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Heading towards climate catastrophe

Pakistan is going to face devastating effects from climate change, but it is ironic that it has yet to take steps to prepare. In the past two decades, Pakistan has suffered from over 130 events due to climate change – floods, droughts and heatwaves in various parts of the country. On top of that its technical and financial capacity isn’t enough to tackle the adverse impacts. Limited approach by the government to ensure clean energy can worsen the situation. Along with other adverse effects, the climate change can also lead to an enormous decrease in crop yields, affecting Pakistan’s agriculture-dependent economy. Diseases primarily associated with floods and droughts are expected to rise and ultimately the displacement of people and migration patterns will take a heavy toll on Pakistan in many ways. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. But off late it has been reported that it is severely being hit by the climate change effects, resulting in decease of the overall produce from agri lands besides taking toll on the livestock situation as well. If it is being swept by a powerful adverse force such as climate change, then the government must determine what can be done to help. It’s high time the government made efforts to mitigate its impact. According to available reports, there is growing evidence, gathered informally by weather related people, that the impact of climate change on Pakistan goes far beyond the abnormal rain pattern we have seen in the monsoon season. As a matter of fact, the erratic nature of the rains, as well as temperature changes during the onset and end of winter also appear to be impacting the sowing season. When the rains fail, or come in thunderous showers that sweep away crops, the impact is visible. But the more subtle result shows up in the disruption of sowing patterns, evidence of which is piling up through numerous reports citing farmers as their source. The agriculture sector has been in a sustained slump for many years now, usually attributed to the collapse of commodity prices. But perhaps we should ask how much of the situation results from the disruptive impact of climate change. There is no way to be certain of this yet, but the piling up of anecdotal evidence merits a detailed study of sowing patterns and yields and their relationship to winter temperature changes. In fact, there is now a clear case to be made for such a study. It would require close coordination among various government departments – the ministries of agriculture and climate change, the Met department and provincial revenue authorities. It would also require expertise that may not available locally to determine the extent of the impact and if it can be mitigated. The effects are felt widely, from lowered yields to elevated vulnerability to pest attacks etc. What is needed that a detailed survey of agriculture yields, temperature anomalies, seasonal changes, water flows and availability during critical times, covering a period of at least 10 years, is now necessary. If an adverse impact is confirmed, then a second study is needed to develop mitigation strategies. It may be recalled here that Pakistan is among the 175 countries along with China and United States, who have signed the Paris agreement on climate change in the United Nations General Assembly, boosting hopes of rapid action on elimination global warming. Massive flooding displacing millions, prolonged heat waves with temperatures averaging above 38 degrees centigrade and at time crossing amounting to 44, ravaging hurricanes and deluges caused by excessive rainfall. Temperatures in northern Pakistan have already been estimated to have increased and resultantly, glacial cover in Pakistan is on the decline. The latter is pivotal to feeding water to the Indus which through its tributaries irrigates the rest of the country. Year after year Pakistan faces huge economic costs in terms of damage to property and infrastructure, agricultural productivity losses and rebuilding and rehabilitation costs of those afflicted by environmental disasters. Unfortunately, we have not even crossed the first step; immediate recognition of climate risk and environmental protection as an issue of critical concern remains absent from the policy landscape. Exports suggest various steps to be taken. For instance, promoting solar power, improving energy efficiency and adding to forest cover are some of the steps that can be taken by Pakistan to protect its environment. The first step towards reducing carbon emissions and protecting the shared global environment should come from industrialised nations which are large producers of greenhouse gases. There are serious economic and environmental consequences if we fail to reduce carbon emissions quickly. It may be recalled here that the Himalayan glacial melt is going to affect the Indus river system that is the national backbone, floods are of increasing severity and frequency, and their effects long-lasting, and extremes of temperature push humans to the very limits of sustainability. Heat kills more and more every year. Meanwhile, let’s also not forget the heavy toll climate change has taken on the ecosystems, including marine and fresh water habitats. Wildlife is under threat as well. Time has come that our country initiates a public discourse on the issue in order to spread awareness first. Then concrete measures should be taken in order to better equip the country for disaster prevention, preparedness, and management.

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