At its heart, denying climate change is a conflict between facts and values. The effects of climate change are quite real despite the claims made by multi-billion-dollar industries which argue against it to safeguard their own interests. There is substance behind the argument which suggests that the annual temperature of the earth is gradually rising. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated that the average surface temperatures on Earth rose by 0.95 degrees Celsius between 1880 and 2016.This holds true for Pakistan too. Even though it contributes to only 1% of the annual global emissions and has a relatively small carbon footprint in comparison. It is projected that temperatures all over Pakistan would increase by3°C within the next 20 years and around 5-6°C by the end of this century. We stand as the earliest victims of disruptions in weather cycles, threatened food production, rising seas levels, abnormal precipitation, catastrophic flooding and depletion of ice sheets and glaciers which are the core source of sustenance in an agricultural land such as Pakistan. 

A minute contribution to the global emissions does not mean we have effectively controlled our individual greenhouse output over the years, in fact our total emissions have increased by 114% since 1990. Energy production and the transport network within Pakistan combined, contribute to over 62 % of our Co2 emissions (Pakistan is dependent on fossil fuels for 61% of its energy production) which are the culprit of the greenhouse effect. 

Malpractices in the industrial sector, an overall lack of regulations and ignorance of the previous governments towards effects of climate mean that the total Co2 emissions of Pakistan have increased from 68,565 kilotons(kt) to almost 1,66,299 kilotons(kt) in the last 30 years and are expected to rise much further. 

How has Pakistan been affected by this phenomenon of climate change? Studying the data over Lahore alone over a span of 10 years proves the erratic movement in average temperatures, precipitation levels and UV indexes. Highest temperature recorded in 2019 was 46°C which was 4.5% higher than the highest temperature recorded in 2009.Similarly lowest recorded temperatures have risen by almost 57% from 7°C in 2009 to 11°C in 2019. UV indexes recorded in peak summers saw an increase of more than 50% over the last 10 years which indicates depletion of the ozone layer. In February 2009, precipitation was measured at 2.48mm while in 2019 the spell was measured at 182mm and lasted 13 days. These rainfalls devastated major parts of Pakistan including KPK, Punjab & some areas of Baluchistanresulting in over 140 deaths.

In the years 2017 and 2018, districts of Baluchistan and parts of Sindh suffered dry spells due to rainfall being well below normal leading towards mild to moderate drought like conditions. On the other side of the spectrum, areas of Punjab and KPK suffered mild to heavy flooding resulting in severe damage to infrastructure and loss of life. These are some of the anomalies in the weather cycles which suggest that our climate is changing. Prime Minister, Imran Khan stressed over the severity of these climate changes in his speech at UNGA as he explained how 210 million lives are at the mercy of the nature. “Nature is something you cannot negotiatewith” added the prime minister.

The answer to a majority of our problems could be renewable energy. Corporations worldwide have started shifting their operations to solar or wind energy, offloading the local grids and improving their long-term sustainability. Such examples exist in Pakistan too and include the Kohinoor Textile Mills and Gadoon Textile mills. Pakistan has an ample capacity for both solar and wind-based electricity production. Punjab gets around 3500-3600 sun hours a year and Pakistan as a whole can generate up to an approximate of 2.9 million MW clean energy from solar power alone. Similarly, Sindh has a vacant area of around 9749 km2 which is sufficient to produce over an additional 11000 MW of clean, waste free, sustainable wind-based energy. With proper investment and implementation by both the public and private sector renewable energy sources can increase their share in the total energy production of the country from 5% to 15% while decreasing the cost borne by the consumer. Furthermore; the government should regulate emissions from transport vehicles as they are the most overlooked. Introducing policies such as those in line with the regulations imposed in UK or by the European union that include the banning of vehicles above a certain age or condition ,the introduction of annual MOTs, emission checks and certificates that declare vehicles fit or road worthy would certainly help control Co2 emissions in check. USA has implemented a gas guzzler tax over inefficient vehicles but allows tax cuts and government grants for electric vehicles which has helped shift the demand towards EVs. Electric vehicles are also marginally cheaper to run and maintain in the long term. 

The Ministry of Climate Change is hoping to introduce a well-structured EV policy and members of the cabinet approved the draft of the electric vehicle policy and called it a move in the right direction. Companies such as TESLA successfully operate in the USA under the policy of zero emissions and a similar step in this direction would yield positive results to the environment of Pakistan too. 

Back in 2014, The government of KPK took a great initiative when it decided to plant over a billion trees. It has since become a national action plan, to which the current government is committed. However, we as individuals have a stake in the wellbeing of our country and the earth and should devote ourselves to reducing emissions, saving energy, adopting sustainable business practices, recycling and reusing materials, managing waste, and if you can plant a tree in your backyard and do your part, why wait? Without drastic action today, adapting to the impacts of climate change in the future will be much more difficult and expensive.