ISLAMABAD: Sindh has emerged as the most vulnerable hotspot in Pakistan followed by Punjab as changes in the average weather will add another dimension to the future economic growth of the province given its high vulnerability, the World Bank said in a new report.

The report, ‘South Asia’s Hotspots: The Impact of Temperature and Precipitation Changes’, says Sindh has the second-largest economy, with a GDP per capita of $1,400, which is 35 per cent more than the national average. The province has a highly diversified economy ranging from heavy industry and finance centred in and around Karachi to a substantial agricultural base along the Indus River, it says.

According to the report, Hyderabad district emerged as the top hotspot followed by Mirpurkhas and Sukkur. Some of the densely populated cities in Punjab were named among the top ten hotspot districts. This highlighted the importance of addressing changes in average weather in the economically important Punjab and Sindh.

Punjab, which is the most densely populated province, is also the second-most vulnerable. The province has the largest economy in the country, contributing 53.3pc to the national GDP and overall has the lowest rate of poverty among all the provinces.

However, the prosperity is unevenly distributed throughout the province, with the northern portion being relatively well-off economically and the southern portion among the most impoverished in the country. The long-term climate vulnerability has implications for both growth and poverty reduction for Punjab, the report says. Hotspots tend to have lower living standards compared to the national average. In this respect, it seems right to conclude that changes in average weather will hurt poor households disproportionately and therefore increase poverty and inequality.

Of the six countries investigated, living standards are predicted to be adversely affected by changes in the average weather in four of them: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan and Nepal are estimated to benefit from such changes in the average weather.

The report has alarmed that changes in average weather in South Asia are projected to have overall negative impacts on living standards in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The region is recognised as being very vulnerable to climate change. Its varied geography combines with regional circulation patterns to create a diverse climate.

In Pakistan, analysis of the report reveals that expanding electrification by 30pc could reduce the impact of average weather on living standards from a negative 2.9pc to negative 2.5pc.

Thus, electrification alone may not completely overcome the adverse effects of changes in average weather on living standards. This indicates that additional inspection could be warranted to better understand how to prevent the emergence of hotspots within the country.

The glaciated northern parts - the Himalayas, Karakoram, and the Hindu Kush mountains - have annual average temperatures at or below freezing, whereas much of the Indian subcontinent averages 25°C to 30°C. Both the hot and cold extremes are challenging for human well-being, and climate change heightens these challenges.

Average annual temperatures in many parts of South Asia have increased significantly in recent decades, but unevenly. Western Afghanistan and southwestern Pakistan have experienced the largest increases, with annual average temperatures rising by 1°C to 3°C from 1950 to 2010.

The scientific literature suggests that such events will grow in intensity over the coming decades. Dhaka, Karachi, Kolkata, and Mumbai – metropolitan areas that are home to more than 50 million people - face a substantial risk of flood-related damage over the next century.

In India and Pakistan, water-stressed areas will be more adversely affected compared to the national average.

While negative impacts are sizable under the climate scenarios of ‘climate-sensitive’ and ‘carbon-sensitive’, they are more severe under the carbon-intensive scenario. Both show rising temperatures throughout the region in the coming decades, with the carbon-intensive scenario leading to greater increases. Expected changes in rainfall patterns are more complex in both, the report says.

By 2050, under the carbon-intensive scenario, the declines are projected to be 6.7pc for Bangladesh, 2.8pc for India, 2.9pc for Pakistan, and 7pc for Sri Lanka.

Main findings of the publication cautioned that unlike sea-level rise and extreme weather events, changes in average weather will affect inland areas the most. For most countries, changes in average weather will also reduce growth of their GDP per capita, compared to what it would be under present climate conditions. The GDP losses are greater for severe hotspot regions.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2018

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