PAKISTAN received much less rainfall in January 2021 as compared to previous years, making it the 17th driest month in 60 years, according to the Met Office. Rainfall in February, as per the Met Office data, wasn’t significant either, but the countrywide rain in January was 59pc below the normal, indicating the possible impact of climate change. A drastic decrease was especially reported from Sindh, Balochistan and KP. The Met Office termed the trend ‘unusual’, saying that data for March would help it understand the phenomenon better. Still, the amount of rain received in January and February reinforces a declining trend during winter. Regardless of the extent to which the diminished rainfall in these months signifies climate change, it is evident that weather patterns, water availability, agriculture and the climate’s impact on the livelihoods of millions of people are becoming more pronounced with the passage of time. Pakistan is already on the list of the 10 nations most affected by climate change in spite of its negligible contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Numerous studies in recent years have found the country’s climate becoming increasingly uncertain, resulting in frequent and devastating flooding in some regions and droughts in others, glacier melts, and — more importantly — temperatures higher than the global average. These trends are likely to continue in future with parts of the country experiencing extreme weather conditions.

The sad part of the story is that we are not doing much to adapt to climate change, which makes us more vulnerable to its adverse impacts that may threaten the country’s food and water security and result in large displacements among the population. The impact of changing climate is already becoming conspicuous in some regions like Balochistan where tens of thousands of farmers have lost their livelihoods due to frequent drought conditions, leading to a significant increase in poverty and hunger. While some measures, such as the government’s tree plantation campaign, have successfully been implemented in certain areas, we do not see much seriousness on the part of policymakers to take more action to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. No effort in isolation will be able to alleviate the potentially disastrous impact in the long term. The government must develop a comprehensive framework linking its mitigation efforts to its industrial, agricultural, energy-related and other policies and enforce it in letter and spirit to reverse the impact of fast-changing climatic conditions.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2021

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