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AsiaScience

Pakistan: The Climate Story

428
AsiaScience

Pakistan: The Climate Story

Climate change has caused Pakistan an economic loss of $3.8 billion and this is only going to increase unless adequate measures are put in place globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work towards a more sustainable future.

428

Climate change has caused Pakistan an economic loss of $3.8 billion and this is only going to increase unless adequate measures are put in place globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work towards a more sustainable future.

In the western world, the words ‘Climate Change’ has become reasonably familiar, and although many of us are unable to provide the scientific definition of these two words, we all seem to understand what those two words entail: global warming, melting ice caps, extinction of animals, etc. Slowly, very slowly, and somewhat surely there’s been a shift in acknowledging the urgency of the effects of climate change – you’ve most likely come across paper straws, metal straws, hydro flasks too, of course, the rise of veganism, and all these small things people are adopting in order to combat climate change.

Environmental scientists like myself, appreciate these small efforts by the public to reduce their carbon footprint and waste, however, not much can be done unless big oil companies along with textile and aviation industries take responsibility for their role in the changing climate. Many of us living in the West aren’t understanding the urgency of holding these companies accountable, but why? Because we simply don’t feel the effect of climate change significantly, unlike places in the global south where livelihoods have been destroyed by desertification particularly in the Sahel region in sub-Saharan Africa, and rising sea levels affecting coastal regions across the world. One of the greatest victims of climate change is my home country, Pakistan.

Pakistan’s population of 200 million people are all vulnerable to the effects of climate change. According to the global climate risk index, Pakistan is in the top ten countries most affected by climate change. Extreme heat is ravaging cities and rural countries and local people are considering migration because they simply cannot sustain life in the arduous conditions global warming is causing Pakistan.

Water sources are already starved due to the irregular rainfall each year and the rising temperature is threatening the water that remains, the glaciers that feed the rivers in the Hindu Kush-Karakoram region are melting rapidly, creating dangerous gushing streams of water threatening local villages. It’s Pakistan’s geographical location that makes it so vulnerable since Pakistan is only responsible for less than 1% of the greenhouses gases that are found to be responsible for global warming. Climate change isn’t only an environmental concern for Pakistan, but a social concern too.

Mean average temperatures are increasing in areas in Balochistan and Sindh and as a result, hundreds of people are dying each year. Agriculture is a very significant sector in Pakistan, a sector that employs thousands of people and thousands of people are reliant upon. Desertification is drying up land needed to cultivate cash crops, threatening the incomes of thousands of people.

In 2010 in Pakistan, floods displaced two million people, causing thousands of people to leave their homes, 70% of whom were unable to go back home because farmlands were ruined and they were unable to make a living. Climate change has caused Pakistan an economic loss of $3.8 billion and this is only going to increase unless adequate measures are put in place globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work towards a more sustainable future.

It’s a great injustice for people in villages to have to lose their homes to the effects of climate change despite not being the contributors of it. The entire country of Pakistan is being affected including all its provinces – Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunwa, Balochistan and Sindh are all seeing large numbers of migrations – but where will these people eventually go?

Important infrastructure, such as hospitals and school are being destroyed by climate catastrophes as well. Rising sea levels are causing those living in port cities such as Keti Bandar to relocate, as sea erosion is taking up millions of acres of land. Glaciers in the Gilgit-Baltistan region are melting causing flash floods – in 2010 a landslide blocked the River Hunza causing thousands of people to become displaced. The floods immersed many villages and farmhouses, ruining the livelihoods of hundreds. People having to move from places that have their ancestral roots because of climate change that they are not responsible for.

Despite all of this, the response by Pakistan and governments globally remains inadequate. Although it must be noted that a recent programme was launched by the Pakistan Movement for Justice who were focusing on environmental issues in Kyber Pakhtunkhwa, which aimed to plant a billion trees in order to reduce heat loss in the province. The programme also aims to replenish destroyed forestry along with increasing biodiversity along with watershed management as trees act as a good defence mechanism against floods. This is all in attempts to reduce the negative impacts of climate changes.

Global agreements such as the Montreal Protocol, which is an agreement to reduce the use of ozone-depleting substances and the Paris Agreement, are all imperative in tackling climate change, however, issues that people are facing in the global south need to be brought to light. Whilst we sit in the comforts of our home sipping on our drinks with paper straws, it is important we acknowledge those who are at the forefront of this dangerous battle against increases in temperature, rising sea levels, and all the other disastrous impacts of climate change.

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