Pakistan now more vulnerable to climate change

New disaster management organisation to address threats posed by natural disasters.

Maha Mussadaq October 10, 2011


In the list of countries most vulnerable to disasters due to climate change, Pakistan’s ranking has been downgraded to 16 in 2010-2011 from its previous position at 29 a year earlier, according to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index by Maple Croft, an organisation which maps over 100 global risks.

The country is now facing serious wide-ranging climatic hazards with frequent occurrence of floods, cyclones and droughts. Pakistan has been suffering from a major drought for the past four years which according to experts is likely to continue. At the same time, yearly floods triggered by prolonged monsoon rains have destroyed vast residential and production lands. Earthquakes and cyclones have also become an annual feature.

“The government needs to prioritise disaster risk reduction and invest in systems today to reduce the cost of damage in the future,” said Adviser on Disaster Risk Reduction, OXFAM, Javeria Afzal. “Pakistan was familiarised with disaster preparedness after the 2005 earthquake.” Responsibilities of the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority and the National Disaster Management Authority have not been redefined after changes in laws and policies. There are scientific centres operational in Pakistan to determine what the situation would look like in 2030, she added.  “It won’t be a pretty sight if there is no planning for tomorrow. “

According to Climate Change and Environment Planning and Development Division, if proper measures are not taken, adaptation costs are likely to exceed 10% in the next 40 years ranging from $13 to $40 per capita. Adaptation costs in the year 2010 were $5.75 billion, while losses due to floods were estimated to be 5% of GDP.

Director General Jawed Ali Khan stated that the government is in the process of finalising the National Climate Change Policy.  A disaster management organisation will be set up to address threats posed by natural disasters in the near future.  It will also be responsible for dealing with the humanitarian aspects of emergencies, preparedness, response and recovery in particular to lower the impact of disasters.

In recent decades, temperatures in Pakistan have witnessed accelerated jumps compared to global variations. At 53.70C in Mohenjo Daro broke previous world records in May 2010 and temperature in Lahore was the highest in 78 years in 2007. Severe cyclonic storms hit the Arabian Sea in May 2010 which is very rare phenomenon in the history of the sea. It is very likely that weather extremes, heatwaves and heavy rains will occur with increased frequency. There will be more rainfall at higher latitudes and less in most subtropical areas.

Tropical cyclones like typhoons and hurricanes will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and heavier precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical sea surface temperatures.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2011.


Ahsan Nisar | 12 years ago | Reply

When most people think about climate change, they imagine gradual increases in temperature and only marginal changes in other climatic conditions, continuing indefinitely or even leveling off at some time in the future. The conventional wisdom is that modern civilization will either adapt to whatever weather conditions they face and that the pace of climate change will not overwhelm the adaptive capacity of society. Recent research suggests that once temperature rises above some threshold, adverse weather conditions could develop relatively abruptly. Since weather-related events have an enormous impact on society, as they influence food supply, conditions in cities and communities, as well as access to clean water and energy, such an abrupt climate change scenario could potentially de-stabilize the geo-political environment, leading to skirmishes, battles, and even wars due to resource constraints such as:

1) Food shortages due to decreases in net global agricultural production 2) Decreased availability and quality of fresh water in key regions causing more frequent floods and droughts 3) Disrupted access to energy supplies due to extensive sea ice and storminess

As global and local carrying capacities are reduced, tensions could mount around the world, leading to two fundamental strategies: defensive and offensive. Nations with the resources to do so may build virtual fortresses around their countries, preserving resources for themselves. Less fortunate nations especially those with ancient enmities with their neighbors, may initiate in struggles for access to food, clean water, or energy. Unlikely alliances could be formed as defense priorities shift and the goal is resources for survival rather than religion, ideology, or national honor.

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