The Guardian:

Up to 20 million Bangladeshis may be forced to leave the country in the next 40 years because of climate change, one of the country's most senior politicians has said. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Bangladesh's finance minister, called on Britain and other wealthy countries to accept millions of displaced people.

What is the evidence this is based on?

  • 3
    Questions of the form "Will X happen in the future" are usually considered off topic, see skeptics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/621/…. Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 22:44
  • 1
    @NateEldredge If there is scientific data to answer it, then it is on topic. Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 5:52
  • I think if you look back over the last several decades, you'll find this same claim or one very close to it many times, always putting it some decades in the future so the claimant won't be called out when the claim turns out to not come true...
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 9:44
  • Worth noting that Wikipedia currently says the area of Bangladesh is 147,610km^2 of which 6.4% is water while in 2003 it said 144,000km^2 of which 7.0% was water. So it is not obviously shrinking geographically. Its population has risen in the same period by more than the 20 million in the question
    – Henry
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 8:19

1 Answer 1


We obviously cannot know the future, but on what analysis is the minister's statement based?

The following was stated in the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2008:

If sea level rise is higher than currently expected, and coastal polders are not strengthened and/or new ones built, six to eight million people could be displaced by 2050 and would have to be resettled.

I could not find a more recent version of this document, but an academic working paper states the following:

The updated 2009 version addresses the issue of migration in more detail. It updates the figures of displacement due to sea level change, salinity, cyclones and storm surges at 20 million and seeks settlement of these ‘environmental refugees’, possibly abroad.

So the best way to evaluate the minister's statement might be to consult the 2009 document, but I was unable to find it.

Otherwise, the only reference I could find that might directly support the minister's statement was a story from Reuters:

Experts say a third of Bangladesh's coastline could be flooded if the sea rises one meter in the next 50 years, creating an additional 20 million Bangladeshis displaced from their homes and farms.

Note that says 50, not 40, and no specific source is cited.

A 2009 article in Scientific American gives a more conservatives estimate of 15 million people in Bangladesh displaced by the end of the century. Again, no source is given, but it is implied that this number may come from a trusted authority, IPCC, also mentioned in the original Guardian article.

The IPCC has quoted estimates that 5.5 million Bangladeshis would be exposed to land loss given a sea level rise of .45 meters, and 14.8 million if it is 1 meter. Thus if Bangladesh were to sea level rises well in excess of a meter within 40 years, the 20 million number might be in line with this particular projection. In fact, this seems a bit higher then most recent projections, but not wildly so.

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