Climate change is giving us a beating but we seem to still be asleep

In recent years, Pakistan has joined the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change. Its geographical location has been frequently affected by heavy monsoon in the past.

In the last 20 years, if we observe extreme weather events in Pakistan, heavy rains and floods have seriously affected life and livelihoods. Floods have severely affected the agricultural sector, which has also compromised GDP targets. In the past, heat waves and possible cold waves also posed a threat to people.

Pakistan’s love for coal is a problem. The perception is common in developing countries that since the Western world has progressed using coal, it is a good idea to use it.

Pakistan should think about reducing its emissions, which can help reduce the risk of extreme weather events in its country. The reduction of emissions is not only the responsibility of developed countries, but also developing countries.

In Pakistan, more than 524,000 people have died as a direct result of more than 11,000 extreme weather events, and losses between 1997 to 2016 amount to around $3.16 trillion (in purchasing power parities).

This year’s COP presidency is held by the Republic of Fiji, which along with other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is severely affected by climate impact and also classified in Germanwatch’s short – and long-term index.

Dr. Tariq Banuri, senior environmental expert, recently joined the Global Change Impact Studies Center (GCISC) as Executive Director. Dr. Tariq was also the lead coordinating author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Commenting on the report, Dr. Tariq Banuri said: “Between 1997 and 2016, Pakistan lost an average of 523.1 lives per year, that is, 10,462 lives in 20 years, equivalent to 3.27 lives per million. As such, Pakistan ranked fourth in terms of property damage and the largest contribution to these damage figures came from the 2010 floods. In addition to this, the country has suffered prolonged droughts (1998-2002, 2014-17), heat waves (2011, 2014), Cyclone Nilofar 2014 and Events GLOF “.

Pakistan is repeatedly affected by extreme weather events. The super floods that hit Pakistan in 2010 are one example, where the country lost $25.3 billion and 5.4 percent of our GDP

Dr Banuri also warned of the ominous long-term threat to the country’s water resources. According to him, “the high rate of population growth has reduced the availability of water per capita from an ample of 5,200 cubic meters per person per day to less than 1,000. Projected population growth in the future will reduce this to less than 500 by mid-century, which will make the country dependent on others for its food security. Climate change can further reduce water resources and this will affect lives, livelihoods and civic peace.”

Pakistan is repeatedly affected by extreme weather events in both the short- and long-term index. The super floods of 2010 placed Pakistan in the first place among the countries most affected by climate change, as it lost $25.3 billion and 5.4 percent of its GDP, according to Germanwatch.

Dr Adil Najam, Dean of the Frederick S Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, rightly says that Pakistan does not need any such report to say that it faces serious climate challenges. “The problem is that we continue to refuse to act in the face of a clear and present danger, another report, another list, another classification, another seminar, another conversation, that will not help as much as the action.”

“Unfortunately, our politics and our media are too caught up to pay attention to things that could really endanger their own future and that of their children,” he added.

The COP23, scheduled to end on November 17, 2017, is a good opportunity for Pakistan to show its high climate vulnerability and successful stories of adaptation to the world, so that its case is effectively portrayed, along with the construction of pressure on the countries developed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius.

The remedy to mitigate the impact of climate change undoubtedly lies in the planting of more and more trees. Unfortunately, the area under forests in Pakistan is only 5 per cent of the total landmass, while by global standards it should be more than 20 per cent. Therefore, it is imperative to carry out a persistent awareness campaign to educate the masses about the impact of climate change and its contribution to the national effort, including abstaining from cutting trees. Since the issue is now related to the provinces, they also need to extend full cooperation to the federal government, taking the appropriate steps in line with the policy framework enunciated by it.

The emphasis should be on creating more forests and planting trees that provide the best protection to dilute the impact of climate change. In this sense, you can also look for Army services to plate as many trees as possible where the Army units are located. Other steps that could be taken could include making it mandatory in all federal and provincial departments related to the development of infrastructure, such as roads, to guarantee the planting of trees on both sides of the roads. Housing Societies and developers of private lands dedicated to housing development should also be made to plant trees along all the streets of their housing projects. Similarly, district and union councils can also receive specific objectives for tree planting and raise awareness among people in their respective areas

The media have a very important role in raising awareness and motivating people to plant trees voluntarily. To this end, all media, including print media, should try to expand on the subject periodically. Regrettably, the issue has remained of low priority for the media, which have focused more on the emerging political landscape. Being a fourth pillar of state media is under the obligation to promote national causes such as climate change. For Pakistan, there is no escape from this, with or without the assistance of international organisations and the funds created for that purpose.

It is encouraging to note that the government of Pakistan is also taking this challenge very seriously and a climate change ministry has been established to address the issue.

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