Pakistan may experience a decline in rainfall by 20-50 percent and could experience significantly hotter climate with temperature increases, leading to drastic changes in weather system, agriculture, regional security, trade and health.
This has been stated in a report titled “A Region at Risk: The human dimensions of climate change in Asia and the Pacific” jointly produced by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
Agriculture Under Threat
The report maintained that people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture will be immediately affected by changes in the natural environment.
The vulnerability of farmers in Punjab province to climate-related risks was aggravated by already existing constraints on available freshwater, access to income, and a fragile infrastructure. Their capacity for adaption is impaired by a lack of knowledge as well as by resource scarcity.
While precipitation in Pakistan has always experienced large-scale variability, the past few decades have shown a significant increase in both dry and wet spells, with northern Pakistan experiencing a significant decline in rainfall notably during the winter season, whereas the southern Indus Delta has seen a moderate increase in rainfall, which mainly results from frequent local, heavy precipitation spells.
Climate Change to Affect Monsoon Season
Furthermore, climate change could impact the variability of the monsoon and lead to changes in the intensity and timing of precipitation. This would further aggravate the water stress already present in the region today, as farmers have to be able to plan for the monsoon onset and withdrawal in order to effectively farm their land (e.g. during plowing day).
Unabated climate change would bring devastating consequences to countries in Asia and the Pacific, which could severely affect their future growth, reverse current development gains, and degrade quality of life.
The report states that under a business-as-usual scenario, a 6 degree Celsius temperature increase is projected over the Asian landmass by the end of the century. Some countries in the region could experience significantly hotter climates, with temperature increases in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the northwest part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) projected to reach 8 degree Celsius.
These increases in temperature would lead to drastic changes in the region’s weather system, agriculture and fisheries sectors, land and marine biodiversity, domestic and regional security, trade, urban development, migration, and health. Such a scenario may even pose an existential threat to some countries in the region and crush any hope of achieving sustainable and inclusive development.
Loss of Lives and Resources
The report further states that 3.3 million people die every year due to the harmful effects of outdoor air pollution, with Congo, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh being the top four countries experiencing such deaths.
It is estimated that in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan approximately 130 million people reside in low-elevation coastal zones and are at risk of being displaced by the end of the 21st century under worst-case scenarios.
Climate change will also make food production in the region more difficult and production costs higher. In some countries of Southeast Asia, rice yields could decline by up to 50% by 2100 if no adaptation efforts are made.
Moreover, a warmer climate for the region could endanger energy supply. Climate change can exacerbate energy insecurity through continued reliance on unsustainable fossil fuels, reduced capacities of thermal power plants due to a scarcity of cooling water, and intermittent performance of hydropower plants as a result of uncertain water discharges, among other factors. Energy insecurity could lead to conflicts as countries compete for limited energy supply.