Bangladeshi climate change expert visits Geneseo

Fulbright scholar Subash Das's lecture, "Climate Change: Vulnerability and Adaptation in Bangladesh" highlighted the effects of global warming on climate areas worldwide.

The Wednesday afternoon speech delivered a very clear message: Although the climate change feels unnoticeable in the United States, other parts of the world have felt a drastic impact.

Opening with global examples, Das pointed out that "change has been very rapid." He cited that "50 percent of the ice is missing" from the Arctic Circle since 1980.

Das attributed the effects of global warming primarily to the increasing levels of green house gases, especially carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere.

A majority of the lecture dealt with the impact of changing global conditions on Bangladesh. "Bangladesh is the worst effected country," said Das. This is due, he said, to a variety of reasons including the nation's geographic location, very low topography and its funnel-shaped coastline.

According to Das, the socioeconomic conditions of Bangladesh also present a problem. It has the highest population density in the world, with approximately 150 million people in just 55,598 square miles, many of whom live in impoverished conditions near the coast.

Das developed several scenarios that will potentially play out in near future, predicting that "in the next 50 years, the sea level will rise about half a meter." Not only will this displace 6 to 7 million people, but it will also be disastrous to coastal mangrove forests, wetlands and marshes. "All sectors of the economy will be affected," Das said.

"What can we do? We have two options," said Das. He said that Bangladesh needs to continue the process of adaptation and improve efforts to mitigate the problems contributing to climate change altogether.

Das laid out several measures that the government is currently taking to prepare itself. These include maintaining and building flood-protective structures, especially embankments, updating warning and forecasting measures and educating the population.

The professor concluded by calling on other countries to take responsibility for their actions. "Smaller countries are not responsible," Das said, adding that he believes Bangladesh, among others, should receive global help from the larger nations more directly accountable for the effects of climate change.

Das - currently a professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka, Bangladesh - has been working as a Fulbright Scholar at the Department of Geography at Kansas State University since October.

He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in geography at the University of Dhaka and his Ph. D. in oceanography from Moscow State University. He has also done postdoctoral research in the department of oceanography at the University of Southampton in England and published 65 articles in national and international journals.

The lecture's student attendance was extremely high and reaction was very positive. "It was interesting to see a country so different from us," explained sophomore Alex Luce.

"It was nice to hear someone else's viewpoint on the global warming issue," said sophomore Kathy Davison. Both said that they also liked the lecture because "it wasn't political" and was based primarily on facts.

Jennifer Rogalsky, assistant professor of geography, organized the event. She explained that Das's visit is part of Geneseo's Visiting Scholar Program. Geneseo is able to invite two Fulbright Scholars to campus for lectures each year. The foreign language department will be hosting the other Fulbright Scholar later this semester.