EducationNationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 01

Pakistan’s fight against climate change

The winter in Pakistan is shrinking fast because of climate change. Experts say January will become as hot as June in a few decades if adverse effects of ecocide are not reversed. Many areas in the country may turn into deserts, which will add to widespread poverty.

Pakistan has decided to import two million ton wheat to bridge the production shortfall after heavy rains affected the crop badly. It is despite the fact that Pakistan is the eighth largest wheat producing country in the world. Over the years, the timber mafia has mercilessly felled trees. As a result, Pakistan is now counted among 10 countries in the world most vulnerable to effects of climate change. It has seen a considerable increase in the intensity as well as the frequency of extreme weather conditions over the past few years. According to statistics, 150 major weather events have been reported from 1998 to 2018. The significant rise in the temperature has led to water-stressed conditions which have resulted not only in the reduction of agricultural productivity but also a decrease in the overall forest cover of the country.

Experts warn winter and summer conditions will continue to become harsher in Pakistan despite producing less than 1pc of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Socioeconomic risks could increase significantly for those living in urban areas of Pakistan and India by 2050 as heat waves push up against the limits of human endurance and survivability. In a report, McKinsey Global Institute said countries with lower per capita gross domestic product (GDP) rely more on outdoor work and natural capital, and thus have less financial means to adapt quickly. The report warned that Pakistan is expected to become significantly hotter and more humid by 2050. It would impact workability in urban settings and cause an average ten-percentage-point loss in the annual share of effective outdoor working hours in heat-exposed regions between today and 2050. Pakistan’s projected GDP could be at risk annually with rising temperatures, forcing people already at their physical threshold to cut the number of working hours.

Agriculture, an outdoor sector, has a significant share in the economy. It contributes 18.5pc to Pakistan’s GDP, providing employment to 38.5pc of the national labour force, but it remains a backward sector of the economy. The government already recognises high performing agriculture as the key to economic growth and poverty alleviation. The report suggests sectoral shifts in the national economy could reduce the impacts of outdoor work on the GDP, especially in countries like Pakistan. The pace of sectoral shifts in national economies will strongly influence GDP outcomes and drive the range in the GDP at risk. The report aims to help inform decision makers around the world so they can better assess, adapt to, and mitigate the physical risks of climate change. It points to the risks in workability and liveability both, as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, with lower per capita GDP level were the most affected countries under the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 scenario. Under RCP 8.5, the world’s average temperature would rise by 4.9 degrees Celsius. Under an RCP 8.5 scenario, urban areas in parts of India and Pakistan could be the first places in the world to experience heat waves that exceed the survivability threshold for a healthy human being, with small regions projected to experience a more than 60pc annual chance of such a heat wave by 2050, the report noted.

Millions of people around the world could be exposed to dangerous levels of heat stress – a dangerous condition which can cause organs to shut down, according to a BBC report. Many live in developing countries, and do jobs that expose them to potentially life threatening conditions. These include being out in the open on farms and building sites or indoors in factories and hospitals. Global warming will increase the chances of summer conditions that may be “too hot for humans” to work in, it added.

Besides claiming almost 300,000 lives in the world, Covid-19 also hampered global efforts to address climate change, which is feared to be more difficult to tackle after the pandemic ends. Global warming has already made parts of the world hotter than the human body can withstand, decades earlier than climate models expected. Measurements at Jacobabad in Pakistan and Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates have both repeatedly spent at least 1 or 2 hours over a deadly threshold, an analysis of weather station data has found. Wet bulb temperature (TW) is a measure of heat and humidity, taken from a thermometer covered in a water-soaked cloth. Beyond a TW threshold of 35°C, the body is unable to cool itself by sweating. Lower levels can also be deadly, as was seen in the 2003 European heat wave, which killed thousands of people without passing a TW of 28°C. The report warns that with continued climate change, the extremes will affect more areas in Pakistan, as well as India, which may not have the capacity to adapt. Even if they could, it would require huge amounts of energy for cooling, possibly further exacerbating climate change.

For the past several years, Pakistan has been facing unusual weather patterns. It experiences baking heat in the summer, excessive rainfalls or droughts and prolonged spells of cold wave in the winter. The PTI government has launched an ambitious “10-billion-tree tsunami” project to tackle the climate crisis. Pakistan has achieved the UN Sustainable Development Goal for protecting the environment and holding off climate change a decade before the deadline. It proves the seriousness of the government about achieving its environment protection goals. It needs large-scale measures to reverse the damage already done. It should expedite its efforts to minimise the effects of global change.