Climate Change…Saanu ki?

Climate Change…Saanu ki?

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.

Desiree Francis

The News staffer and tweets at dfrancis86

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  • Anonymous

    The IPCC says CO2 increased 25 parts per million since 1995 yet global temperature has not changed, totally contrary to what cAGW alarmists predict. The IPCC admits that their models are still crude and not yet reliable predictors of regional or global climate.

    So wouldn’t it be wise to wait a few years for further studies before you start clamping down on the increases in income of families in your culture? Think. The sky is not falling. There is no impending disaster. Take time to do things right. Great haste makes great waste.

    A tragic example of this sort of waste is the US “ethanol from corn” program initiated in the 1990s by cAGW alarmist Al Gore when he was vice president. As a result, grain prices have doubled worldwide. The idea of using food for fuel is absurd on its face, yet the US continues to subsidize the program because corporate corn farms are getting rich and contributing to political campaigns. Gore admits it. Meanwhile, millions of poor people in developing nations continue to starve to death because of high grain prices.

    Beware of false leaders. Beware of scientists who are political activists.

    • Lecourt

      I’ll accept your point about food-for-fuel. But your other points and suggestions are ridiculous. It seems amazing to me that there’s a perception that those people who do believe in and are worried about climate change are lefties who want the right wingers’ money; I don’t know or when this ever started. Regardless, climate change is everyone’s problem to solve. And the sooner we get on with it, the better, even if the science is not 100% known. No science is, btw. Let us not waste any more time trying to find out.

    • Arif Rahman

      And beware of ‘climate sceptics’ like GeraldWilhite who still want us to believe that rising CO2 levels are because of some natural cycles nothing to do with anthropogenic activities. While you pour scorn on the ethanol industry you in effect defend the US oil industry, protecting which the likes of George Bush pulled the US out of the Kyoto process.

      An increase of 25 ppm in CO2 equivalent in the last 15 years is higher than the rise recorded for the 1000 years prior to the industrial revolution. According to the World Meteorologist Organisation the time-span to record changes in climate that can be classified as climate change is 30 years. Over the past 30 years, average summer highs and average winter lows in Pakistan have both shifted 15% outwards. We have had fewer rainy days every year over the past 30 years but the quantum of rain has increased, meaning more dry days but heavier rains.

      So , beware of sceptics. Beware of politicians who depend on the oil industry for their livelihood who still want us to drive their 5.3L V8 Chevy Colorado during the ‘driving season’ …… and let the rest of the world worry about climate change. Saanu ki ????

      • Anonymous

        V8 Chevy Colorado not being driven will not be enough….lets eat (or eliminate) all the cows producing a lot more methane than human CO2 contribution – should help . Perhaps GeralWilhite is not a climate sceptic but sceptic of the scientific reasons being given – in which case he is in good company amongst scientist and not politicians!

        • Arif Rahman

          Hahahaha ….. I thought we were going to keep the discussion ‘academic’ …. Relying on Steven Levitt as a source for your academic citations is a joke …. Superfreakonomics is full of misquotes and misrepresentation of facts in an attempt to come up with a comic version of ‘views’ digestible by the ordinary reader. For a detailed discussion of his misquotes see Joe Romm (parts I, II, III, IV), Stoat, Deltoid, UCS and Paul Krugman …. I’m sorry but you’ve fallen into the horse and cow manure/emissions trap laid out by Levitt whose main contention is that cheap technological fixes should be encouraged and the fact that moving from horse-driven transport to automobiles was one such ‘fix’…..Was it really a ‘fix’ in the sense that we did it because we wanted to save the planet from methane emitting horses ??? or was it more because technology naturally moved on to better and more efficient ways of transportation ??

          So here goes …. How easy and cheap is geo-engineering ??? The ‘injection’ of SO2 into the stratosphere where it will oxidise to form SO4 , and the reflective nature of SO4 would reflect the light entering our atmosphere back into space …. (Which is what Mt. Pinatubo’s dust emissions did in 1991) but to stabilize temperatures on earth by the end of the century you would need about two volcanic eruptions the size of Pinatubo EVERY year for the rest of the century … I hope Levitt and Dubner give us a cost/benefit analysis of the SO2 needed to inject into the stratosphere over the next 90 odd years to stabilize temperatures as well as what that would do to the natural cycles of the planet in the next edition of their soap. Secondly who decides when and how much SO2 needs to be injected …going by what kyoto has dithered out into the chances of an ‘international’ agreement on this is next to zero.
          Through this article the author was trying the point out the fact that efforts at individual, household and city levels are the way forward. While climate change is a global problem , the solutions are essentially local and not ‘international’. For a discussion of the merits and demerits of this approach see Elinor Ostrom’s article “A Polycentric approach to coping with Climate Change”.

