Heat waves manifestation of climate change

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With the passage of time, the effects of climate change are becoming worst. The heat wave phenomenon is also the manifestation of such effects. Yes, Karachi is once again in grip of heat. Temperature has once again soared high in Karachi. According to climate experts, the city will stay hot for the next four days. Temperature will most likely reach 42 degrees Celsius in coming days. People have been advised to opt for lifestyle choices that decrease their vulnerability to such climatic hazards, for example, adjusting routines and schedules to avoid exposure to extreme temperature and precipitation, and changing construction practices to become climate resilient in times of such heatwaves. According to the Pakistan Meteorological department, due to low pressure in the Arabian Sea off the Indian coast, the sea breeze along the Pakistani coastline will lessen. In such conditions, temperatures in the country’s coastal areas, including Karachi, will gradually increase during the next two days, resulting in moderate heatwave conditions. Here one may recall the 2015 heat wave, which was extreme in nature. The heatwave of 2015 that caused the deaths of about 2,000 people in Pakistan alone can become a frequent occurrence if changes at the policy level aren’t made immediately. Currently, Pakistan ranks seventh in the 10 countries that are the worst affected by climate change. Though trying to help change weather conditions is a long- term issue, there is a lot we can do in the short-term. To begin with, we need to address the issue of tree cover in the city. Climate change is a global issue and even though developing countries like Pakistan are least responsible for global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – Pakistan currently contributes to less than one per cent of GHG – its effects on such countries are devastating, pushing lives into near extinction. The floods of 2010, 2011 and 2012 that inflicted severe damage not only incurred human cost but also an economic one, resulting in an economic growth on average at a rate of 2.9 per cent instead of its potential rate of 6.5 per cent. These floods were one of the many ways Pakistan has been affected by the global climate change. The country’s geographical and socioeconomic fragility puts it in a vulnerable situation. 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, especially when Pakistan is already hit with an ongoing water crisis which is expected to get much worse soon. Extreme climate conditions leading to lower agricultural outputs in the country call for urgent adaptation reforms to counter the adverse effects of climate change. It may be recalled here that Pakistan is on the list of most affected countries from climate change. A UK-based global risk consulting firm, has ranked Pakistan 22nd in the Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2016 (CCVI); three of its cities are among the 69 considered most at risk from climate change including Lahore (on 7th place), Faisalabad (22nd) and Karachi (25th). In this backdrop, much more needs to be done by governments and citizens to mitigate the effects of climate change. For Pakistan, the biggest climate challenges are food production, agricultural productivity; disasters, such as floods and heat waves; livelihood loss and most of all, water and energy. The solution is sustainable development which is less polluting than the alternatives. It’s important to recognise that there are a lot of things to be done for climate, which includes mitigation, as well as adaptation. For example, improved energy conservation will not only be good for climate, but even better for Pakistan’s energy and load-shedding woes. Preparations for adaptation in agriculture and water sectors should be made in order to protect these from the impacts of climate change. One of the challenges is to convince the policymakers and opinion leaders to deal with climate change as a development issue rather than a scientific issue. Dams and reservoirs must be built to fulfill the larger water needs for agriculture and hydropower, while keeping an eye on ecological requirements. Also, the government should evaluate the magnitude of disaster prone areas with hazard mapping and develop land use planning accordingly along with the implementation of early warning and emergency management plans for heat waves and natural hazards i.e. flash floods, GLOFs [glacial lake outburst floods], landslides and avalanches in the mountain areas. In lowland cities, a surge in monsoonal storms, floods and intense winter can affect people as well as agriculture and food security. Preparation is extremely essential. Getting out of the ‘disasters’ mindset is needed as too many climatic impacts are not about disasters. Managing water resources, developing sustainable agriculture to warrant food security; controlling deforestation; developing use of renewables; controlling air pollution and discouraging use of fossils; forecasting and managing extreme events, including floods, are all issues that require government support. The government needs to work closely with experts and think tanks, while local governments and civil society organisations need to get down to the community level to develop low cost, feasible and sustainable strategies to make them resilient to climate change.

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