On Death Ground: Bangladesh is Fighting for its Life by Installing Solar Panels — Why Every Coastal City, State and Country Should Follow Suit

Apparently tired of waiting for the rest of the world while its fragile coastlines and mangrove wetlands are devoured by rising seas, Bangladesh has recently kicked its pace of solar panel installation into high gear.

Reports from the International Renewable Energy Agency found that Bangladeshis were installing small, rooftop solar photovoltaic generators at the stunningly rapid rate of 80,000 units each month in early 2014. In a country as financially strapped as Bangladesh, where only 47% of households have access to electricity, this is an extraordinary achievement, especially when one considers that the 2.8 million solar rooftops already gathering clean sunlight in Bangladesh will expand to challenge the 6 million threshold in just a few years.

Low Lying Coastal Bangladesh

(On the front lines of climate change low-lying coastal Bangladesh is one of an increasing number of regions vulnerable to sea level rise from rapidly destabilizing glaciers. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

While fossil fuel special interests twist the arms of politicians in an attempt to stymie solar development in Western countries like Britain, Australia, and the US, employing underhanded political tactics and pumping Orwellian terms like ‘solar blight‘ and ‘sea ice contamination‘ into the mainstream presses, Bangladeshis are charging ahead. And the reason couldn’t be more clear — the seas are rising.

The Gift of Fear

In the media analysis of human response to climate change, we often encounter the analogy of the frog in a pot of slowly heating water. As the analogy goes, the frog stays in the pot as it grows ever-warmer. The slow rise of temperature disables the frog’s pain and fear responses. Eventually, the frog’s muscles shut down and the frog boils.

Admittedly, this is a flawed analogy. Put a frog in a heating pot and it is wise enough to jump out once the water gets too warm — about 25-30 C. Why does the frog escape? Simple: the gift of fear. Eventually, the frog becomes uncomfortable about its situation in a slowly heating pot. The water is just a little too warm and it continues to head in the wrong direction. Rational survival instinct, at this point, intervenes to remove the hazard. The frog jumps out.

Now, keeping the frog in mind, let’s consider Bangladesh’s situation for a moment. They can see the storms that take more and more of their vulnerable lowlands with each passing year. They can see the ever-increasing advance of the tides. They know their land is in danger. To their west, their nearest neighbor, India, is building a wall to keep them out, should they have need of a refuge. And when the tides rise, as they will due to the vicious force that is human-caused climate change, they will most certainly need a refuge.

Last week’s announcement by NASA that six key glaciers in West Antarctica are now in irreversible collapse hammers the fact further home — the entire nation of Bangladesh is standing on what Sun Tzu used to refer to as death ground. In short, if the nation of Bangladesh does not decisively act, it will perish. And the only difference between Bangladesh and every coastal city, state, and country is this — Bangladesh is aware of its plight and is fighting to do something about it.

In essence, this is the gift of fear: the rational ability to fight for one’s survival — be it frog, person, city or nation.

Every Coastal Region is Now on Death Ground


(Greenland ice sheet velocity map as of 2010 shows numerous high-speed glacial flows toward the ocean. In the above map, blue is slow motion, red is fast motion. In the upper right hand corner of the map, the Zacharie Glacier, indicated by the letter Z, features a high speed flow that reaches all the way to the center of the Greenland ice mass. As of early 2014, scientific reports found that the recently confirmed destabilization of the Zacharie Glacier meant the entire circumference of Greenland was destabilized and moving at an ever more rapid pace toward the ocean. Image credit: Joughin, I., B. Smith, I. Howat, and T. Scambos.)

With at least 15 feet of sea level rise now locked in by the world’s destabilized glaciers and with potentially far worse sea level rise on the way if fossil fuel burning continues, one cannot hammer home the point enough — every coastal region in the world and every person living in these regions is now living on death ground. They are all in Bangladesh, even though most aren’t yet aware.

Survival action is as required of them as it is of the frog, as it is of the Bangladeshi. Swift and sure action. And even then survival is not guaranteed.

Miami, a city living in the state of climate change denial that is Florida is certainly on death ground. It is a place that will be severely challenged by another foot or two of sea level rise, much less 15 or more. The Outer Banks of North Carolina — a thin and beautiful strip of land, a redoubt between ocean and sound — bound to be swept away. Virginia Beach — a city surrounded on three and a half sides by water. Washington DC — built on a low-lying swamp at the mouth of the tidal Potomac. New York City — a place whose vulnerability to the rising seas and storms of human warming became all too real two years ago.

The list is almost endless. For wherever there are coastlines, seas, harbors, tidal rivers, mudflats, estuaries, oceans, there are human beings. We are nothing if not a water and ocean loving species — ever drawn to the life-giving edge of the sea.

According to the UN Atlas of the Oceans, about 3.1 billion people live within 150 miles of a coastline. My parents, my sister, my grandmother, my grandfather and a majority of my other friends and relatives are among them.

