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The Menace of Climate Change
Climate change has emerged as a serious threat to the whole world and Pakistan is no exception to it. All around the world, people are witnessing the impacts of climate change on planet Earth. Rising temperatures around the globe augment increasing hurricanes, intense wildfires, floods, and other disasters that cannot be ignored at any cost.
Scientists from different parts of the world are sounding the alarm that climate change is the greatest ever threat to human life in the recorded history of mankind. The recent wildfires in different countries are an example of how severe the impact of climate change can be. According to Tedros Adhanom, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change could dwarf the risks posed by any single disease.
More than 200 medical journals have urged world leaders to act against the menace of climate change in a joint editorial on 5th September 2021. They maintained that “The science is unequivocal: a mundane increase of 1.5°C above the preindustrial average and the perennial loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse”. They also iterated that the world governments have no time to wait for the ending of the COVID-19 pandemic to counter the threat of climate change.
If we look at the changing patterns of rains and long summers, one can realize that climate change is real. Just like any other country in the world, Pakistan is also affected by climate change. Although the carbon emission rate of Pakistan is significantly lower yet it is one of the top countries affected by climate change. Recently, Pakistan has hosted the World Environment Day in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for the first time since the birth of this event in 1970.
In this fight against global warming, the stance of Pakistan on climate change is quite apparent. Pakistan, one of the most affected countries in the world, is trying its hardest to push back the looming climate change catastrophe. Leaders from all around the world have praised the seriousness of the country to counter the threat of climate change. The article intends to highlight the threats posed by climate change and the steps Pakistan is taking to counter this menace.
Climate Change Threat to Pakistan
According to a report by Global Climate Risk Index 2021, Pakistan is the 8th most vulnerable country to climate change in the whole world. Last year, the country stood at the 5th number in the list of the most vulnerable countries. The improvement in the position of Pakistan is because of the country’s movement in the right direction.
According to reports, Pakistan has lost at least 9,989 lives due to climate change. The country has also suffered an economic loss of billions of dollars and witnessed 152 extreme weather conditions in the period of 1999 to 2018. Pakistan is losing $4 billion every year because of the disasters ensued by climate change. Pakistan has lost up to $80 billion due to climate change calamities from 1996 to 2016 as per the report of the Ministry of Climate Change.
Climate change has fueled mass migrations in all the four provinces of the country and Gilgit-Baltistan as well. The Himalayan Glaciers are also melting and may disappear by 2035. Many cities in the country, including Karachi, have seen floods in recent years during the monsoon season. This is not just because of the bad infrastructure of the city but also due to climate change.
Similarly, the capital city of the country, Islamabad, has also been flooded. Rapidly melting glaciers are also among the major reasons for urban flooding in Pakistan. This increasing flooding in the urban areas of Pakistan is just a trailer of the looming crisis in the country. The changing patterns of rain are aggravating droughts and water scarcity in Pakistan.
According to Tariq Banuri, an expert on the issue, the rain pattern in Pakistan is that of high magnitude and low frequency, which results in more rain but for a shorter span, which does not assist in percolation and raise the groundwater level, so longer spells of drought are being caused by climate change which is aggravating Pakistan’s water scarcity.
Climate change has also affected the agricultural yield of the country. The Locust attack in Pakistan is also one of the implications of climate change. These attacks are threatening the food security of the country. Last year, the locusts have swarmed more than 60 districts of the country which disrupted the daily life of the farmers because of the dramatic change in the attacks of the locusts.
According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Pakistan will lose more than $4 billion worth of kharif and rabi crops. It further maintains that 38 percent of the land area of the country – including 60% in Baluchistan, 15% in Punjab, and 25% in Sindh – is a breeding ground for desert locusts. Each swarm of the locusts comprises up to 50 million locusts and they can travel up to 150 km in a day, consuming as much as the food of around 35,000 people. The locust swarms’ attacks are not something new but climate change is providing the impetus.
It would be cogent to attribute climate change as a man-made disaster because of the increased use of plastic, deforestation, and increasing carbon emissions from industries. Deforestation has also increased the probability of deadly encounters of man and wild animals. According to Al-Jazeera, the incidents of human encounters with animals have increased in the disputed region of Kashmir which resulted in many deaths. This has just been due to increased food scarcity and deforestation.
Work Done by Pakistan on Climate Change Mitigation
Pakistan is one of the few countries which have taken the climate threat seriously. The stance of Pakistan on climate change involves taking multiple measures to counter the menace. The steps taken by Pakistan on climate change, in recent years, have been appreciated by many leaders at international forums.
Billion Tree Tsunami
The country has completed a tree plantation project, Billion Tree Tsunami, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. This reforestation project cultivated 350,000 hectares of trees by planting as well as natural regeneration. This was an effort to restore the natural beauty and to counter the deforestation in the province which has been taken out at a massive level in previous years.
The country’s total forests cover a range from 2% to 5% of land area which is far below the 12% recommended by the United Nations. This makes Pakistan the least forest-covered country in the region. This project has cost $160 million to the state. Along with improving the environmental conditions, the project has generated several jobs for the natives of the region and has resulted in the establishment of a network of private tree nurseries. This project has been called a true conservation success story by the head of the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
10 Billion Tree Tsunami
The measures taken by Pakistan on climate change mitigation also include another project—the 10 billion tree plantation drive—launched by the state’s government. The project was started in 2019 and is estimated to complete by 2023. This campaign includes the plantation of mangroves along the coastlines of the Sindh and Baluchistan provinces.
According to World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan, around 500,000 people directly rely on the mangrove’s services in the Indus Delta and these forests are one of the most productive ecosystems. The increased plantation of mangrove forests will result in reviving fish stocks and the natives will prosper economically. These forests will also save the local population from the threats of sea floods. They act as highly effective carbon storage sites.
The participation of the common people of Pakistan is the key factor in the success of these projects. People from every walk of life are playing their part in planting trees around the country. The completion of this project will have a great impact on ameliorating the climate situation of the country. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, has also commended Pakistan’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project at the UN and has urged the world to follow Pakistan in this regard. Pakistan has also achieved the UN’s climate action Sustainable Development Goal 10 years before the deadline.
Pakistan has approved its first electric vehicle policy in the year 2019. The government of Pakistan is offering tax exemptions and incentives to buyers, manufacturers, and importers of electric vehicles in the country. The rationale behind all these steps is to counter the looming threat of climate change in the country.
Despite these exemptions by the government, electric vehicles are not likely to be successful in the near future in the country because of the lack of charging power stations and also due to the high cost of electric vehicles.
The common people of the country think that the exemptions granted to electric vehicles are intended to benefit the elite class of the country as the middle and lower classes of Pakistan cannot afford to buy electric vehicles. Although electric cars can indeed be instrumental in the fight of Pakistan on climate change, the state’s government should take measures to make them affordable for the common citizens.
Pakistan being the 8th most vulnerable country to climate change in the world has to act against climate change as in a case of emergency. The urban flooding, droughts, and food scarcity in the country are just a trailer of the looming climate catastrophe. Although the stance of Pakistan on climate change highlights how seriously it countering the menace, it still has a long way to go. Pakistan alone could not make any significant impact on the climate change crisis; the world must join hands to counter this threat.
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