YEAR after year, the findings of the annual State of the Climate report make increasingly evident the rapid pace at which climate change is affecting the ability to sustain life on Earth. Its report on 2017 is no different; based on global temperatures, last year was the second or third warmest year (depending on which dataset is analysed), and the hottest non-El Niño (a climate event that warms the Pacific) year ever. Sea levels rose to a record high last year, as did greenhouse gas emissions. The Arctic and Antarctic both experienced considerable ice melt, glaciers lost mass for a 38th consecutive year, and prolonged warm oceanic temperatures decimated vast swathes of the world’s coral reefs. Scientists across the globe all agree that these changes are endangering the world’s food and water supplies, and contributing to the devastating climate events — heatwaves, flooding, storms and wildfires — witnessed of late. Ironically, the report initiative is spearheaded by a US government agency — the very same government whose leader, President Donald Trump, torpedoed hopes of the Paris Agreement’s impact to mitigate the impending disaster when he decided to withdraw the US from the list of signatories.
In Pakistan, on May 28, 2017, the temperature in Turbat reached 53.5°C — an all-time high for us and the world’s highest temperature for May — while the summer monsoon rainfall was also 22.5pc less than the long-term average. Though our carbon footprint is relatively minuscule in terms of global emissions, we bear the brunt of extreme weather events, and for that reason alone must take action. Yet, here too building climate resilience is absent in the national discourse and does not even register at the tail end of policymakers’ priorities. This lack of political will is manifest in the window dressing that is the Ministry of Climate Change — demoted to a division in 2013, then notified as a ministry again in 2015, only to be led by a minister with no expertise on the subject and with a tiny budget. Planning and development still rely heavily on carbon-intensive energy projects and unsustainable water management solutions. The PTI, in its 2018 manifesto, dedicated an entire section to climate change and made bold promises. With the new government to be formed in a matter of days, it is hoped that it delivers on at least some of these by ensuring that allocated funds for climate adaption come closer to matching the true, gargantuan scale of Pakistan’s environmental challenges.
Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2018