A warming climate is taking its toll on Earth from different perspectives. We have to wake up to this ferocious urgency of now. Humanity faces many threats, but none is bigger than climate change. In damaging our climate, we are becoming the architects of our destruction. Scientific advancement and technology from the last decades have taken the world to the next level. In the 21st century with the modernization and progress in terms of industrial revolution and technology, our planet Earth is close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. The atmosphere of the planet emits radiation due to the greenhouse effect that ultimately heat-up the surface of the planet to higher temperatures. Among those, carbon dioxide plays a significant role in this context. Recent investigations suggest that the burning of fossil fuels is the main and foremost contributor to the escalation of carbon dioxide concentration. Developed countries, such as China, the UK and some other industrially revolutionized countries are the major donors of greenhouse gase emissions. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an increase in the temperature of the planet will result in un-usual rainfall patterns, drought, flooding, glacial melting and some other adverse effects on the environment.
Pakistan is highly vulnerable to climate impact. It is not limited to a specific area of the country but every part, city, and village are exposed to the grave danger of climate change. Its consequences for Pakistan are manifold. Recently in Karachi, we witnessed heavy, sudden, and un-usual rainfall which will ultimately affect the annual patterns of rainfall. It paralyzes the rural and urban community’s mobility because of flooding and food shortage. In 2015, Karachi faced heat waves that took 1200 lives alone in Karachi and about 200 in other cities of Sindh province. In Pakistan, heat waves are common in May, June and July. Secondly, intense air pollution has been seen as smog. Smog is a mixture of smoke and fog. This air pollution is made up of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, ozone, smoke, and other particulates. Seasonal crop burning during the switch from the Rabi harvest to Kharif sowing is responsible for the air pollution and formation of smog in Pakistan. Most of the smog formed in large cities is a result of traffic emissions. Industries are also increasing smog by releasing poisonous gases in the air. Volcanic outbreak releases high levels of sulfur dioxide in the air. During smog, it is difficult for animals to adjust or live in such poisonous situations, which can kill many animal species or make them liable to illness.
Similarly, Pakistan also experiences glacier melting due to global warming. Pakistan has 7,253 known glaciers which are a number more than anywhere in the world except polar regions. These glaciers are a blessing for a country as they give us almost 75 % of the water supply in the country. Due to global warming, the glaciers in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan started melting slowly and gradually causing sea-level to raise avalanches, landslides and glacial lake outburst flood. These events happened due to land-sliding and avalanches. Furthermore, recently because of glacial lake outburst Chitral experienced heavy flooding. Lastly, if an increase of temperature at the current rate continues it will result in the elevation of the level of the sea and will eventually severely affect the coastline of Pakistan. Some other adverse effects on the environment will also be seen in the long-term time era such as irreversible loss to biodiversity, severely disrupt ecosystems, desertification, food shortage, the spread of pandemics and many health-related issues and enormous hardships for communities and societies.
The COVID-19 pandemic across the world causes a global health crisis, collapsing economies, due to the strict lockdown. However, the outbreak has also fascinatingly impacted the environment. The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been affecting global socio-economic and political activity. It causes a reduction in fossil-fuel-derived CO2 emissions up to 17% by early April of 2020 compared with the mean 2019 levels. But, according to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, the threat of COVID-19 is short-term, meanwhile, the peril of droughts, floods and extreme storms linked to climate change will go on for years and will require persistent action. Also, Pakistan along with rising traditional security concerns of national interest should play a profitable and productive contribution in the non-traditional security like climate change for long-term benefits. In recent times the cost of the extreme weather consequences of climate change is listed at $384 million. In the past 20 years, there has been a cost of 20 million dollars to the national economy because of the ravages of climate change.
Consequently, our attitude is what influences all our actions. Pakistan is considered to be in the zone of the most exposed country to the adverse and dangerous effects of climate change. Utmost seriousness is required in this matter. Pakistan is keen to control these climatic changes. Planting more trees is an effective way to overcome these climatic drastic changes. In recent times, Prime Minister of Pakistan started the billion tree project in the whole country. Concerned authorities must take measures to reduce the number of diesel automobiles that release unnecessary carbon in the air. The visionary attitude of mainstream authorities and institutions is required in terms of policymaking and implementation. Moreover, climatic negotiation international legally binding instrument for cutting greenhouse gas emissions Kyoto Protocol universal legal climatic bindings should also work on practical ground rather than only focusing on black-white documentation. The future cost of the climate impact is estimated to $6 billion to $14 billion per year over the next 40 years. In December 2019, our Government introduced an electrical vehicle policy to combat the emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. For this government presented the programme of Clean and Green Pakistan which is worthy recovering initiative for nature.
—The writer is Faculty Member (Bio-Sciences), Capital University of Science and Technology, Islamabad,