Why it’s important for our country to stay below 1.5 degrees

By Ambreen Fatima

The extreme change in climate is affecting major agricultural regions and creating regional food scarcity .The earth’s temperature is continuously rising and it is expected to rise by 5-7 C by the end of 21st century.

      The most recent scientific assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the global averaged surface temperature on Earth will increase by 1 to 3.5°C (about 2 to 6°F) by the year 2100, with an associated rise in sea level of 15 to 95 cm (about 6 to 37 inches).Pakistan in general and Indus Delta in particular would experience a 4 to 6 C rise in temperature by that time on an average 0.5 C rise per decade. It would have horrifying impacts on our food system if we do not go for solutions being proposed by scientists and agricultural experts. 

     Wheat and rice are the main crops in Pakistan not only in respect of their consumption but also in view of large exports (rice). These are grown on approximately 8.69 and 2.31 million hectares with a total production of 24.2 and 5.54 million tons, respectively. These crops are cultivated in different agro-ecological zones of Pakistan especially in Punjab provision, with each zone representing diverse socio-economic, hydrological and climatic conditions.
      Wheat is the main staple grain food of Pakistan. It has a share of 2.2 per cent in GDP and 10.1 per cent in value addition and has three major groups i.e. bold grain size, medium grain size and small grain size. Similarly, rice is the second staple grain food of Pakistan. Its share in GDP is 0.6 per cent and 2.7 per cent in value addition with two major groups i.e. Basmati 48 per cent and Irri (coarse rice) which is 52 per cent of total rice production.
Agro-Climatologist Dr Fahd Rasul says that due to changing climate and extreme climate events, there is a threat of significant decrease in rice-wheat cropping system of Punjab. He says that these assessments should be provided to decision-makers with information for developing appropriate plans to reduce threats by climate changes for food security and prosperous future.
        Pakistan urgently needs early warning systems at the district level and other Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) activities, but as Chaudhry points out “normally countries would use devastating floods like the ones that occurred in 2010 as an opportunity to improve early warning systems and other systems but our country has not been investing enough in this area.”
       Keeping in view the changing weather patterns, scientists have proposed different solutions to increase production and to counter the climate change. Farmers can have good results by selecting improved cultivars (short lag phase, deep root system) and better management (high input use efficiency, manipulation of sowing time and planting density). For rice transplantation, 25-day old nursery has been suggested. Wheat-sowing should be 15 days earlier than the present sowing date. About 15 per cent and 25 per cent increase in planting density of rice and wheat, respectively and use of 15 per cent more fertilizer in rice and 20 per cent in wheat will give amazing results, scientists claim.
            A recent BBC report on communicating climate change in Pakistan finds that people across the country are now experiencing unpredictable rainfall, increased temperatures and changes to the seasons. The Climate Asia Report found that 54 per cent of people that they surveyed across Pakistan think life has become worse in recent years. They have much lower confidence in their government to act.
       In 2010, Pakistan was listed as the number one country in the world affected by climate related disasters (due to the massive flooding that hit the country); in 2011 it was ranked as number three. Last year’s report listed Haiti, the Philippines and Pakistan as hardest hit by weather disasters in 2012. According to Chaudhry, the pattern of recent extreme weather in Pakistan (such as the super floods of 2010 and the more localised floods of 2011 and 2012) clearly indicate the increased frequency and intensity of such events, which is in line with international climate change projections. Scientists all over the world say the debate on climate change is now over and there is a clear consensus that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet. They expect this will lead in future to more evaporation of water, moister air and heavier rainfall.
           Dr Ishfaq Aham, an economist working on the economical impacts of adaptation of crop models, is hopeful that with the adaptation of these strategies the number of gainers would rise above 80 per cent which is threatened to be 25 per cent otherwise and overall poverty rates of population will reduce to almost 17 per cent. “Per capita income for adopters could be around Rs200,000.”
Pakistan Meteorological Department has set up a National Agro-Met Center (NAMC) which aims to address the needs of the farming community and other related stakeholders through provision of weather advisory information and services by using various delivery channels available in their vicinity.
Dr Khalid Malik, Director Pakistan Meteorological Department, says “The purpose of establishment of National Agro-Met Center is to support and provide meteorological, climatological information and advisories about agricultural production and food security in the country.”
The data and proposed guidelines by the scientists project an encouraging situation. Proper coordination among stakeholders and information to farmers and their willingness to adopt these guidelines is necessary for better results.
           Recent research says that there would be increase of 2.8°C in maximum and 2.2°C in minimum temperature in Punjab for mid-century (2040-2069). Vulnerability of the agriculture crops to extreme climate events (floods, droughts, cyclones etc) will increase with time due to increased climatic changes and global warming. Scientists agree that assessments and adaptation planning are needed for better food security in the countr.
Paris is meant to indicate the direction of travel, and the US giving in on this point demonstrates their solidarity.
But here’s where things get problematic. There’s a huge difference between including the 1.5 degrees C limit in the agreement, and ensuring that it could actually be met. That’s because other key pieces of the agreement that could actually make that level of ambition possible are still far from clear. The biggest obstacle could be the hotly debated “ratchet mechanism,” which would require countries to boost their targets for greenhouse gas reductions over time, and which the US delegation appears to be resisting. The current draft of the text includes language directing countries to provide an update of their progress every five years or so, which would be compiled into a global “stock-take,” a kind of collated update, sometime after 2020. But the enforcement stops there; there’s nothing in the agreement to penalize countries that lag behind or to compel them to boost their ambitions. The bottom line is that 2C requires all countries to decarbonize their economy at a very rapid rate, but in our analysis there is some wiggle room,If you go to 1.5C, it becomes very hard to have any wiggle room left. This is a very fundamental point that is not being discussed at all in the negotiations.”
        The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently launched their Fifth Assessment Report, which has concluded that the scientific evidence for climate change is “unequivocal” with human activity extremely likely to be the cause. The report finds that there is widespread evidence of climate change impacts “on all continents and across the oceans.”
       The Asian region as a whole experienced the most weather and climate-related disasters in the world between 2000 and 2008 and suffered the second highest proportion (almost 30 per cent) of total global economic losses. The IPCC finds that the risk of deaths due to flooding is highly concentrated in Asia and that an increase in extreme rainfall events related to monsoons will be very likely in the region. According to the panel, adaptation is the only effective option to manage the inevitable impacts of climate change.
Adaptation is fundamentally about risk management and South Asia has many adaptation options. Pakistan urgently needs early warning systems at the district level and other Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) activities.

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