The experts warned that Climate change could seriously threaten food security and trigger deadly epidemics. – Reuters Photo

Islamabad: Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising sea level rise, said Dr. Karim Ahmed, Director of International Programs and Board Member, National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), Washington, USA.

Dr. Karim was delivering a special lecture on “Impacts of climate change on Human Health” organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday.

Shafqat Kakakel –former United Nations Assistant Secretary General, and deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, chaired the proceedings and Kanwar Muhammad Javed Iqbal, Environmental Researcher, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) opened the session and highlighted the growing global concerns, research initiatives and sufficient available knowledge to accept the changing climatic mechanism with its negative impacts on diverse walks of life over the last few decades.

He maintained that the health impacts are as critically important and adaptation measures are required on urgent grounds in order to cope with the mechanism. Dr. Karim deliberated that one of the most serious consequences of climate change is its impact on human health and welfare, adding that World Health Organization estimates around 150,000 deaths annually across the globe which are attributable to climate change, as he presented relevant research example from France.

He also stressed on policy makers to seriously consider reducing the role of Black Carbon (BC) significantly formed from cooking sources in Asian countries, including Pakistan –which also contributes in household indoor air pollution.

He said, Black Carbon is now believed to be a major contributor towards global warming and significantly next to Carbon Dioxide, with estimates of as much as 55 per cent of CO2 forcing.

He suggested for widespread replacement of traditional biofuel stoves used with wood, dung, etc with alternative technologies, such as smokeless stoves and solar cookers, etc.

While elaborating some of the negative impacts of climate change on human health, he said rising temperatures and more frequent droughts and floods can disturb food security.

He commented that an increase in severe malnutrition was expected especially in those countries where large populations depend on rain-fed subsistence farming. More frequent extreme weather events mean more potential deaths and injuries caused by storms and floods. In addition, flooding can be followed by outbreaks of diseases, such as cholera, especially when water and sanitation services are damaged or destroyed, he went on to add.

Discussing both scarcities of water, which is essential for hygiene and excess water due to more frequent and torrential rainfall, he feared of increase in malaria as well as diarrhoeal diseases due to changed climatic patterns.

He said heat waves, especially in urban heat islands, can directly increase morbidity and mortality, mainly in elderly people with cardiovascular or respiratory disease.

Dr. Karim elaborated that in view of the present international impasse by developed countries in agreeing to mandatory curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, it is increasingly apparent that many countries in developing regions will need to consider well-planned adaptation policies and practical measures to address local and regional impacts of climate change in the near- and mid-term future.

Shafqat Kakakhel, highlighted the critical issues regarding practical steps for compliance towards recently approved National Climate Change Policy of Pakistan. He emphasized that the state is dysfunctional in the course of provision of resources for the actions needed for foremost Adaptation agenda in the country, while the other stakeholders are trying to play their role.

He committed that SDPI will support the awareness raising and consultation process on National Climate Change Policy by providing a platform through series of seminars and consultative workshops. In the last, he acknowledged the valuable share of Dr. Karim through his lecture and thanked the participants for their participation on such an important issue.