ESPA Deltas project publishes short film on creating a sustainable future for climate-vulnerable deltas

The Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation Delta Project has just published a short film that highlights its findings in Bangladesh. The project was concerned with assessing health, livelihoods, ecosystems and poverty alleviation in populous deltas to provide knowledge and tools to enable policy-makers to evaluate the effects of policy decisions on people’s livelihoods.

A multidisciplinary and multi-national team of policy analysts, social and natural scientists and engineers collectively used a participatory approach to create a model to formally evaluate ecosystem services and poverty in the context of the wide range of changes that are occurring. In the film, DECCMA Principle Investigator Professor Robert Nicholls and researcher Dr Helen Adams talk about the environmental and social stresses facing delta populations, from salinity and subsidence to poverty and marginalisation.

ESPA Deltas holds final workshop with the Planning Commission in Bangladesh

by Saiful Alam

DECCMA builds on a project under the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme – ESPA Deltas. Following closure of ESPA Deltas in 2016 policy-makers in Bangladesh requested support in the use of tools developed within the project to assess the implications of government project proposals on ecosystem services and livelihoods in coastal Bangladesh. An additional year of funding was granted to ensure that the developed research could be translated into use to inform policy.

ESPA workshop (photo: Saiful Alam)

The final workshop of this extension project took place last week at the Planning Commission in Dhaka. Chaired by Professor Shamsul Alam, Senior Secretary in the General Economic Division of the Planning Commission, the workshop provided the opportunity for researchers to present their evaluations of the effect of three interventions proposed under the Delta Plan 2100.

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Research team members Professor Robert Nicholls and Dr Alex Chapman (University of Southampton) and Professors Md. Munsur Rahman, Mashfiqus Salehin and Anisul Haque (Institute of Water and Flood Management, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology) outlined the implications of three structural interventions under the Delta Plan 2100: ‘Green belt’ along the  coastal vulnerable area and sea walls along a selection of polders (sea-facing and a cluster in the south central part of the coast).

Professor Alam expressed his appreciation for the analysis and stated that it will allow more confidence about its application. DECCMA has furthered the evolving relationship with the Planning Commission. Professor Alam expressed his interest in DECCMA’s integrated assessment model to assess the impacts of cyclones on the coast, sediment management and water-logging.

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DECCMA holds its 8th whole consortium meeting in Bangladesh

by Katharine Vincent

What have we learned about migration and adaptation in deltas? Last week nearly 50 members of the DECCMA team from Bangladesh, Ghana, India and the northern team convened in Dhaka for the 8th whole consortium meeting. It was an exciting opportunity to learn about a critical mass of research findings that have been developed over the past 3.5 years, and plan how to ensure they inform theory, policy and practice.

Participants at the DECCMA8th whole consortium meeting, with key Bangladesh government representatives concerned with adaptation and the Delta Plan 2100

When it commenced in 2014, DECCMA set itself seven ambitious objectives, namely:

(1) to understand the governance mechanisms that promote or hinder migration of men and women in deltas;

(2) to identify climate change impact hotspots in deltas where vulnerability will grow and adaptation will be needed;

(3) to understand the conditions that promote migration and its outcomes, as well as gender-specific adaptation options for trapped populations, via surveys;

(4) to understand how climate-change-driven global and national macro-economic processes impact on migration of men and women in deltas;

(5) to produce an integrated systems-based bio-physical and socio-economic model to investigate
potential future gendered migration under climate change;

(6) to conceptualise and evaluate migration within a wide suite of potential adaptation options at both the household and delta level;

(7) to identify feasible and desirable adaptation options and support implementation of stakeholder-led gender-sensitive adaptation policy choices.

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During the consortium meeting each country team consolidated its findings around these objectives to synthesise what we have learned so far within each of the deltas. A wide-ranging and detailed set of analyses was presented, from assessment of the existence and status of implementation of adaptation-related policies in each country, to migration patterns and consequences, and models of fishery and livestock productivity.  The structure of a hybrid model framework has been developed, based on Bayesian network analysis with multiple nodes so that it can project the impacts of climate change on the biophysical and socio-economic environments, as well as adaptation and migration decisions and consequences.

Planning took place to ensure that these findings are published in the peer-reviewed literature, and also in the form of a book. At the same time, DECCMA is committed to ensuring that research findings are effectively communicated to various stakeholders to ensure that they can inform policy and practice, enabling sustainable adaptation to climate change in deltas and proactive management of projected migration patterns. The integrated assessment model will play a key role in this, and over the course of the project relationships have been built with key stakeholders in each country who have an interest in this information for their planning decisions. Alongside targeted and tailored policy briefs, the team will also be available to support governments in developing adaptation finance proposals.

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What does a 1.5⁰C increase in global temperature mean for deltas?

by Robert Nicholls

Deltas are a climate change hotspot, where the effects of climate change coincide with large numbers of people. Sea level rise is a major threat to deltas, bringing risks of flooding and erosion. As the world tries to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5⁰C, the DEltas, vulnerability and Climate Change: Migration and Adaptation (DECCMA) project has been looking at how deltas will be affected by increases in temperature of 1.5⁰C, 2⁰C or 3⁰C.

