The heatwave in Europe and the records set this summer – July being the hottest month according to recorded temperature in the past – tells us that it is not even up to debate anymore; climate change is a reality that is degrading the environment now. Even a cursory analysis of the data reveals that the general trend is that temperatures will rise and weather patterns will become more unpredictable in the coming years.
Most policymakers and the public in general have been content with the fact that this problem is one that will not affect us in the next forty years, but if the recent evidence is anything to go by, at this rate the situation in the next four decades will be much worse than we originally imagined. Europe’s heatwave led to increases of 3 Celsius in some countries and Greenland saw its vast ice sheet melt to record levels and in recent years starting from 2003.
Europe has seen six heatwaves with the time between them decreasing. After 2003 it took seven years for the next heatwave to hit in 2010, following which the gap reduced to five years, with the next one coming in 2015, then two, with a heatwave in 2017 and finally only one year; with two record-breaking hot months in 2018, in both June and July. If a continent with relatively lower temperatures can be so adversely affected, Asia’s fate might be much worse in the next decade.
As an agrarian country, Pakistan’s whole way of life is threatened if weather patterns continue to get more erratic. Entire villages and settlements on the banks of rivers are threatened, fields of crops are likely to see more inconsistency in yield numbers and extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods will hit the country with more frequency and cause greater devastation. The monsoon season will hit harder when the total duration is shorter, glacial melt will not only flood rivers but also cause permanent temperature increases in the north and the heatwaves in the summer will only get worse going forward.
Reducing emissions and increasing the tree cover of Pakistan are steps that must be taken to slow down these disastrous outcomes, however, the situation is now at a point where simply planting more trees and reducing our carbon footprint will not be sufficient. Urban drainage to mitigate the effects of floods, improving on drinkable water storage to increase capacity and investing in aquifer systems are only some examples of what needs to be done to preserve the current way of life in Pakistan. The government talks about improving the lives of citizens, but if this emergency is not dealt with adequately, we might not even be able to ensure survivability for many in different parts of the country. Action needs to be taken now.