Environmental cost

Published July 2, 2022

THE collective impact of climate-disaster-health hazards are already taking a huge toll on Pakistan’s fragile economy. If corrective measures are not instituted quickly, these losses could rise to more than 9pc of the annual GDP. As climate experts have been pointing out for a long time, global warming is linked to disease control and food insecurity. The findings of a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific reveal as much. The report, titled Pathways to Adaptation and Resilience in South and Southwest Asia,offers a detailed analysis of the combined economic impact of the confluence of biological and climate change-induced disasters in South and Southwest Asia. For example, monsoon flooding in South Asia in August 2020 aggravated the incidence of malaria and dengue across the region, putting extra burden on health systems strained by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the report, South and Southwest Asia already lose an average $161bn every year to weather events related to climate change. Were the situation to worsen even moderately it would drive up the combined economic loss to $217bn, while the worst-case scenario would be expected to extract a collective cost of $322bn. In monetary terms, India is expected to record up to $225bn, Pakistan $26bn and Turkey $24bn. But the impact would be felt much more in Pakistan, with losses equalling 9.1pc of its GDP as compared to 8.7pc in Nepal and 8.1pc in India. Combined with the already precarious socioeconomic conditions and increased vulnerability to climate change, this does not bode well for Pakistan in several respects.

The report, like previous documents, emphasises the increased intensity, occurrence and length of extreme dry spells and drought conditions in the region. There is plenty of evidence to show that countries that invested in sustainable development fare much better in adapting to the new realities of climate change. Pakistan needs to learn from them to have a fighting chance of saving itself from the devastating impact of climate-induced disasters.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2022

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