Climate change and Pakistan

(Habiba Ikram, Lahore)

In today’s era climate change is one of the most concerned topic in any country. Pakistan is also one of those countries which is getting hugely effected by these drastic climate changes and its hazardous effects. Pakistan extends over an area of 796,000 km2 with a great diversity in temperature and precipitation. This high prevalence of poverty, coupled with the lack of and access to resources places the country in the low human development category, ranked 146 out of 187 countries, well below the average human development index value compared to other South Asian countries so Pakistan immediately needs to look and work on the reasons of this day by day worsening climatic conditions and mitigate its effects. Climate change which is also called as global warming is directly linked to the green house gases in our atmosphere worsening the green house effect. The energy, agriculture and livestock sectors alone account for 90.7% of the total emissions pool and are biggest emitters of green house gases sine 1994.

Past observed climate change trends in Pakistan:
In Pakistan there until 2007, 2004 was recorded as the warmest year and on regional basis Baluchistan was recorded with the highest increase in winter temperature. Northern areas showed negative temperature trends and those northern areas outside the monsoon region suffered from expanding aridity. During the last century, Pakistan’s average annual temperature increased by 0.57°C compared to 0.75°C for South Asia, and average annual precipitation increased by 25%. The warming is mainly due to increase in winter temperature. Observed sea level rise along the Karachi coast was 1.1 millimeters per year in the past century. Pakistan also observed a decrease of 10%–15% in winter and summer rainfall in the arid plains and coastal areas. Also a rise of 18%–32% in the summer rainfall was observed over the core monsoon region of Pakistan. A decrease of 17% to 64% in rainfall is also observed. A drastic night time temperature rise than the day time is also observed causing damage to the live stock and agricultural production due to high demand of water, intense heat waves and higher respiration rates.

More intense possible future damages in Pakistan due to climate change:
The frequency of hot days and hot nights is expected to increase significantly. Pakistan’s rainfall projections do not indicate any systematic changing trends. Major crop yields such as of wheat and rice are expected to decrease significantly. Water availability per capita is projected to decrease to an alarming level. Alarming rise in sea level due to melting of glaciers and thermal expansion of seas causing an extreme threat to low lying coastal areas of Pakistan like Karachi.

Major economic and life threats due to climate change:
Agriculture is the key economic factor in Pakistan and plays a main role in keeping a stable economy. As production of crops is highly sensitive to the amount of water and heat given to them so it is a huge concern that due to temperature variability due to climate change there will be a decrease in production of crops by 8% to 10% in Pakistan by 2040.

Raising livestock supports up to 8 million people, especially in rural areas. The degradation of gazing lands like pastures due to floods, drought, decrease in fodder quality and quantity due to temperature variance is causing a threat to animals and all the human and economic benefits associated with it.

Forests are 5% of region in Pakistan. Forests are a natural resource in providing timber, wood, habitat for wildlife and various other important eco system services like reducing carbon dioxide level from the atmosphere and controlling storms in coastal areas. It is predicted that due to drastic climate changes forests can be affected questioning the bio-diversity status and soil quality.

Also, in the water sector, there is an uncertainty of the future water flow of rivers. Also due to heavy precipitation leading to floods is also a threat to infrastructure and live of people in country.

Impacts climate change on health of people:
Extreme heat waves, natural disasters and variance in rainfall patters is posing a huge threat to safe drinking water, clean air, sufficient food, and secure shelter. As we have also seen that extreme heat wave in Karachi is killing a lot of people and high smog level is a major is deteriorating health of people. With the rise of temperature, the risk of water-borne and vector-borne diseases also increases. Higher numbers of dengue and malaria cases are due to changes in temperature and heavy precipitation, possibly resulting in the increased number of breeding sites for mosquitoes.

Measures to be taken to minimize impacts of climate changes:
Despite this, the fight against climate change is a real opportunity to transition to a low carbon society. The first thing we need to do Is to move from fossil fuels to solar energy, wind energy, biomass and geothermal energy as these methods do not harm the atmosphere. We should also force our leaders and international leaders to not look for ways to gain stability for their country and other kinds of dominance over other countries by acquiring whatever means that may even harm earth and human life i.e incineration plants and producing electricity from coal. Apart from adopting clean energy producing methods we also need to minimize our consumption of energy and water, so we do not pollute our environment and do not become a burden on earth. Apart from this we also need to promote public transportation and carpooling in order to minimize noise and air pollution and it will also minimize consumption of fuel and resources. We should also promote electric vehicles and hydrogen mobility to lessen the emission of co2. We should stop this massive deforestation. Plant more trees through reforestation and afforestation, shop sustainably and call on our leaders to introduce stronger laws to stop excessive tree cleaning. We should appreciate those farmers who adopt climate practices that meet environmental or climate goals. Use different stock feeds can help to reduce farming's contribution to climate change. We should be responsible in our consumption of everyday material and adopt the habit of recycling stuff at personal and industrial level.

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