THE unusually extended and heavy monsoon season this year indicates that the climate change phenomenon poses an existential threat to Pakistan, which is already among the eight most climate-vulnerable countries. Pakistan’s warm climate and its geographical location make it more vulnerable to climate change than many other countries.
Experts had more than once forewarned about the devastating repercussions of climate vulnerability. According to them, greenhouse gases have been increasing global temperature.
This global phenomenon is mainly affecting Pakistan’s climate as the soaring temperature is causing rapid glacial melting and glacial lake outburst flooding (GLOF). According to the Ministry of Climate Change, 33 out of 3,044 glacial lakes are susceptible to GLOF, which means areas downstream are under severe threat. In 2010, about 2,000 causalities and economic losses worth $10 billion were recorded.
Besides, climate change also poses a grave threat to Pakistan’s national interests in an era marked by geo-economics. Since Pakistan is an agrarian country, agriculture contributes around 20 per cent of the GDP and accounts for about 40pc of the labour force.
A major chunk of exports comes from agricultural raw material, but with freshwater resources drying up owing to high temperatures, the supply chain is under serious strain.
The country is swinging between floods and droughts. It is like being between a rock and a hard place.
A World Bank report has warned of critical water scarcity in Pakistan by 2050. Water paucity, droughts, floods and extreme weather conditions are damaging an already limping economy. A joint study conducted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank said Pakistan has been losing about $3.8 billion annually because of climate change.
Additionally, India’s ‘water terrorism’ is scratching Pakistan’s economic wounds. And through this, the regional security issues are arising as ‘water hijacking’ can bring both the countries to war. India’s continuous violation of the Indus Waters Treaty and construction of new dams on Pakistan’s waters are furthering our economic instability and at stake are our national interests.
Amid such a scenario, it is tragic that Pakistani politicians are indifferent to the potential threats.
The entire nation is in deep shock at the scale of the losses. But political brawling and blame game threaten the country’s national interests as much as the climate change phenomenon does. This is a wakeup call for all the stakeholders to sit together in order to avert future disasters. It is time to reshape the existing National Climate Change Policy to effectively utilise all possible resources to overcome this growing menace.
We are in a dire need of immediate steps that can cope with and counter the rapidly approaching dangers of climate change. Afforestation is one major way ahead. According to international standards, every country must have 25pc forest land, while we have only 5pc forest cover.
The government must practically gear up to implement the green plantation programme and the Billion Tree project. Additionally, the government should instantly turn to the Renewable Energy Policy, 2019, and the National Electric Vehicle Policy, which will minimise consumption of fossil fuel.
Although Pakistan emits less than 1pc carbon to the global atmosphere, it cannot bear its outcomes. Therefore, the government must encourage domestic, institutional and industrial use of solar energy by subsidising it.
This can magically boost the natural growth of plants and clean the atmosphere from greenhouse gases.
This will also free the planet of the heat-trapping blanket in atmosphere. Thus, global temperatures will get normalised. Our recent experience of lockdowns due to Covid showed how, within days, the atmosphere was alive again owing to almost no emissions. Besides, local governments can contribute by sincerely and timely ensuring cleanliness.
This can help avoid frequent urban floods after normal rains, grow more plants, and clean environment to breathe in all afresh. These steps can decrease the mortality ratio as the health conditions will improve with the environmental betterment.
Muhammad Hassan Shoaib
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2022