          • Anonymous

            Thank you for your references sir. Will go through their arguments, though on the face of it Mr. Krugman v. Mr. Levitt is an economists’ issue and scienceblog does not quite address the issues raised Wood, Caldeira et al. Joe Romm is more interesting because of his scientific background and your post provides me with an opportunity to see his counter.

            That apart, I’m glad to have made you laugh and you may also credit that Levitt has aided the scientific debate, not stiffled it!

          • Arif Rahman

            Yes exactly …. the very fact that Levitt (better known for his hypothesis that legalized abortion reduces crime rates) is hardly the ‘scientist’ whose work merits to be quoted in a climate science debate. How he finds himself the basis of your scientific arguments leave me amused and bemused …. :)

          • Anonymous

            Having read through the blogs you mentioned, it only confirms that the battle between Romm and Levitt is less to do with science and more to do with economics/politics (Romm is no doubt eloquent and passionate about his area of interest – but that does not mean that all he says is undeniable scientific fact). Shouting the opponent down may be more acceptable in those fields but not science….

            More than Levitt’s or Romm’s solutions (or lack of it), the history and scientific observations cited by Levitt (not withsanding Caldeira amendment) are the one needing to be addressed in the whole instead of trying to push partial theory under the guise of whole science. You see my scepticism is more a result of early exposure to Popper and Kuhn and not Romm, Caldeira Krugman or Levitt. Keeping the science element detached from emotion may just help find a solution to the problems that Romm and Levitt are on about.

      • Anonymous

        Mr. Rahman
        Science is all about scepticism not absolute belief (if it was belief, we would still be livng in cages believing the sun goes around the earth) – one keep testing the scientific theory and longer it withstands falsification better it is. Right now, climate change theories bring peddled do not withstands those tests and are more to do with politics with a small percentage of the story based on only one variable – CO2, and excluding a number if other variables which cast doubts.

        It is not Mr. Levitt but the numerous scientists he cites, who are at odds with your view. Please feel free to contradict them with a valid scientfic contradiction and I’ll be happy to cite you but until then Levitt is a convenient reference covering a wide array of opinion without the technical jargon so that lesser mortals like myself can follow the argument. Of course all this is not to say that climatic changes are not occuring – only that reasons being cited for the causes are not the entire story or that just addressing those reasons will somehow halt he demise being touted!

        • Arif Rahman

          Not at odds with my view Mr. Qalim … but at odds with what Levitt has misquoted and wrongly interpreted as the words,works and views of others. Please get your facts right and let’s not mislead people just for the heck of it …. Come on … Levitt and Dubner for your ‘scientific’ arguments ???….. pleaseeeeeeeeee …..

          • Anonymous

            Myfriend, Levitt’s geoengineering solution or his discrepency regards Caldiera is not the point I make or refer to Levitt as a scientist. The chapter contains a lot more background and references to other scientists in straight enough language. I’m not here to defend Levitt’s errors but point out that Romm lobby is hung up on his misquote of Caldeira on CO2 and his possible solution. Do let me know of any other errors apart from Caldeira misquote.

            What interests me more is the other elements in the chapter like water vapour and methane effects for example. ….but beating up CO2 drum is the in thing – and any challenge to that position is like blasphemy.

            You know yourself, energy requirements and usage is is out-stripping demand. The efficiency and cost benefit of alternative sources is the economic hurdle still to be crossed. Nuclear energy is a political hurdle too (as efficient and lean as I think it is). Expecting the masses to be altruistic when it comes to energy usage (and reducing carbon foot print) is a bit unrealistic – as much as I would like it to be.

    • Anonymous

      “…scientists who are political activists”… the perpetual problem of science – if only true scientific process can lead to a pill to eliminate politics from science!

