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Climate catastrophe

August 12, 2017

ACCORDING to the annual State of the Climate report, 2016 set the grimmest records for climate change as a series of earth-shattering events in slow motion got under way. The year saw the highest air and sea surface temperatures since the industrial age began, as well as the highest concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. Resultantly, we have seen an alarming acceleration in the melting of Arctic ice cover as glaciers the size of entire countries break off from the ice mass and float off into the waters. The highest-ever sea levels have been recorded as well as the most extensive drought in the world. In fact, 12pc of the earth’s land mass saw a drought in any given month. These are realities that should be of concern to even the staunchest denier of climate change because the consequences will be supremely indifferent to humanity’s political differences and bickering.

An anthropomorphic tragedy of apocalyptic proportions is now unfolding before our very eyes, but is struggling to find a place in the news flow and public awareness because it must compete with the more immediate realities of conflict and deprivation. But the storms that are coming our way will not struggle to make their presence known. Rising sea levels will lay waste to coastal cities around the world, while drought will eat up food supply and devastate agriculture. The growing numbers of climate refugees will overwhelm settled states where people might think they have escaped the effects of the unfolding disaster. Now more than ever, it is essential that leaders around the world recognise the coming disaster and join hands to do whatever it takes to reduce CO2 emissions in a coordinated push, as well as aggressively promote renewable energy technologies. Yet the world is moving in the opposite direction after eight years of a promising start towards an accord to limit emissions. In the US, the country that should provide the lead, the president has not only abandoned his predecessor’s work towards the Paris Accord but is trying to backpedal on the advances in renewable energy too. Pakistan may feel helpless in this massive global drama, but there is much for the government here to take stock of as well. For one, coal-fired power plants must not be presented as the panacea to all our energy problems. Overall, the need for a more mature environmental policy is becoming increasingly felt and must be addressed.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017