Comment: Let’s focus on climate change

This article was first published in The Express Tribune on Nov 27, 2013.

The narrative to prevent environmental degradation has almost always been weak in Pakistan.

On the streets, it gets annihilated in the face of poverty, social injustice and lack of basic facilities, and not without merit. It is difficult to expect anything significant from the private sector in terms of environmental responsibility. But the government has also mostly failed to protect the country’s natural reserves and the environmental quality of its cities and towns.

So it is not surprising that the issue of climate change — a variability in the properties of global climate that maybe linked to human activity and that persists over an extended time period — is often lumped with environmental concerns and easily pushed off the policy agenda.

Not surprising, but unfortunate that despite facing billions of dollars in losses to extreme weather events during the past decade, Pakistan’s efforts to combat climate change are fledgling and scattered.

We are prone to natural calamities and, according to some reports, we have been one of the 15 most climate-vulnerable countries in the world during the past 20 years.

Yet, we still view the unpredictable weather patterns that Pakistan has been experiencing in isolation.

Bangladesh, another climate-vulnerable country, has an operational climate change resilience fund. Among other things, the fund enables Bangladesh to get international funding for climate change adaptation projects.

Pakistan was supposed to have a similar mechanism under its National Climate Change Policy but that mechanism has not materialized yet.

This lack of meaningful action at the government-level could be reversed, if we realize the negative impact of climate change is not just an environmental issue anymore. It is a cross-cutting, multi-sectoral issue that affects our economy and our development.

Our agriculture is at risk, for example.

Scientific research conducted by the Pakistan Met Department and other national organizations have already shown that changing weather patterns might affect yields of major crops. Cultivable land might even become unsuitable for growing crops in the future. This, in turn, poses a threat to national food security.

Climate change adaptation might help us manage our water resources better and make use of flood water. Increased water security could lead to electricity generation through more hydropower projects.

So it is all interconnected, which means both meaningful action to fight, and ignorance of, climate change could have a multiplying effect.

Local scientists and conservationists can use this argument to lobby government agencies to not only help build resilience for climate-vulnerable communities in Pakistan, but also gain multi-sectoral socioeconomic benefits.


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