Pakistan is one of the top five countries affected by climate change, according to German Watch. From sea intrusion, flood to droughts it has been already affecting the country. In the coming years, all these crises are going to get severe. Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government are serious about the problem and a number of initiatives have been taken. However, there are a lot of measures that can be initiated in order to mitigate climate change and adapt to the climate affected the future.
What is climate change?
Climate change is a long-term shift in global or regional climate patterns. It often refers to the rise in global temperatures
from the mid 20th century to the present. These temperatures are said to be caused by global warming which in turn is due to the human expansion of ‘greenhouse effect’
. There are certain ‘greenhouse’ gases that are released due to natural as well as a human activity which hang in the air and trap heat causing warmer temperatures.
There has been a debate about whether global warming is caused by humans but 97% of scientists believe that it is caused by human activity. A statement on Climate Change from 18 Scientific Associations reads, “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”
What are climate change effects on Pakistan?
In Pakistan, climate change has started to show its impact many decades ago. The country has been witnessing floods almost every 10 years. In 2010, a devastating flood affected about 20 million people across the country. Again in 2011, the rains wreaked havoc and now in 2020, the country saw mini floods across Pakistan. Karachi witnessed its worst flash floods in 40 years.
In 2018, only 1mm was recorded in Sindh monsoon rainfall but in 2019, an unprecedented 323mm in 2019 was recorded. In 2020, the provincial capital of Sindh recorded 345mm of rainfall. This change of rainfall pattern shows the climate change phenomenon. Moreover, the heating up of Arabian Sea from 29-degree centigrade to 31 degrees centigrade in 2 years has been one of the reasons for such heavy rainfalls.
Every year, smog descendents upon Punjab affects the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. Pakistani environmentalists have traced the smog saying that it is caused by brick kilns and burning of crop waste not only in Pakistan but also in neighbouring India.
Climate change has manifested in a number of ways in Pakistan. Sea intrusion has claimed four million acres of agriculture over the years forcing 1.2 million people in Sindh to migrate. Change in climate has also caused droughts and desertification which have affected the rural economy based on agriculture. The World Bank says 15% of Sindh’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lost due to climate change. Yet no big money is being spent to mitigate the climate change effect.
What Pakistan is doing to mitigate the Climate Change effect?
Although, some initiatives have been taken by the Federal Government. One, after the success of the Billion Tree Tsunami Project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the centre has launched the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Project. In Punjab, zig-zag brick kiln production has been introduced in 33 per cent of all the brick kilns. Electric busses have also been procured or are in the process of procurement in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Multan.
The government has set a target of 30% of the total energy mix to be on renewable means and if hydroelectricity is also counted it would reach 60%. Restoration of biodiversity of Ravi has been launched. In order to save space for parks, vertical development of cities is also being promoted. Recently, a Clean Green Program has been launched that aims to resolve the sanitation issue across Pakistan.
What more needs to be done?
It is for the first time that any government has given so much attention to the environment and climate change. However, there are still a lot of steps that need to be taken to solve the issue.
Reduction of emission
The first solution is mitigation aiming to reduce emissions and stabilize levels of greenhouse gasses. To reduce sources of greenhouses gasses, Pakistan will have to rely on renewables rather than on coal to produce electricity. Unfortunately, the country has just started to exploit Thar Coal, yet it needs to be made carbon neutral. The country must bring regional countries to enhance the sinks that accumulate and store gasses which include oceans, forests and soil. This will allow a timeframe sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt to climate change (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report).
Reducing sea level encroachments
Second and final, Pakistan will have to adapt to live amid climate change. The country will have to reduce sea level encroachments, prepare for extreme weather events and ensure food security. The government needs to make the most of climate change opportunities such as longer growing seasons and high yields.
Management at city level also needs to be promoted to plan for heatwaves, floods and droughts. Improving water availability for the future should be the key concern for local governments.
Protection of land and forests
Lastly, A mechanism needs to be placed to protect coastline, land, forests, and sustainable energy and public infrastructure. Here Pakistan can learn much from Singapore which is planning to build sustainable and environmental friendly floating infrastructures.