Climate Change and Conflict in Bangladesh

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Bangladesh is located in a very difficult area of the World. The geographic shape and location make the country vulnerably for tropical cyclones and floods. Many experts indentify Bangladesh as ‘frontline state’ for climate change. Bangladesh would be one of the first and the hardest hit countries in the World if the climate changes. There’s almost a general consensus that the impact of climate change would affect millions of people and could potentially lead to large scale violent conflict. In this master thesis the relationship between climate change and violent conflict has been explored.   Starting point is climate change. Climate change is a change in climate over a period of time. It contains four elements: temperature change, precipitation change, sea level rise, and extreme mega events. The changing elements of climate change have two consequences. Fist a scarcity of resources like food, water, and agricultural land. Second an increase of the number of natural disasters like floods, storms, and tropical cyclones. These consequences lead to three social effects: political instability, economic instability, and migration. The social effects could potentially cause violent conflict. Two types of conflict are distinguished: intrastate conflict (civil war), and interstate conflict (conflict between Bangladesh and India or Myanmar).   The climate in Bangladesh has changed the previous thirty years. This has not led to a scarcity of food, freshwater or agricultural land. It is also unlikely that the change of climate has led to an increase of natural disasters. The political situation in Bangladesh has been relatively unstable during the last ten years. The economic situation is improving, but Bangladesh has still a long way to go in order to meet the millennium goals. Migration is mainly motivated by economic improvement. Thereby, there is no evidence for a connection between climate change and an increase in cyclones. The climate has changed over the last thirty years but the number of cyclones has decreased. Cyclones are already taking place on a frequent basis in Bangladesh. Even if there was a connection, it is doubtful whether one additional cyclone would trigger conflict.   The list of problems in Bangladesh is very long. It is possible that conflict will occur in Bangladesh in the coming years. It is not likely, however, that the phenomenon of climate change is to be a paramount factor explaining this conflict. Poverty, population pressure, quality of leadership (from Bangladesh, India or Myanmar), lack of opportunities and inequality are all factors that will have to be the subject of serious scrutiny in any research aspiring to truly explain the cause of future conflict in Bangladesh.  
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