Even though Pakistan lies among the 20 most vulnerable countries impacted by climate change, according to the Maplecroft Climate Change Vulnerabilities Index, most of us living here go “Saanu ki?” when we hear the word climate change.
I mean what possibly could go wrong with our lives in terms of the climate changing. Everything has its own mechanism and works in its own freaking way–good or bad. And of all the target killings, bombings, electricity crisis, dengue and polio issues we have in our country, why should one be bothered to think about the climate which one has no control over. Right?
Wrong. According to the Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there’s a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 250 years have warmed our planet.
Over the last 150 years, carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have risen from 280ppm (parts per million) to nearly 380. And how can we safely say we did it? Well ever since the Industrial Revolution we have been releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere than the oceans and all of us on this earth could absorb. If it hadn’t been for this absorption, the roughly 500 billion metric tonnes of carbon we have produced would have raised the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to nearly 500 ppm.
Our daily activities have been responsible in one way or another for the depletion of the ozone, as well as the increase in the intense and frequent weather events we’ve been having in the recent past.
Pakistan, which is known for the largest irrigation system in the world is also known for the highest water losses through this system. Undoubtedly, we are the nation that believes in no population control, which is why the amount of water we have for irrigation or consumption per person annually (Per-capita surface-water availability) is projected to reach the “acute water shortage” level ie 1,000 cubic meters this year from 5,260 cubic meters per year in 1951. So the only choices we have are to conserve, or produce lesser babies as a nation; the latter being the more difficult choice.
On the other hand, we have global warming, which has led the recession of the Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalayan (HKH) glaciers, thus enhancing the risk of more water in the Indus. And our dams, which are silting increasingly, double the risk all the more.
The burning of fossil fuels; coal, gas and oil, releases carbon-dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and suffocates the earth. On a macro level, some of its other impacts that can be seen are biodiversity loss, rise in the sea level, increased draught, shifts in the weather patterns. These could also lead to alterations in forests and crop yields. For a country like Pakistan, where agriculture contributes 21 percent to the GDP, employs 45 per cent of the labour force and contributes 70 percent of the export earnings. Imagine what short term changes in climate and long-term climate change could do to our economy.
The increased temperatures in Jacobabad and Lahore which kill a few people don’t bother you right? As long as it’s not us, did I hear you say to yourself? We live in this world where we have conditioned rooms and cars, wait till you have no power to put these on. It’s started already hasn’t it? LEARN TO CONSERVE.
The ads they give on TV about switching of extra lights and fans sound just like the whole sermon on not throwing garbage on the road. “It won’t make a difference and there is no point in taking action,” my sister-in-law said to me when I told her I was writing this. Think again.
DARA, a non-governmental organisation based in Europe together with the Climate Vulnerable Forum launched the second edition of the Climate Vulnerable Monitor report on September 26 this year in New York. The 331-page study was written by more than 50 scientists, economists and policy experts, and commissioned by 20 governments.
The report calculated that five million deaths occur each year from air pollution, hunger and disease as a result of climate change and carbon-intensive economies, and that toll would likely rise to six million a year by 2030 if current patterns of fossil fuel use continue.
The point being that every choice we make, indeed makes a difference by not adding to the risk. Your stopping to use those ozone depleting deodorants might not put a stop to climate change right then, but I’m guessing some of you reading this still have time left on this planet. So help create a desirable future for yourself and your children by acting responsibly today.