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Climate change impacts and adaptation in Bangladesh : an agent-based approach

conference contribution
posted on 2009-01-01, 00:00 authored by S Angus, B Parris, B Hassani-M
Bangladesh exemplifies the complex challenges facing densely populated coastal regions. The
pressures on the country are immense: around 145 million people live within an area of just 145,000 sq-km at
the confluence of three major river systems: the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. While progress
has been made, poverty remains widespread, with around 39% of children under five malnourished. Most of
its land-mass lies below 10m above sea level with considerable areas at sea level, leading to frequent and
prolonged flooding during the monsoons. Sea level rise is leading to more flooding as storm surges rise off
higher sea levels, pushing further inland. Higher sea levels also result in salt-water intrusion into freshwater
coastal aquifers and estuaries, contaminating drinking water and farmland. Warmer ocean waters are also
expected to lead to an increase in the intensity of tropical storms.
Bangladesh depends on the South Asian summer monsoon for most of its rainfall which is expected to
increase, leading to more flooding. Climate scientists are also concerned about the stability of monsoon and
the potential for it to undergo a nonlinear phase shift to a drier regime. Bangladesh faces an additional
hydrological challenge in that the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers both rise in the Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau
region, where glaciers are melting rapidly. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
concluded that rapid melting is expected to increase river flows until around the late-2030s, by which time
the glaciers are expected to have shrunk from their 1995 extent of 500,000 sq-km to an expected 100,000 sqkm.
After the 2030s, river flows could drop dramatically, turning the great glacier-fed rivers of Asia into
seasonal monsoon-fed rivers. The IPCC concluded that as a result, water shortages in Asia could affect more
than a billion people by the 2050s. Over the same period, crop yields are expected to decline by up to 30% in
South Asia due to a combination of drought and crop heat stress. Bangladesh is therefore likely to face
substantial challenges in the coming decades.
In order to adequately understand the complex, dynamic, spatial and nonlinear challenges facing Bangladesh,
an integrated model of the system is required. An agent-based model (ABM) permits the dynamic
interactions of the economic, social, political, geographic, environmental and epidemiological dimensions of
climate change impacts and adaptation policies to be integrated via a modular approach. Integrating these
dimensions, including nonlinear threshold events such as mass migrations, or the outbreak of conflicts or
epidemics, is possible to a far greater degree with an ABM than with most other approaches.
We are developing a prototype ABM, implemented in Netlogo, to examine the dynamic impacts on poverty,
migration, mortality and conflict from climate change in Bangladesh from 2001 to 2100. The model employs
GIS and sub-district level census and economic data and a coarse-graining methodology to allow model
statistics to be generated on a national scale from local dynamic interactions. This approach allows a more
realistic treatment of distributed spatial events and heterogeneity across the country. The aim is not to
generate precise predictions of Bangladesh’s evolution, but to develop a framework that can be used for
integrated scenario exploration. This paper represents an initial report on progress on this project. So far the
prototype model has demonstrated the desirability and feasibility of integrating the different dimensions of
the complex adaptive system and, once completed, is intended to be used as the basis for a more detailed
policy-oriented model.



World IMACS Congress and MODSIM09 International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (18th : 2009 : Cairns, Queensland)


2720 - 2726


Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand


Cairns, Qld.

Place of publication

[Christchurch, N. Z.]

Start date


End date






Publication classification

E1.1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice

2009, The Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand Inc. and the International Association for Mathematics and Computers in Simulation. All rights reserved.


R Anderssen, R Braddock, L Newham

Title of proceedings

Proceedings of the 18th World IMACS Congress and MODSIM09 International Congress on Modelling and Simulation : Interfacing Modelling and Simulation with Mathematical and Computational Sciences

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