FeaturedNationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 04

Compounding climate crisis

Climate change has emerged as a serious challenge to inhabitants of the planet Earth. Inaction for decades has compounded the issue and if remain unaddressed, it will threaten the survival of humans in the next few decades while the number of animals, birds and fish has already decreased by over two-thirds in less than five decades.

The catastrophic effects of climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the spread of zoonotic diseases, like COVID-19, remind us it is time to pause and reflect on our relationship with our surroundings. Climate change threatens both developing and developed countries. It is said don’t drink water when in developing countries and don’t breathe when in developed countries. An international think tank has also warned developing countries to control the population because the rapidly rising numbers would make it difficult to provide food for all. The reduction in food availability and increasing exposure to natural disasters are expected to cause the displacement of one billion people by 2050.

The Middle East is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions when it comes to ecological threats over the next 30 years, according to the first Ecological Threat Register, produced by Australia-based Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP). It warns of the mass displacement of 1.2 billion people across the world by 2050. It named the Middle East alongside Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and North Africa as the regions facing the largest number of ecological risks. The report says more than one billion people are living in countries which were unlikely to adapt to new challenges over the next 30 years. “There are a number of countries in the Middle East that are going to be vulnerable to severe water shortages in the future,” it said.

Countries like Iraq, Syria and Yemen will have low resilience to ecological stresses. “We saw the impact wars had in those countries in terms of the numbers who were forced to migrate. Now they are also going to be facing increased stress on their water and food supplies.” The Ecological Threat Register measures the risk to countries arising from population growth, water stress, food insecurity, droughts, floods, cyclones, rising temperatures and sea levels. It found that 141 countries were likely to be exposed to at least one ecological threat by 2050. The 19 countries with the highest number of threats have a combined population of 2.1 billion people, representing close to 25pc of people in the world. Water stress represents the most significant concern to life in the Middle East over the coming decades.

The number of recorded water-related conflict and violent incidents has increased by 270pc globally in the past decade. Since 2000, most of those incidents took place in Yemen and Iraq. The report states there are 2.6 billion people in the world who are experiencing water stress today, a figure which is predicted to grow to 5.4 billion people by 2040. The worst affected countries are predicted to be Lebanon, Singapore, Israel and Iraq. “Ecological threats and climate change pose serious challenges to global peacefulness,” the report warned. Over the next 30 years, lack of access to food and water will only increase without urgent global cooperation. In the absence of action, civil unrest, riots and conflict will most likely increase. COVID-19 is already exposing gaps in the global food chain.

The global demand for food is expected to increase by 50pc, meaning that many more people will be at risk of hunger unless there is a significant increase in supply. More than two billion people across the world already face uncertain access to food, that figure is predicted to increase to 3.5 billion by 2050. With the world’s population expected to rise to 10 billion over the next three decades, access to food is going to be a major issue for large sectors of the global population.

It is not just countries in the developing world that are at risk from ecological threats over the coming decades. Regions such as Europe and North America will also be impacted by the number of refugees created by ecological crises. In the refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016, two million people fled to Europe and created political turbulence and social unrest. Mass displacement will lead to larger refugee flows to the most developed countries.

The climate crisis is also impacting other creatures on the planet. More creatures are susceptible to impacts of climate change than decades ago. Thirty years ago, the impacts of climate change on species were extremely rare. Today, they’re commonplace. Between 1970 and 2016, global population sizes of monitored populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have shrunk by average of two-thirds, driven by habitat loss and degradation, including deforestation, to produce food, according to the Living Planet Report 2020, by the WWF and Zoological Society of London (ZSL). It describes how at least 83pc of biological processes have been impacted by climate change, at scales from genes and populations to species, ecosystems and their services to humans across terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats. The Living Planet Index tracked almost 21,000 populations of more than 4, 000 vertebrate species, revealing that wildlife populations in freshwater habitats have suffered a decline of 84pc.

In Pakistan, over 90 species of mammals, birds and reptiles are critically endangered and near extinction. According to the Ministry of Climate Change, species that are at risk of or nearing extinction include 50 mammals, 27 birds and 17 reptiles. The serious declines in wildlife species populations in Pakistan and the world indicate that nature is unravelling and the planet is flashing red warning signs of systems failure. The decline of wildlife directly affects nutrition, food security and the livelihoods of billions of people. All countries of the world will have to work together to reverse the process.