Climate change in Pakistan: An overview
It is a common misconception that climate is actually a different name for weather, but this is far from the truth.
The most profound difference between weather and climate is the duration of their measurement. Climate is measured over a long period of time, usually 30 years. While weather is mostly measured in a considerably shorter period of time, it is measured from day-to-day or year-to-year. The alteration of temperature and standard weather patterns over a long-term is defined as climate change.
Climate change typically affects the predictability of general weather patterns. In essence, climate change can take place both in a specific place and around the globe as a whole.
Due to the increasing climate change and decreased predictability of weather patterns, it has become highly troublesome and difficult to grow crops and practice agriculture for the people of Pakistan.
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.
These gases cause a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect which is responsible for the warming of the earth. These gases combined together stop the heat from our atmosphere to leave the earth thus resulting in the warming of the earth.
The probability that human activities have caused the warming of the planet in the last 50 years is more than 95 percent, according to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Pakistan contributes to 1 percent of the total global emissions in the world and has a comparatively low carbon footprint. We might have less emission levels globally, but we haven’t been successful in controlling our own greenhouse emissions. Moreover, since 1990 our total emissions have increased by 114 percent.
As a matter of fact, out of Pakistan’s total energy production 61 percent is obtained using fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels is predominantly the biggest cause of global warming.
In addition, due to the continued ignorance by the Government of Pakistan towards this pressing issue, the levels of carbon dioxide have increased from 68,565 kilotons (kt) almost 166,299 kilotons (kt) in the previous 30 years and this trend is expected to continue.
Another cause of climate change is deforestation. Due to the excessive cutting down of trees the regulation of the amount of carbon dioxide has been disrupted, as trees were responsible for this regulation.
How has climate change impacted Pakistan? The many diverse impacts climate change has on Pakistan range from unpredictability and scarcity of monsoon rainfalls, to the impending melting of the Himalayan Glaciers in the Indus River System and high probability of natural disasters such as floods and drought.
Overall high temperatures and low precipitation will most probably lead to difficulties in agriculture and increased food insecurity. Pakistan has faced around 150 weather related incidents as a direct result of climate change, such as floods, smog, forest fires and melting of glaciers, according to experts.
As well as this, almost 2 billion dollars have been spent because of the damages of climate change in the past 20 years. Pakistan has more than 7,000 glaciers up North. They are melting and shrinking at an accelerated rate.
Around 30 glaciers are at a risk of bursting, which may lead to ice avalanches and floods and will directly affect the Indus River System. Furthermore due to increased random and unpredictable natural disasters, for example, floods, there is a huge damage to the already underdeveloped infrastructure in Pakistan.
In view of all the problems caused by climate change it has become a quandary. To solve this particular quandary the Government of Pakistan and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) need to work in a practical and united way.
The solution to the problem of climate change is to eradicate the use of fossil fuels to meet our energy requirements and use other renewable resources instead.
We need to stop using fossil fuels and use renewable energy, a prime example of which is hydroelectric power. Pakistan has a huge potential for hydroelectric energy and solar energy as well.
Punjab alone gets 3500-3600 sun hours a year. Pakistan as a whole can generate up to an approximate 2.9 million Mega Watts (MW). Another solution is a massive Plantation and Reforestation Programme, in which the Government of Pakistan will plant trees at new locations as well as at locations affected by deforestation.
As such, these trees will regulate carbon dioxide levels and help lower them considerably, resulting in a decrease in global warming. In conclusion, the Government of Pakistan, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and the people of Pakistan need to work together to make sure the future generations never fear this phenomenon.
Initiative needs to be taken to solve this long lasting problem. When the current generation unites and works in this direction, we will be able to solve this predicament. The aforementioned methods need to be implemented with swiftness, but if not Pakistan will find itself to be in an increasingly perplexed and dire situation.
Muhammad Azhad Zulfiqar
– The author is a student at Aitchison College, Lahore