  • Shiekh Umer

    nice article ….. :)

  • Subhra Priyadarshini

    Nice primer from the Pakistani perspective. Yes, much of it is in our hands. I wish people reading this blog do a little bit to conserve what they can.


    Miss Desiree Francis’ article is thought-provoking but unfortunately,by and large it’s going to cut no much ice.Go to street, hold an ordinary person by the button-hole,talk to him in terms of ‘climatic change’,'fossil fuels’, devastating effect of the carbon dioxide released into the atmospheric sphere by oil,coal and gas, and he will either be totally confounded or think that you have a screw loose. Before long, he will elbow you out of his way and walk away remarking that the minuscule amount of fuel his house-hold uses is not going to brisken the global climatic change.The need of the hour is that a campaign is launched against the devil-may-care mentality of Pakistani people and it be brought home to them that every individual act of using the fuel to the minimum,can go a long way toward lowering the ‘green-house effect’. People need to be convinced that unless the bull is taken by the horns through minimizing the use of fuel,the very survival of the human race will be in jeopardy.In order to take the time by the forelock,a few suggestions are made and they are as following: Firstly.TV.channels should air lectures by the renowned scientists to warn the viewers against the repercussions of the widening of the gap in the ozone crust as a result of excessive release of carbon dioxide through unrestrained fuel consumption. Secondly,mohallah committees should be formed to arrange monthly seminars to educate people how to stave off the threatening global-warming.Thirdly,useless,non-productive courses in the curricula at all the academic levels should be replaced with useful,productive science courses inclusive those of global warming.It’s in fitness with things to remark that Pakistani nation has a collective syndrome of taking faith as the catholicon,This needs to.go before it’s too late.

    • Anonymous

      Hashmi Sb
      May I suggest the 5th chapter of ‘Super Freakonomics’ as a primer. Would love to have your comments once you have had the opportunity to consider the contents of that chapter.

      In the interim, Mr. Boris Johnson (current mayor of London and possible future Prime Minister of Britain) notes: “Like all the best religions, fear of climate change satisfies our need for guilt, and self-disgust, and that eternal human sense that technological progress must be punished by the gods. And the fear of climate change is like a religion in this vital sense, that it is veiled in mystery, and you can never tell whether your acts of propitiation or atonement have been in any way sucessful.”


        Mr.Qalim, I’m afraid my engagement in my occupational obligations hampered my early reply to your comments. After having read the Chapter 5 of ‘ Super Freakonomics ‘,by Levitt and Dubner,I sill believe that geo-engineering is no solution to the global-warming issue. Paul Krugman’s belief that the cost of emitting sulphur diaoxide into the stratosphere to cool down the Earth,will stay within a few billions a year,is far-fetched. What guarantee is given that the cooling of the Earth through the artificial way of ” geo-engineering ” will not disturb still further,the natural climatic equilibrium which man has already done considerably through the unrestrained use of fossil fuel? What guarantee is given that emission of sulphur diaoxide at a global level will not be counter-productive and will not give birth to incurable diseases unknown to the human race? Again, how will the hard-pressed economies of the third world countries share the burden of the Quixotic project of the global sulphur-diaoxidizing? All the fore-going questions deserve deep considerationt,Besides, some climate experts’ proposal of spraying salt -water from ” dinghies “,into the oceanic atmospheres so that clouds could be induced to provide a ” oceanic cloud cover ” to cure ocean acidification,is not only ludicrous but also romantic.Will not the jets of salt-water sent into the oceanic atmosphere,in themselves be a make-shift of rain? If the answer is in affirmative,then why to depend on rain? And the cost of this mindless project will be a staggering one billion dollars per year!!!!In short, viewing the matter from every angle,it is revealed that the solution to the global-warming lies only in moderation in fuel consumption.

  • Anonymous

    Science or agenda?! ….. Not sure if the the writer intended is to convey a scientific conclusion (or several scientific conclusions) or present certain facts and impressive sounding indices more to do with economics, with a spin to promote an agenda (which is in itself not negative!).

    Perhaps the author will also write about methane producing ruminants, causing far more damage with calculations based on 3rd IPCC asessment. In the meantime, the chapter “What do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo have in common” (Super Freakonomics) may be a useful read to distinguish between what is science and what is agenda…hopefully, the debatecan be livlier based on scientific fact and not upon human emotions and personal insults!

