By Ambreen Fatima
The climate change is humankind’s greatest threat in modern times and is likely to have intense consequences for socio-economic sectors such as, food production, health, energy consumption and security also natural resource management.
The destructive impacts of this global warming effect are already revealing themselves around the world in the form of extreme weather events like storms, tornadoes, floods and droughts, all of which have been mounting in frequency and intensity. As a result, the world today suffers around 400-500 natural disasters on average in a year, up from 125 in the 1980s (Disaster Risk Reduction: Global Review 2007).
According to the Fourth IPCC Assessment Report, the evidence of predicted impacts of climate change is slowly unfolding. Crop yield growth rates are declining in most parts of the world, partially as a consequence of rising temperatures, while increases in prevalence of climate-induced diseases have also been recorded. There is also evidence of accelerating recession of most glaciers on Earth, rainfall variability and changes in marine ecosystems. Another serious threat arising from climate change is to freshwater availability which is projected to decline especially in large river basins and adversely affect more than a billion people by the 2050s
Climate change is also likely to have wide-ranging and mostly adverse impacts on human health. The projected increase in the duration and frequency of heat waves is expected to increase mortality rates as a result of heat stress, especially in areas where people are not equipped to deal with warmer temperatures. To a lesser extent, increases in winter temperatures in high latitudes could lead to decreases in mortality rates. Climate change is also expected to lead to increases in the potential transmission of vector borne diseases, including malaria, dengue, and yellow fever, extending the range of organisms such as insects that carry these diseases into the temperate zone, including parts of the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Pakistan is witnessing unpredictable weather for the last five years. There have been floods, heavy rains, hailstorms and thunderstorms that are damaging our agriculture at large scale every year — the main pillar of our economy. Besides, millions of livestock, thousands of houses and hundreds of human lives have been lost due to weather upsets.
Once these were called unexpected happenings but the frequency tells us that these are no more unexpected for us and we should be prepared for such happenings as natural disasters cannot be stopped but the damages can be minimized through proper preparedness. But we didn’t learn any lesson from the disaster.
The damages caused by the climatic disasters are going beyond control. 2010 flooding displaced 20 million people, in 2013, 4 million people were affected by heavy rains in different areas. 2014 witnessed crops at large area inundated. There might be some serious damages in 2 if serious measures are not taken.
More than 110 have been killed in Punjab, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to the heavy torrential rain since Thursday. A number of cities have received over 130mm of rain and the National Disaster Management Authority has said it expects “exceptionally high flooding” in the Chenab and Jhelum rivers over the next few days.
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.
Pakistan contributes very little to the overall Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, but remains severely impacted by the negative effects of climate change by the following ways:
Glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding will affect water resources within the next two to three decades. This will be followed by decreased river flows over time as glaciers recede.
Freshwater availability is also projected to decrease which will lead to biodiversity loss and reduce availability of freshwater for the population.
Coastal areas bordering the Arabian Sea in the south of Pakistan will be at greatest risk due to increased flooding from the sea and in some cases, the rivers.
Being a predominantly agriculture economy, climate change is estimated to decrease crop yields in Pakistan which in turn will affect livelihoods and food production. Combining the decreased yields with the current rapid population growth and urbanization in the country, the risk of hunger and food security will remain high.
Endemic morbidity and mortality due to diseases primarily associated with floods and droughts are expected to rise. Increases in coastal water temperatures would exacerbate the abundance of cholera.
The impact of climate change will also aggravate the existing social inequalities of resource use and intensify social factors leading to instability, conflicts, displacement of people and changes in migration patterns.
Climate change is not a new influence on the biosphere, so why can’t ecosystems just adapt without significant effects on their form or productivity? There are three basic reasons.
First, the rate of global climate change is projected to be more rapid than any to have occurred in the last 10,000 years.
Second, humans have altered the structure of many of the world’s ecosystems. They have cut down forests, plowed soils, used rang-elands to graze their domesticated animals, introduced non-native species to many regions and intensively fished lakes, rivers and oceans. These relatively changes in the structure of the world’s ecosystems have made them less resilient to automatically adapt to climate change.
Third, pollution, as well as other indirect effects of the utilization of natural resources, has also increased since the beginning of the industrial revolution.
what measure can be taken to cope the climate change?
