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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Op-ed: Monsoon disasters just a trailer of climate change storm that lies ahead for Pakistan

The paramount challenges that climate change poses to Pakistan are related to water and heat. Pakistan's upslope contour from glacial mountains in the north to the south's lowland areas stages a conundrum in front of the decision-makers.

Despite its trivial contribution, Pakistan will face the direful aftermath of climate change in the wake of its topography and geography. Pakistan – the most inclined country of the world – finds itself on the base of the third pole, the Himalayan region. This makes Pakistan the 5th most-affected country from climate change, culminating in recurring freak events and spatial shifts.

The anomalous rain in Karachi, this monsoon, is just a trailer of the storm that lies ahead of us. The number of dangerous glaciers in Pakistan has incremented many folds (from 33 in 2015 to 133 in 2018).

Likewise, the monsoonal rain spells have exacerbated in recent years since these systems now directly approach Pakistan instead of precipitating in the Bay of Bengal before heading to Pakistan. Hence, we must prepare ourselves ahead of time.

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Causes of climate change in Pakistan

Muhammad Azhad Zulfiqar-in his article stated, “Climate change has several causes, most dominant out of which is global warming. Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas, and oil, release huge amounts of carbon dioxide. Due to human activities in the past decades, the emission of gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, and chlorofluorocarbons have been at a constant and steep rise.”

According to research, it is believed that the prime contributors to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions include transportation, industrialization, urbanization, wastes, agriculture, and energy usage in the descending order in Pakistan.

Repercussions of global warming 

The paramount challenges that climate change poses to Pakistan are related to water and heat. Pakistan’s upslope contour from glacial mountains in the north to the south’s lowland areas stages a conundrum in front of the decision-makers. The glaciers melt for 100 days in a year and proceed downhill.

Despite a burgeoning water crisis, Pakistan possesses a dismal water storage capacity, with the Tarbela dam being the last storage point. This paradox amplifies the risk of floods and compels the authorities to drain the excess water.

In addition, extreme heat will vex Pakistan as another major repercussion of climate change. Pakistan has a total of 6 hotspots, out of which three endure in Sindh and Punjab each. Southern Pakistan may experience considerably hot summers- in the times to come- which will make some areas unlivable.

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The average annual temperature has been augmented recently with a notable proliferation in Sindh and Balochistan. It can be linked to perennial freak events, change in the rainfall patterns, and steady regression of glaciers. The urban flooding due to monsoon and pre-eminent heat makes Sindh the most vulnerable province after KPK.

Remedy to wither the adverse ramifications of global warming 

Pakistan cannot solely embark on the journey of confronting this dilemma. The future of the entire world is at stake. So, there has to be a widespread consensus at the international level on addressing the adverse consequences of this plight.

Locally, Pakistan has to take a long haul owing to no quick fixes. We have to learn to adapt to this new normal by beefing up disaster preparedness. Disaster prone cities like Karachi should be prioritized for climate-compatible development on war footings. Besides, the capacity of institutions like NDMA and PDMA should be enhanced to tackle any irregularity.

Pakistan has to shift towards clean transportation gradually. Environment-friendly electric cars will not only corroborate better transit but will also aid in pruning pollution along with job creation and economic development.

Similarly, the law-makers have to legislate against setting up new fossil-fuel factories and initiate a phased shutdown of coal plants. The authorities are responsible for bolstering industrial transformation to renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, tidal, and biomass.

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Moreover, the government has to cease further deforestation and plunge into a movement of planting trees. They have to facilitate farmers in adopting more sustainable food production practices.

The Billion Tree Tsunami has been an analogous initiative- in this regard- because it has not only assisted in reversing the effect of deforestation but also brought about awareness on why the green revolution is the need of the hour.

Is climate change a blessing in disguise?

Every crisis presents an opportunity for a nation to solve its long term woes. Likewise, Pakistan can turn this predicament into success by solving its water crisis. The melted glaciers annually produce 35 to 40 million acre-feet water. This is eight times the size of Tarbela Lake.

In a nutshell, Pakistan can invest in the idea of water conservation along with the remedies mentioned above to counter the perilous implications of climate change with a propitious response.

The writer is a Research Enumerator at the Research Department of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). I have worked on the bi-monthly Business Confidence Surveys of SBP, which facilitates the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) in decision making. The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.