Climate Change: A Disaster for Pakistan

by Muhammad Saeed

Climate change is the most grave threat to the planet in the history of mankind. The warming of the climate at a global level is undeniable now and its effects have already started appearing in the form of longer droughts, higher temperatures and changes in the season schedule.

One of the greatest pressures exerted on climate is by GHGs (greenhouse gases) which are critical to survival on Earth in moderation and lethal in excess. While Pakistan is at the 135th number in terms of emissions (with half of them being from the energy sector) and produces just 0.8% of the global GHGs emissions, we are still at risk because of the interconnected nature of the issue.

Agriculture, which constitutes the largest sector of Pakistan’s economy, is climate sensitive. It contributes about 24% of the total GDP (gross domestic product) and the majority of the population is attached with it directly or circuitously. Due to high population there is already a stress on land and there has been a severe degradation of natural resources.

707: The number of disasters in Pakistan per year, twice as much as in the 1990s

Furthermore, large swathes of soil in Pakistan are being subjected to land degradation because of the following factors: water erosion (17%), wind erosion (8%), and salinity (9%). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO), about 986,000 hectares standing crops were adversely affected by the 2014 monsoon rains. Further, the irrigation system is more acutely affected over flooding and intensive rain during summer.

Consequently, the number of disasters in Pakistan is 707 a year, twice as much as in the 1990s. Pakistani rivers are mainly dominated by the Hindu Kush, Himalaya, and Karakorum mountain ranges. Due to rise in temperatures, the glacier of Siachen lost its 17% ice mass. Due to high points of melting water flows – since Pakistan does not have enough infrastructure to manage such water – this creates disaster in the most populated and agriculture dependent province of the country, Punjab.

In summer 2010, according to governmental data, 20 million people were directly affected by the flood, making it the most disastrous flood in the history of Pakistan. Additionally, the Public building damage was about 1 billion USD, and the flood covered the whole landmass till the Indus Basin end. Worryingly, the temperature range of 1960 to 2007 was 0.24 degrees per decade globally, which is high enough to increase the temperatures in Pakistani territory about 2 to 3 Degree Celsius within the next few years.

Global temperature increase of 0.24 Celsius degrees per decade is high enough to increase the temperatures in Pakistan by 2-3 degrees Celsius

Climate change also affects economies and developmental growth of countries. According to the Climate Risk Index from 1991 to 2011, Pakistan lost 2,183.10 million USD, and the GDP was slowed down at a rate of 0.73. It is thus a great sign of worry for the leadership in Pakistan to lose such capital and suffer developmental decline, since we are a developing state. Growing use of fossil fuels in the energy sector and transport, rapid industrialization, and deforestation are also matters of concern for Pakistanis.

According to conservative estimates from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and World Bank, the cost of environmental and and natural resources damage exceeds one billion rupees per day in Pakistan. Rise in sea level, coastal erosion, and heat-waves are also contributing aspects in this dilemma of demolition. The National Climate Policy was introduced in 2013, but was duly shelved afterwards.

It is now a global consensus that development has to be sustainable and renewable resources should be used in place of non-renewable resources to compete in this world society. To maintain a healthy living environment in the country, there has to be a climate adaptation strategy, proper infrastructure, and a superlative irrigation system to get healthy green-lands again in Pakistan.