Increasing access to high quality information about the impacts of climate change
Improving technological responses by setting in place early warning systems and information systems to enhance disaster preparedness
Practicing energy efficiency through changes in individual lifestyles and businesses
Reducing the vulnerability to livelihoods to climate change through infra-structural changes
Promoting good governance and responsible policy by integrating risk management and adaptation
Developing new and innovative farm production practices, including new crop varieties and irrigation techniques
Improving forest management and biodiversity conservation
Empowering communities and local stakeholders so that they participate actively in vulnerability assessment and implementation of adaptation
Mainstreaming climate change into development planning at all scales, levels and sectors
The policy also needs immediate implementation because the country faced extreme floods in 2010 in which 2,000 people died, 20 million were displaced and one-fifth of the country was under water. – 3D model by Muhammad Aamir Patni
ISLAMABAD: After being devastated by the most severe flood in history, Pakistan has formally approved its first draft of the climate change policy.
“In fact Pakistan is among the few developing countries which has prepared such a comprehensive national policy on a subject which is on top of the global priority agenda may be after war on terror,” said Dr Qamaruzaman Chaudhary, former director general of Meteorological Department of Pakistan and leading author of the policy.
The policy draft has already been accepted by the country’s Ministry of Environment and is ready for the cabinet’s approval.
In 2008, the Climate Change Task Force was formed for the policy draft. Some 40 experts from different but related fields strived for two years to finalise it. The task force also consulted federal and provincial agencies, organisations and other experts.
The country has diverse ecosystems which include coastlines, deserts, arid zones, mountains and glaciers. These areas are in danger due to population growth, lack of planning and mismanagement.
For Pakistan, climate change is a reality as data of temperature from the last 100 years shows a visible increase in heat. It is also among the top countries vulnerable to climate change.
“Particularly, during the last two decades, extreme weather events like heavy rains, heat and droughts have increased,” Chaudhary said.
This pattern of extreme weather could be noticed in Thar. The region is an arid zone where drought arrives after every three years, and may stay put for 12 months or more. But there is a harsh twist in this pattern: the third drought in the cycle tends to be longer and more severe than the first two and parches the land for three years. This triggers the mass migration of locals to the other green areas.
The policy – from aims to implementations
The main objective of the policy is to sustain economic growth by addressing the challenges of climate change.
The sectors of water resources, agriculture, human health, forestry, biodiversity and others are also among the top priorities along with the areas of mountains, pastures, marine and coastal eco-systems. The policy is to also to be integrated by other related policies.
“The policy is a multi-sector approach in which the long term project will come under the National Climate Change Action Plane – a road map for adaptation and mitigation of serious problems,” said Jawed Ali Khan, Director General (Environment) at the Ministry of Environment.
The policy also stressed upon the importance of learning, training, technical, and capacity building approach. These targets are to be achieved by awareness, national and international cooperation, technology transfer and funding.
Chaudhary has confirmed an action plan as the next step and hoped it will be ready within next few months.
The policy also needs immediate implementation because the country faced extreme floods in 2010 in which 2,000 people died, 20 million were displaced and one-fifth of the country was under water.
The upper margin of the country is dotted with glaciers and mountains which serve as water towers for the country. Pakistan has already been observing snow liquefy floods – without any rain – and melting glaciers. Thus the threat of extreme monsoons could also occur in future.
“Increase in extreme weather events, melting of glacier and rising temperature in arid places are the top three challenges. There are reported events of low yield in arid zones related to increase in temperature. Investigations of farmers and marine workers from 2006 confirmed that there is something wrong with Pakistan’s climate,” said Dr. Muhammad Mohsin Iqbal, Head, Agriculture and Coordination Section at the Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC), Islamabad.
The GCISC, a research center for climate change, also contributed to the policy draft.
The US based Pakistani Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Cener for the Study of Longer- Range Future and author of IPCC report, Dr. Adil Najam has welcomed Pakistan’s first policy draft on climate change.
“I think what the draft says is correct, but may already have been said in a whole host of other policy documents. The challenge is to turn the general statements into specific targets and timetables,” said Najam.
“Good policy should also be rooted in the specific priorities and contexts of the nation.