Adapt to climate change | By Shah Fahad

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Adapt to climate change

PAKISTAN has been hit by the worst floods in history, sinking one-third of the country and leaving 33 million people affected.

People are forced to migrate, some walk for days to get to a safe place and millions are waiting for aid in remote areas where access roads have been washed away.

The estimated damage as a result of these unprecedented floods is around $10 billion. According to some welfare organizations, it’s difficult to quantify how many people have died.

Almost 90% of the crops in Sindh have been wiped off. Experts believe that these floods are part of the extreme weather events happening around the globe because of climate change.

In the year 1858 John Tyndall, an Irish Physicist, first proposed that atmospheric carbon dioxide can influence the earth’s climate, which was later known as the greenhouse effect.

But it was not until a hundred years later in 1958 that Charles D Keeling developed a device to measure the amount of carbon dioxide emissions in our atmosphere which led to the discovery that increased greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) can cause global warming.

Scientific studies show that the industrial revolution resulted in increased greenhouse gases that are not only trapping more heat but also causing thermal expansion of oceanic water resulting in rising sea levels.

This trapped heat also started melting ice sheets and glaciers, which only exacerbated the problem.

Since hot air in the atmosphere can hold high volumes of water vapors, some areas are witnessing droughts while others are suffering from floods due to heavy rains.

Recent floods in Pakistan are one example of extreme weather events that are happening because of climate change.

Globally we have seen an intense episode of extended heat waves in Europe, melting roads and traffic signals.

The world’s second-biggest economy, China is suffering from the worst ever heat waves in its history, resulting in droughts and wildfires.

The condition in the US is also not significantly different. 100 million years old footprints of dinosaurs have been unearthed after the Paluxy River in Texas dried up completely.

In 2001, the then President of the United States, George W. Bush said, “The issue of climate change respects no border.

Its effects cannot be reined in by an army nor advanced by any ideology. ” He also highlighted the need to bring all the countries together, to form a joint climate change response.

However, it took more than 14 years to get to Paris Agreement, where mitigation, adaptation and climate finance were agreed upon.

The agreement demand member states to set targets for mitigating greenhouse gas emission under their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and update them every five years.

The goal was to keep the global temperature under 1.5 degrees Celsius, which given business as usual projections, doesn’t seem to be practical.

As the industrial complex has shifted to developing markets, their high reliance on fossil fuels and inefficient industries are contributing more to carbon emissions.

Even if GHG emissions are stopped immediately, it will take several years for global warming to respond to our climate sensitivity.

Pakistan’s contribution to these emissions is meagre, yet it is among the most affected countries by climate change.

We are not alone, all the population living in coastal areas is prone to a higher risk of natural calamities as compared to others.

Unfortunately, most of this population lives in low-income countries. Climate change is not just a threat, it is a threat multiplier.

The reason climate change is called a threat multiplier is that it gives birth to so many other challenges, like food insecurity, access to clean water, population displacement, economic damage, etc, all of which impact the human population.

That’s why it should be taken as a humanitarian crisis instead of a climate crisis. Therefore, it’s a nightmare for already impoverished societies.

In response, much of the financing under the Paris Agreement was given for mitigation such as efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Mitigation alone can’t prevent significant climate change impacts, especially in Pakistan. However, mitigation with climate change adaptation can drastically reduce the risk associated with extreme climate changes.

Pakistan started the billion tree tsunami project along with mangroves plantation in the coastal areas, which was a step in the right direction.

However, given the recent devastation, more efforts are needed. National agencies can focus on disaster preparedness and response training, and work with the international community to build model cities in disaster-hit areas that can withstand extreme climatic changes.

This could not only help us to avert a humanitarian crisis and reduce the risk in the future but can also serve as a benchmark for other nations.

We as a global family need to understand what UN Secretary General António Guterres said “…today it’s Pakistan, tomorrow, it could be your country.”

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Karachi.

 

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