Volta delta mangroves (photo by Klaus Wohlmann)

Following the historic Paris Agreement, 1.5 ⁰C has become a hot topic.  The Paris Agreement commits developed and developing countries to global temperature increase to 2⁰C, with the aspiration to limit to 1.5⁰C.  These numbers are widely believed to be critical thresholds beyond which significant changes in the natural environment would be experienced (known as planetary boundaries).

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The issue of 1.5⁰C has recently been high on the political agenda again, as the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC met in Bonn to discuss a framework for reporting climate action to monitor the commitments made under the agreement.  Knowing the implications of a 1.5⁰C increase informs the “ambition mechanism”, whereby stocktakes of progress are due to be taken every 5 years, with a view to then revising and updating mitigation and adaptation commitments.  Improvements in science play a key input to ensuring that these commitments remain ambitious and on target to limit the damaging effects of climate change.

Deltas are home to 500 million people worldwide, as well as being natural environments that generate livelihoods, income and essential ecosystem services.  DECCMA has been investigating the effects of climate change in four study sites across three deltas across Africa and Asia: the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) megadelta in Bangladesh and the Indian Bengal component in India; and the smaller deltas of Mahanadi in India and Volta in Ghana.

Given the interest in 1.5⁰C, we have used our customised integrated assessment model –the Delta Dynamic Integrated Emulator Model – to look at the likely changes in flooding (in terms of depth of flood and area affected) and the impacts on population in the GBM in Bangladesh under three different scales of temperature increase: 1.5°C, 2.0°C and 3.0°C.

If we continue with relatively high rates of greenhouse gas emissions, models show that a 1.5°C increase could occur from 2011 to 2033.  Rates of temperature increase have already been significant and rapid.  Observed changes in temperature over the 20th century showed an increase in 0.7⁰C.  In comparison, in the readjustment period since the last ice age global temperatures have only increased by between 4-7c over 5000 years.

Sea level rise of 5-14cm is associated with an increase in global temperature of 1.5⁰C.  This may not seem a lot, and it is particularly difficult to find a reference period because sea levels have varied significantly over the last 20,000 years, reflecting glacial periods and the readjustment of land masses.  But, as an indication, sea levels rose by less than 2mm over the 20th century, so the projected increase is over 20 times more than that.

Until 2040 the differences that are likely from a 1.5⁰C increase and a 2⁰C increase are indistinguishable largely due to the year on year variability that is already characteristic of deltas.

If the temperature increase reaches 3⁰C, some of consequences more than double.  The area flooded under 3⁰C is more than 2.5 times that under 1.5⁰C of such sea level rise, for example.  Those at greatest risk are in the central regions and northeast, where there are fewer polders to protect the land.

The good news is that there is still time to implement adaptation – if we act now.  Our team has investigated adaptation and found 93 documented examples in our study deltas spanning agriculture, water management and disaster risk reduction.  We are now in the process of developing an integrated assessment model that will give us insights into adaptation needs and options under various future scenarios.

For more information, see:

Brown Sally, Nicholls Robert J, Lázár Attila, Hazra Sugata, Appeaning Addo Kwasi, Hornby Duncan D, Hill Chris, Haque Anisul, Caesar John and Tompkins Emma, What are the implications of sea-level rise for a 1.5°C, 2°C and 3°C rise in global mean temperatures in vulnerable deltas? Submitted to Regional Environmental Change.

(This blog is also published in the December edition of the CARIAA newsletter)

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DECCMA team discusses the forthcoming Bangladesh Delta Plan with the country’s Planning Commission

by Saiful Alam

The Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (BDP) takes an adaptive management approach and the strategy is based on eight hotspots in the country, one of which is covered within the DECCMA study area. In a meeting with Professor Shamsul Alam, Member Secretary of the Global Economic Department in the Planning commission, the DECCMA Bangladesh team highlighted how project findings can inform the plan.

DECCMA Bangladesh PI Professor Munsur Rahman presents Professor Shamsul of the Planning Commission with the latest project publications

DECCMA’s research is helping to build deeper understanding of the cross sectoral adaptation that will be required in future. Dr Michele Leone, who oversees DECCMA for the International Development Research Centre, outlined the inventory of adaptations and findings of autonomous adaptations in the household survey would inform the implementation the Bangladesh Delta Plan.

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DECCMA Bangladesh Deputy PI, Dr Mashfiqus Salehin, added that the focus of DECCMA on migration has created significant insights who migrates, where, and with what consequences, and that the findings will be integrated into a model that will project changes in the delta in the context of climate change.

Referring to the linkages between adaptation and economic growth, Professor Alam said that the  Bangladesh Delta Plan makes significant progress compared to earlier water sector plans, by forging linkages between adaptation and economic development and growth in the country.  Professor Alam reiterated that for improved adaptation we need improved knowledge through multi-disciplinary research and innovations, and welcomed a Ganges Brahmaputra Meghna Delta Brief from the team, which summarises research findings to date.

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