Islamabad – Pakistanis are only second to the Chinese in seven Asian countries in terms of the most actions taken by communities and individuals to respond to climate change, according to a new comprehensive study on climate change perceptions and responses in Asia.
In Pakistan’s case, these community and individual efforts to combat climate threats are taking place despite lack of government support, low levels of confidence in government interventions and lack of information on climate.
Around two-thirds of Pakistani respondents for BBC Media Action’s “Climate Asia” report indicated they have made some changes in livelihood or lifestyle that could be directly attributed to climate-related issues.
But some 72 per cent of those same respondents said they were not confident that the government was taking necessary actions to respond to climate change, according to the report.
The Pakistan section of the report was launched at a local hotel on Wednesday during a ceremony organised by Oxfam Pakistan.
The Climate Asia report is based on 33,500 surveys, 100 focus groups and 115 in-person interviews, conducted during March 2012 and January 2013, in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Indonesia and Vietnam, said Khadija Zaheer, a researcher and projects officer at BBC Media Action. It
Zaheer said the report’s findings show that people are responding on an individual- and community-level in Pakistan. She said despite low confidence in government, Pakistani respondents seemed to have faith in local institutions such as neighbourhood committees and community-based networks.
A whopping 50 per cent of Pakistani respondents said they were not familiar with the term “climate change.”
But 72 per cent said they had felt an increase in temperature and 51 per cent perceived a decline in rainfall — indications that changes in climate were being noticed in the country, which global climate watchdogs consider one of the countries most vulnerable to extreme weather events.
In a way, the most important aspect of the report is its emphasis on communication and media as tools for building awareness, supporting discussions in community and improve institutional support, all in an attempt to “help people respond to climate change.”
But the variety of responses meant Pakistanis needed to be reached out in different ways with different sets of information on climate change, Zaheer said.
So in order to identify the opportunities of communicating with Pakistanis, Zaheer said the report segmented its respondents in to five categories, based on their response to climate change: 41 per cent believed there is no need to act, 26 per cent were “acting and wanting to do more,” 17 per cent were finding it too hard to take action, 10 per cent were willing to act and seven per cent said they were trying to act but finding it very difficult.
The report went on to suggest different communication startegies for each group, for example, people already taking adapting to climate change can be provided more technical information and for people who are indifferent to climate issues, communication could focus on the negative impact of climate change.
The Climate Asia report, which is available on BBC’s website, also suggests communication messages to reach out to women, farmers and youth as “priority audiences,” which are willing to take actions to cope with climate change but are not sure how to do it.
Environment journalist Rina Saeed Khan, who spoke during a panel discussion at the report launch, said print and electronic media in Pakistan have started to pay more attention to climate change since the onset of the devastating 2010 floods.
But Khan stressed the need for more reporting on climate change and environmental issues in Urdu and regional languages, because news items in these languages can have a bigger impact on the general public than English-language environment journalism.
Arif Jabbar Khan, the Country Director of Oxfam Pakistan, said climate change, especially the variability and unpredictability in rainfall, is making irrelevant the institutional knowledge of cropping patterns amassed by small farmers over generations.
He said the resulting “knowledge gap” among the farmer community should filled through awareness-raising campaigns and provision of information on changing weather patterns.
The ceremony also marked the launch of the Food and Climate Justice theme of Oxfam Pakistan’s “Grow campaign,” which aims to build resilience of Pakistani public to food insecurity threats posed by climate change.