Others say a large-scale migration out of the country will mean the world has failed to tackle global warming. It's a prospect they don't even want to acknowledge. "This idea of climate refugees take up too much of our time. It's an apocalyptic issue of the future," said Omar Rahman, dean of the Independent University, Bangladesh, in Dhaka.
Ainun Nishat, the International Union for Conservation of Nature's representative for Bangladesh, said he is skeptical of migration predictions. Even if they are true, he argued, Bangladesh's needs are more immediate: infrastructure improvements, cyclone shelters, improved flood warning systems and a massive build-up of food security.
'It's not time to worry about it'
"Will people leave? Maybe in a hundred years, but that's not my priority now," Nishat said. "People are living in areas that go underwater once in a fortnight in the coastal belt. The point is, they're still there. They're not migrating today.
"It's not time to worry about it. My priority is the natural disaster that is happening now."
This year, the Western world will continue to grapple with the issue. U.S. President Barack Obama will try to convince Congress to pass a domestic cap-and-trade bill. Meanwhile, the European Union is struggling to implement a plan on reducing emissions. In China and India, which have the economic muscle to begin some actions, debates continue to rage over how much responsibility to bear for fast-rising emissions.
There is little news about this here in Harinagar, where men and women said they probably won't be able to wait for politicians to agree on a global solution. Like the proverbial grains of sand that slowly assemble to make up a beach, individual families are making their painful decisions, creating the possibility of more cruel things yet to come.
"The area is getting worse. I don't think it's going to get better," Gaurpodomando said. His wife, Chorna, her face loosely framed by a red floral headscarf, bounced the couple's 3-year-old daughter on her hip and said she, too, wants to stay, but she's also realistic about the family's prospects. Maybe, she said, they'll go to Khulna, a booming port city about two hours away by car.
Gaurpodomando said his brothers living outside of Kolkata "say it's good over there. They keep asking me to go, and they tell me there's good earning to be done there."
But Harinagar, where the thatched mud huts still look out over a lush countryside, and where a woman who lost everything in a recent flood will still offer a visiting stranger a plate of eggs, has been his family's home for at least three generations.
"I'll do whatever work I can find, but I might have to go outside," Gaurpodomando said. "We might have to leave this village."
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500