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Walking the walk

Dr Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry is vice-president from the Asia region at the UN World Meteorological Organisation for the last four years. He is a former director general of the meteorological department and the lead author of Pakistan’s first national climate change policy.

Can you elaborate what causes climate change and how real is the threat to Pakistan?

An overwhelming majority of scientists, experts, and professional scientific organisations related to earth sciences agrees that there is sufficient evidence that climate change is real. They also agree that the major cause is the human activities that are increasing the heat-trapping Co2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which are increasing global temperature and in turn causing climate change.

Important threats to the country are: a considerable increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, coupled with erratic monsoon rains causing frequent and intense floods and droughts; projected recession of the Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalayan glaciers due to global warming, enhanced heat and water-stressed conditions, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions, leading to reduced agricultural productivity, etc. The Germanwatch Climate Risk Index-2013 has ranked Pakistan as the eighth most vulnerable country to climate change in the world.

Do you expect any water or food crisis to emerge in the near future in Pakistan?

Yes, because due to erratic rainfall either we will have excess water or at times no water; the projected recession of glaciers will also threaten our water security. This in turn will affect our energy and food security and this complex situation can affect our national defence as well.

What measures have been suggested in the climate change policy to make its impact less detrimental to the country and people at large?

Two steps are normally needed to deal with the monster, i.e. adaptation and mitigation. In adaptation we take measures so that our systems adapt to the changes. In mitigation we take measures to reduce carbon emissions which are basically causing climate change.

The policy puts emphasis on conservation of all natural and other resources and reducing losses. It gives direction on how we should be moving in the water sector, agriculture sector, forest and coastal areas, biodiversity and ecosystem. In mitigation issues like energy conservation, reduction in losses and emission reductions and use of renewable energy sources, etc., have been tackled. —Moniza Inam