화 현상이 나타나고 있다. 지구상에 있는 엄청난 양의 바닷물이 있는데, 바닷물은 열 흡수력이 뛰어나서 온난화에 의해 지구에 축적된 열의 대부분을 해양이 흡수한다. 해양의 이런 열 축적은 해류 순환 패턴의 변화, 해수면 상승, 기후변화의 가속화 등을 발생시킨다. 온난화는 어디에서나 같은 속도로 진행되는 것이 아니라, 특정 지역에서는 기온의 상승 속도가 더 빠르다. 남아시아의 많은 사람에게 해수면 상승은 단순한 골칫거리 그 이상의 위기이다. 방글라데시에서는 높은 파도가 농촌과 도시 주민 모두에게 피해를 준다. 갠지스강 근처 저지대 마을에서는 해수면이 높아져 담수 공급을 어렵게 하고 토양의 염분을 증가시켰다. 안전한 집과 돈을 벌 수 있는 일터를 위해 대부분의 마을 사람들은 그들 스스로 이주가 불가피하다는 판단을 내릴 수밖에 없다. 아이들도 안전한 거처가 필요하고, 더럽고 위험한 물을 건너가며 학교에 보낼 수는 없는 일이다. 기후변화가 아이들의 삶과 미래까지 불투명하게 하고 있다.

Bangladesh, a country that was liberated and became an independent sovereign in 1971, is facing extreme environmental issues that are making traditional ways of life impossible to live. The country has not been an independent state for a long time, but for most of this short time, Bangladesh has always been in a vulnerable condition. With climate change accelerating, pressure on rural Bangladeshis to adapt to this change and be able to survive is growing more and more.

The low-lying country is already flood-prone, and citizens would normally move away during the worst times of seasonal flooding. However, the regularity of flooding has made it impossible to farm. Various crops cannot survive when contaminated with saltwater instead of freshwater. In addition, career alternatives are limited, so farmers who are not able to farm anymore do not have any other way of making an income. By 2100, sea levels are expected to rise by 1.5 meters along the coastline of Bangladesh. However, this is only during the regular seasons of the year, which means there will be more extreme seasonal fluctuations. While unusually high tides and disastrous storms have been occurring once every decade, there is a prediction that these natural phenomena could become as regular as three to fifteen times every single year by the end of the century. Then, what can be done for the rural rice farmers, currently the most vulnerable people in Bangladesh?

The only way for rural Bangladeshis to survive is to either change their way of life or to seek a home and employment elsewhere. There has been a higher frequency of migration because of how volatile the climate is becoming. There are now approximately 100,000 people migrating every single year because of flooding. Citizens realize it is not viable to stay where they are and seek other areas or countries that have an economy they could potentially work in, such as India, where many migrate over to in order to find construction or agricultural work.

However, others are trying to find opportunities in new circumstances. For example, while some crops cannot survive with the intrusion of saltwater, others find an opportunity in saltwater. Where rice might have once grown, shrimp farms have begun taking over. The intrusion of saltwater has provided just the right environment to convert from agriculture to aquaculture. Others have begun rerouting water by using earth walls. Rerouting water creates artificial islands that can be used for farming. This method is best known as a Dutch initiative. In addition, scientists are trying to develop crops that are saltwater resistant, as the problem of rising sea levels is not only the concern of Bangladesh but concerns of many other countries that have a coastline. However, this development will require more time, which means those affected by the rising tides in Bangladesh must settle for the immediate plan of action, which is to migrate or to adapt to the situation.