Climate change shockwave

Published: November 20, 2015
The writer holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne and is the author of Development, Poverty and Power in Pakistan, available from Routledge

The writer holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne and is the author of Development, Poverty and Power in Pakistan, available from Routledge

Global consensus concerning the dangers of climate change is growing. Moreover, the pace of climate change is faster than earlier expected, and the magnitude of the risks and costs associated with climate-related disasters is also graver. The richer industrialised countries around the world have contributed most to the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. While emerging economies like China have also become major polluters, the adverse impacts of climate change are being felt in poorer countries as well, even though they have not significantly contributed to this global problem. Small island countries, sub-Saharan Africa, and also Pakistan have already begun experiencing the brunt of climate change over the past decade.

Pakistan has already witnessed major human casualties, besides infrastructure damage, and loss of livestock and livelihoods due to recurrent, severe flooding. In the last five years, Pakistan has sustained over $14.5 billion losses due to floods and other natural disasters, according to official statistics. This past summer, over a thousand people died due to a severe heatwave in Karachi. The severity and frequency of droughts is also increasing. The poor are hit the hardest by these climate-instigated disasters. Yet, they often have the least resilience to cope with disasters, and are also bypassed by relief efforts.

A World Bank report estimates that in a high-impact scenario, climate change could reduce the income of the bottom 40 per cent of the population by more than eight per cent over the next 15 years. Nearly 62 million more people in South Asia alone could fall into extreme poverty by 2030. Such a scenario would wreak havoc on the lives of the already deprived masses within countries like our own. Increased food prices and crop losses would worsen the existing levels of malnutrition. More infrastructure damage would worsen already dismal health and literacy outcomes, and further reduce scant livelihood opportunities, and make economic growth even more sluggish.

Given this situation, there is a need to prepare more comprehensive plans of action to deal with climate change. Despite the latest carnage in Paris, France is to go ahead with its plans to host a global climate change summit later this month. This summit is very important since it expects countries to submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to address climate change, besides securing increased pledges of international financial support to help developing countries build low-carbon and climate-resilient societies. According to a draft of the INDCs prepared by the Ministry of Climate Change some months ago, Pakistan was supposed to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent on its own, and aim for a further five per cent reduction financed through external support. However, more recent developments suggest that Pakistan may backtrack on this resolve and instead reiterate a generic commitment to the global cause of combating climate change, based on international financial and technological assistance.

It is true that Pakistan has certainly not reached a point of peak carbon omissions, given that our current share of global carbon output is estimated to be only 0.8 per cent. However, we are ranked amongst 10 countries worst-affected by climate change. Instead of relying on international assistance to address climate change, we need to take a more assertive stance, particularly to build the resilience of the already vulnerable segments of society.

The list of things we need to do differently in order to ensure that our poor citizenry is able to better cope with the varied implications of climate change is long. We should aim to curb the rampant environmental degradation and pollution within our midst, which may not be a significant contributor to global warming, but which is causing more misery in the lives of people who do not have the luxury of drinking bottled water, or living in areas not surrounded by hazardous wastes. Instead of patronising large landowners and the corporate farming of cash crops, we need to focus on supporting smaller farmers and providing them with the knowhow and support to grow climate-resilient crops. Social safety nets must become more effective, and more must be invested in addressing the basic needs of the poor.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • mememine69
    Nov 21, 2015 - 1:02AM

    Just as intelligent design is to the knuckle-dragging neocons, so too is the climate blame issue to you liberal fear fostering drama queens.
    REAL progressives don’t eagerly want science to be certain of billions of children dying on a planet experiencing unstoppable warming.
    Are your science gods also 99% certain of smoking and cancer. Is the planet really flat?
    Only 34 more years of climate action delay and debate and disbelief is certain and unstoppable.strong textRecommend

  • Basharat alli baltistani
    Nov 21, 2015 - 1:44AM

    climatic issue is such issues that would not if addressed, in future it cause a big problem to whole of the world as what today the terrorism is causing. Pakistan is an important country for the changing climate of the world as it is gifted with heavy snow falling mountain and vast glaciers. Our Govt should also focus on the issues of deforesting and melting of glaciers and formulate a plane for this issue otherwise in future it would also become a challenging issue.Recommend

  • John B
    Nov 21, 2015 - 12:31PM

    Knowing that I am in the minorty here are some contrasting facts:

    Despite crying that the CO2 emission should be cut down, the amount of fossil fuel use is increasing globally and shale oil extraction is increasing . In a rapid pace. Increasing Iran oil out put, Russian oil output, shale gas extraction from Canada , ever increasing usage of LNG and natural gas is only going to increase the CO2 output and it is not going to decrease for another 50-100 years.

    Today’s 0.5 k increase , if it was contributed by CO2., was caused by past 100 year fossil fuel use and our decision to cut emission today will have impact, if any, 100 years from now. The global temperature in the past 10,000 years was within -/+ 1 k and the 0.5 K increase is within the margin of error.

    The ice and water are the great thermal buffer. The water is a great heat sink and thermodynamically any further increase in global temperature must be in equilibrium in the coldness of space. The heat capacity of earth is in equilibrium. That is a fact.

    What is the thermal emission spectrum of earth measured from outer space in the last 50 years.

    The global warming calculations cannot give a thermodynamic equation, and if an attempt is made we can find that oceans will act as a great heat sink and the atmospheric swelling will greatly decrease the thermal trap. What is the CO2 composition in the atmosphere over the past 50 years.

    I believe in thermodynamics.

    Ever wonder why the industrialized nations are asking others to cut CO2 emission while they are increasing their Carbon fuel output, production and consumption?

    In another 30000 years the earth axis will slowly tilt again and artic will be in subtropic. What will happen to the ice then, and who is going to prevent the heavy snow on the regions that is going to shift towards poles. Recommend

    Nov 21, 2015 - 10:05PM

    The resources we use now are a trust to be passed on to future generations in a better condition or at least in the same state as we have received. But the problem is that one average human life cannot possibly experience the good or bad effects of slow paced climatic changes. It is a global problem and carry no passport. The western world have developed without any restrictions on lines of environment or climatic changes but the developing world is subject to such restrictions and even their exports have to be environment friendly and relevant ISO certified.
    Shah HussainRecommend

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