  • Jamal

    US gives a damn about climate change. They are even against the Kyoto treaty to limit green house gasses. We as the US slaves should follow them.

  • alpha

    Come on YAR; SAANNU KI ? LOL
    nice article though i doubt people would heed at what international reports etc say.
    shouldn’t we preach what we read when we were in primary about keeping our atmosphere clean :)

  • M.Saeed

    About the discussion on “global warming” with reference to
    burning of fossil fuels, let me explain it with a simple example. It has been
    calculated and well established fact that, the entire reserve of all types of
    fossil fuels already used and existing on earth today, if ignited all at once,
    would only generate enough of heat to equal what the earth intercepts from Sun
    in just 40 minutes! Now, what would be their impact in our own time scale in
    the over-all climatic change of the Planet Earth is not difficult to
    understand. So, we need to be practical in scientifically verifiable terms.

    All planets of solar system being fragments pulled and
    detached from Sun under the influence of a gigantic gravitational force of a
    much bigger star than Sun, that passed billions of years ago at an influencing
    distance, the released fragments (or droplets of molten mass of Sun) are what
    that became planets of our solar system. Therefore, they all started from
    molten-hot state and cooled down to what they are today and the process
    continues in its own extra-terrestrial time scale. It is therefore enough to
    understand that, the change is continuous in the chronology of the universe and
    overall climatic change ever since the Big-Bang, must have several divisions and
    sub-divisions of changes in between that have specific affects in a particular
    smaller time period in the chronology of Universe. Climatic changes during such
    a time period are responsible for the creation of life pattern on our planets. Creation
    of life on Earth and possibly the end of life on Mars now covered with a dead
    atmosphere of Carbon Dioxide.

    Notwithstanding the bigger perspective, we must appreciate
    that, for whatever reasons, climate is changing within its cyclic events and we
    must do whatever is required, based upon verified and established ground
    realities so as to prolong livability of life on Earth.

  • M.S.Qureshi

    This reminds of an amusing anecdote. Once during a
    discussion on a meteorite detected and found moving on a collision course with Earth
    that would change its axis resulting in a sudden end of life on Earth. It was
    assured that, scientists were desperately busy working to find ways and means
    to avert the collision. On knowing that, one of a horrified listener asked “—and
    when would that collision take place?” When told it was calculated to happen
    about 50,000 years in future, the man exclaimed “Oh– I won’t be living by then.
    So I am least bothered”?
    That is where it should be: “tay sannuN ki”?

  • Jamal

    In Pakistan it’s prohibited to say anything against India.

  • Satyameva Jayate

    Nothing can ever happen against god’s will! ‘Mitti pao. Saanu ki?’


    Mr.Qalim, Mysterious are the ways of Nature. I,as a layman, understand that the fundamental principle that is functional in all the natural phenomena is ‘equilibrium’ .For instance, Nature maintains an “equilibrium” in the respective positions of all the heavenly bodies,through the process of a mutual gravitational pull among them. In the absence of that ‘equilibrium’ heavenly bodies would collide,sending the empyrean back into a total chaos.This principle of ‘equilibrium’, which is a characteristic of Nature, is functional also with regard to different gases present in the stratosphere. If there were only oxygen and no carbon dioxide in the stratosphere,the earth would catch fire. Conversely if there were only carbon diaoxide in the stratosphere and no oxygen, no life on the earth would be possible.Today,man is moving heaven and earth to set at naught the climatic equilibrium by sending excessive carbon dioxide into the stratosphere through unrestrained use of fossil fuel and CO2-emitting modern electrical appliances.Natch, Nature will eventually,reset the stratospheric equilibrium through its own characteristic way,while letting loose a wrathful doom on the human race,as a punishment.Again, Nature has its own way of solving the problem of swelling population____ it sends for the cataclysmic earthquakes ,floods ,deluges,Tartars, epidemics,and decimating wars.etc.On the other hand, the low rate of population growth in the developed countries is off-setting the high rate of that in the developing countries.The bottom-line is that man should desist from infringing Nature’s laws failing which it’s wrath will be catastrophic.

  • Satyameva Jayate

    I agree with you. I just stated one of the reasons given by those who don’t want to act.