May 29, 2023

Scorching reminder of climate change

Global weather organizations and NASA dubbed March 2022 the fifth hottest March since global record keeping began in 1880. Climate change indeed is a reality, in case reminders are still needed.

This is especially worrisome for Pakistan, which remains among the most affected countries in the world due to climate change.

The Global Climate Risk Index has ranked Pakistan among the top 10 countries affected due to climate change. Although last year Pakistan dropped from fifth to eighth slot, it still is a perilous position to be in.

The effects of the climate change can be seen since March, when the weather, instead of gradually drifting from cold to pleasant, suddenly escalated to scorching heat, which the country is accustomed to witnessing in May or June.

For many, the heat across the country – especially in Karachi – rang an unpleasant reminder of the 2015 heatwave when 1,200 people died due to severe heat in Sindh.

On March 15, Pakistan Meteorological Department issued an advisory, stating, “day temperature would remain usually high in most parts of the country”. Benazirabad in Sindh recorded temperature of 45.5 degrees Celsius on March 27 and 28.

In another advisory in the first week of April, the department said that the temperature “is expected to remain 9-11 degree Celsius above normal in Sindh, South Punjab and parts of Balochsitan, while 8-10 degree Celsius will remain above normal in northern Punjab, Islamabad and even northern areas.”

Meanwhile, earlier this year, an intergovernmental panel warned that Pakistan may face longer, more intense, heatwave due to climate change, which would be felt more than the expected 1.5 to 2-degree Celsius rise in international temperature. While issuing another warning, the Meteorological department predicted that the country will get below normal rain till June this year.

Due to these record high temperatures, the wheat crop has matured earlier than expected, which is a positive development. However, experts say these conditions will increase the water demand for the Rabi crop, which may lead to low production.

The bone of contention, as far as Pakistan is concerned, remains the fact that the country only contributes only less than 1% in the global emission but “was not provided any global assistance particularly to cutting down its GHG emissions.”

Former prime minister Imran Khan regularly spoke about the issue of climate change, which is unusual for governments in Pakistan. He also took some significant steps.

One of the major steps was the ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’. The project got international recognition as United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) termed the project a ‘Global Leader Initiative’.

Furthermore, in 2019, under Khan’s government, Pakistan achieved UN climate action goal 10 years before its 2030 deadline. “This [was] an outstanding achievement for Pakistan to attain the crucial ‘Goal 13 – Climate Action’ well before the 2030 deadline” former Minister of State for Environment Malik Amin Aslam said. Experts maintain that the ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ played a major role in achieving this goal.

Fighting climate change would be among the many challenges for the new government, experts insist. Concrete efforts on the ground, long-term policies, awareness among the public, and practical steps by the authorities, are the only way to survive, analysts maintain. Because Pakistan, as an underdeveloped country, doesn’t have the ability to fight the climate change alone and for long.

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