Climate change – a non-traditional maritime security threat


Kanwar M Javed Iqbal

ACCORDING to IPCC report 2007, climate change is impacting different non-traditional security aspects of human life such as wateravailability, food, health and ecosystems. It is fact that the poor regions, developing countries, the coastal communities and ocean based economy are more vulnerable to non-traditional security threat due to climate change.Pakistan is among the forefront nations whose security is at high risk. The periodic German Watch statements have ranked Pakistan in top 10 vulnerable countries in the world despite having negligible contribution towards anthropogenic drivers of climate change i.e. less than 0.5% of GHG emissions. Pakistan’s high vulnerability is due to a variety of ecosystem from alpine to coast-line and poor response mechanism towards climate extreme events which were more frequently observed in the recent past.
In November 2016, Lahore Smog had 4206 ìg/m3 PM10 which exceeded more than three times from year 2010’s value i.e. 1100 ìg/m3and more than 40 times from the Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM10i.e. 150 ìg/m3 thus it raised health security concerns.In April 2015, there was a freak Tornado in Peshawardue to which 35 persons died and 150 injured. In July 2015, aglacial lake outburst happened in Chitral and a worst Heat Wavehit Karachi that suffocated “Urban Heat Trap” and createda death toll of 1300 persons in a week time. As a result of a freak snowstorm, an avalanche hit Naran mine in October 2015 due to which tourists stranded and deaths were also reported.During the whole year 2015,farmers faced the brunt of slow climate change, shifting weather patterns and string of crop failures (potatoes, cotton, wheat, melon etc.) – negatively impacted yields thus become a matter of high concern for food and economic security perspectives for which a long list of concrete climate actions for the awareness and capacity building of farmers by provincial governmentsare still awaited.
The devastating flood of 2010 affected the whole country. In subsequent year, four weeks (August to September 2011) of continuous torrential rain had created an unprecedented flood in Sindh including the coastal belt of Thatha and adjoining areas of Badin. It affected 8.9 million population in Sindh by damaging 6.79 million acres land and 1.52 million homes, and a toll of 434 deaths. The Badin district received a record-breaking rainfall of 615.3 millimeters (24.22 in) during the monsoon spell, exceeding the earlier record of 121 millimetres (4.8 in) dating back to 1936. This variation in Badin’s localized weather system changed the growing patterns which affected cash crop melon due to germination issues on a very large scale. Huge losses could have been avoided by minimizing the threats to economic, food, social and life security aspects, if a prompt climate adaptation response mechanism was in place.
Over all above, it is quite an alarming by knowing that, in September 2015,National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) sent an ominous warning to the Senate Committee regarding Malir under water. According to NIO report, some parts of Karachi’s Malir area have already gone under waterwhile Sindh’s Thatta and Badin districts will also sink into the water due to sea intrusion by 2060. Not only the rise in sea level would be affecting Pakistan’s coastal areas but also the other climate variables would affect the ocean based economy at large. This NIO’s finding and other likely threats can be cross examined with the WMO Statement 2018 based on GCOS global climate indicators and the USEPA’s Report on Climate Change Indicators in the United States 2016.As per reports, there is rise in global, sea surface temperatures, sea level, coastal flooding, ocean acidity and ocean heat contents; and the cryosphere is shrinking. Ocean heat contents and acidity would have major impact on marine life, and Pakistan’s marine fisheries is at high risk thus raising economic, food and social security concerns. There is no early warning system and no capacity to cope with or adapt to the potential threats to the entire ecosystem.It needs innovative solutions and replication of Chinese Mari-culture technology by Fisheries Development Boardis highly recommended for which Maritime Centre of Excellence (MCoE) can be at supporting end.
The ocean acidity, sea level rise and coastal flooding would affect all other maritime sectors including the coastal tourism (coral loss, road infrastructure losses etc.), shipping sector (due to corrosion factor), Gadani Ship-recycling, ports and harbors, and road infrastructure etc. Here, the case of coastal highway is critically important and cannot be ignored considering the active mud volcanoes of various sizes along-side it. It is assumed that increase in ocean heat content is likely to create more volcanic activity and traffic flow at coastal highway would be at risk for which NHA needs an assessment regarding resilience of existing infrastructure and future measures. The Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) needs to commission a research study on likely impact of ocean heat contents on volcanism for which NIO and MCoEcan play significant role.
—The writer is Lead Researcher at National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), based in Islamabad.