How many of your friends and family live on or near the coast? Or is it you who is also standing with the Bangladeshis on death ground?


International Renewable Energy Agency’s 2014 Annual Report

NASA: West Antarctica’s Entire Flank is Collapsing, Fifteen Feet of Sea Level Rise Locked-in

Marco Rubio: I don’t believe in Climate Change

The UN Atlas of the Oceans

Nature: Human Warming Now Pushing Entire Greenland Ice Sheet Into Ocean











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  1. Colorado Bob

     /  May 15, 2014

    Five dead in worst floods to hit Serbia, Bosnia in 120 years

    “This is the greatest flooding disaster ever. Not only in the past 100 years; this has never happened in Serbia’s history,” Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told a news conference. “More rain fell in one day than in four months.”

    • Dear God, there are too many to cover.

      Thank you for this, Bob.

    • Colorado Bob

       /  May 15, 2014

      The stats – ( Which brings up a good question, anybody know these conversion rates ? )
      BELGRADE – The daily rainfall measured on Thursday is the new record in the history of rainfall monitoring, with 107.9 litres per square metre in Belgrade, 110 litres per square metre in Loznica and 108.2 litres per square metre in Valjevo, shows the report of the Republic Hydrometeorological Institute of Serbia.

      Read More at © InSerbia News

  2. Bangladesh is still finished though, unfortunately. Laudable though the solar panels are, one wonders if it wouldn’t be better for them to build weapons factories and prepare to fight their way to more habitable ground – all the moreso following the decision New Zealand took not to grant a Kiribati citizen refugee status on the basis of climate change.

    I must say it’s refreshing to see non US items – I’m starting to tune out American stuff, the US is disproportionately represented in the media, and the rest of the world matters rather a lot.

    • Every installed solar panel matters. It means that much less proportionate power and influence for the fossil fuel companies. Bangladesh is in trouble. As are we all.

  3. james cole

     /  May 15, 2014

    I just checked in with some of the San Diego live television feeds. The high temperatures are amazing for May! Inland well into the 100’s. Lindbergh Field was recorded at 92 degrees just now, down from 96 earlier in the day. The local weather reports some onshore breezes now dropping temperatures along the coast. One of the San Diego fires looks particularly bad. Sadly the TV news hosts and reporters are long on small talk and short on hard reporting. It looks like evacuations have spread and fires seem to pop up from nowhere. Many record highs today.
    I spent a couple years doing advanced training at the San Diego Fleet ASW school. One summer we did have massive wild fires that I have never forgotten. But to see today’s temperatures and think that this is MAY! I saw some 106 degree inland temperatures there today. Near 100 right on the coast in some places. That is way out of line with any May temperatures I ever remember. I guess it is going to be an interesting summer.
    And on the Serbian flood story, I notice that these localized floods are becoming more and more common. Britain had their share and if you look around the world, epic rain events seem to occur every week. I know, because two years ago my own local area had a biblical level rain event. Broke records by orders of magnitude.

    • Mark from New England

       /  May 15, 2014

      I have a feeling that if the extreme weather events of this year and the next don’t finally spur on real, effective action in the US to mitigate GHG emissions, then nothing will. We must also take the mainstream media to task for not connecting the dots of all these untimely and massive heat waves, droughts, fires, floods, etc. to human enhanced global warming. You may not be able to connect any ONE such event to climate change, as they are so apt to say, but how about 100 such events around the world every month?

    • It’s crazy. And you’re absolutely correct. Media reporting on the San Diego event is laughable. Doing an assessment now. But reports are still rather spotty. Thinking about picking up the phone and calling California Fire Service.

      Just did a write-up on the Serbia/Bosnia floods and couldn’t agree more. Right now we have a daisy chain of rossby waves around the globe and any one of them could bomb out into a storm like this. The Central US/Canada region centering around the Great Lakes is just one more vulnerable zone. No guarantee, but worth keeping an eye on.

      Bob is probably one of the best observers around. He catches this stuff quick.

  4. Colorado Bob

     /  May 15, 2014

    Winter floods have sparked invasion of MONSTER jellyfish, say experts

    THE invasion of monster jellyfish to Britain’s beaches has been caused by the winter floods, according to experts.

    • Mark from New England

       /  May 15, 2014

      One of this blog’s British readers should catch one and send it to Lord Moncton, suggesting he eat it raw with perhaps a little vegemite to make it more palatable 😉 Naughty me.

    • I know it shouldn’t be funny but this headline made me laugh. I need to be careful or otherwise I might start sliding back into police humor.

    • I’d be very careful about citing anything from the Express – it’s the gutter press of the gutter press.

  5. Tom

     /  May 16, 2014

    Hey Colorado Bob: in answer to your question, apparently the conversion factor is 40.745, so let’s say 110 liters/sq m would be about 2.7 gal/sq ft. (that’s a lot of water).

  1. Another Week of Climate Disruption News, May 18, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

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