Yet another report warning Pakistan of the dangers posed by climate change has been published. The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Climate Change Profile of Pakistan paints a bleak picture of the country’s future. It cautions that our mean temperature has already risen by half a degree over the last half-century. Apart from this, the number of scorching heatwave days has increased five-fold over the last three decades; while the sea-level on Karachi’s coastline has risen by 10 centimetres over the past century. According to the report, if the effects of climate change are not curbed — yields of staple cash crops like wheat and basmati rice will fall; with supply of power unable to keep up with demand; and intensifying heatwaves leading to yet more deaths.
The climate change threat is real and imminent. According to German think-tank Germanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index 2018 — Pakistan ranks as the world’s seventh most vulnerable nation in this regard.
Unfortunately, despite these unsettling statistics Pakistan has never been serious about tackling this immense challenge; with the authorities having failed to even come up with a national water policy. According to the ADB report, the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) — the country’s apex national policymaking body for disaster management — continues to operate on restricted budgets. Meaning that it can only respond to climate-related disasters on an ad hoc basis; instead of implementing proper preventative measures.
It has become quite clear that global warming is no longer an issue that we can afford to ignore. The media has a central role to play on this front. In other words, it must draw itself away from the petty squabbles of Pakistan’s political elite and bring this existential threat firmly under the spotlight. For unless the fourth estate creates a sense of both awareness and urgency — there will be no political will to motivate our national and provincial leaders into taking action against climate change.
This is all the more important with CPEC-related activities on the rise throughout the country. Especially considering that many of these power projects rely on imported coal, bringing with them the double whammy of emissions from these plants and the diesel fumes from transporting the coal.
Both government officials as well as the citizenry need to understand that climate change is the most pressing issue facing Pakistan today. The consequences of which far outweigh the fallout from political squabbles, terrorism and the economy. Because none of this will matter; not if the land we call Pakistan today is unfit for human habitat in the near-future. *
Published in Daily Times, February 8th 2018.