Climate change: a real threat to Pakistan – The Express Tribune

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There are some efforts in addressing climate change at the global and national levels
The International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) published a 3675-page report earlier this week which should not be ignored due to the hypes surrounding the Ukraine war and a no-trust vote against PM Imran Khan. The report titled ‘Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ found that the scientific evidence has become stronger that all life on earth, including human civilisation, is vulnerable to a changing climate. But how?
Food production: There is new knowledge that climate change is affecting food webs. Changes in temperature, rainfall, and extreme weather have increased the frequency and affected agriculture production and patterns. The report referred to the flood damages to crops in Pakistan in 2010 which cost $4.5 billion. It is also estimated that 8-10% of today’s farmland will become climatically unsuitable by 2100. This is very relevant to Pakistan which imports food products regularly from overseas to feed 220 million people in the country.
Water: Climate change will impact water quality and availability causing vulnerabilities to both rural and urban areas. The rural areas will suffer from a drought affecting food production and the livelihood of rural communities. On the other hand, the urban population suffer from water scarcity and heatwaves. The report found that the average mortality from floods, storms and droughts is 9 times higher in Pakistan and other highly vulnerable countries as compared to European countries. This is particularly alarming as various part of the country is suffering from water availability.
Coastal cities: People living in cities face higher risks of heat stress, reduced air quality, lack of water, and food shortages caused by climate change. However, this risk is severe in coastal cities such as Karachi due to the risk from coastal-specific climate hazards. The recent urban flooding in Karachi shows that flood-related vulnerabilities will be spread over rich and poor areas of the city.
There are some efforts in addressing climate change at the global and national levels. However, these efforts are too late and too little. It is clear now that minor, marginal, reactive or incremental changes won’t be sufficient. We need urgent and more ambitious action and, at the same time, rapid and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The report found institutional and financial barriers that restrict cities from investing in new parks and green infrastructure to cool down during heatwaves.
What is the solution then? The IPCC report highlights a solutions framework called Climate Resilient Development or CRD.
CRD means cutting back greenhouse gas emissions and conserving biodiversity in energy, industry, health, water, food, urban development, housing and transport policies and practices, in fact everyday decision-making. Its means CRD cannot be achieved with a single action such as planting trees. In fact, it involves fundamental changes to how government and society function, including changes to underlying values, worldviews, ideologies, social structures, political and economic systems in the country. The report admits that the world has no single magic solution and each country has to devise its own path for CRD.
Looking at the climate change risk and vulnerability for Pakistan and the capacities of government, the whole nation should prioritise climate change understanding in their daily life. Therefore, adaptation to climate change for the government means transforming the policies we plan our cities, regions and infrastructure. Adaptation to climate change for society means reducing water usage, using healthy diets, asking for sustainable farming, using cycling and public transport and finding green and clean solutions for our houses.
We have to remember the scientific evidence is clear — climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted action at national, provincial and local levels will miss a rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2022.
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