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Country to suffer more bouts of inclement weather, says ministry

Country to suffer more bouts of inclement weather, says ministry

ISLAMABAD: The ministry of climate change fears that the country is going to suffer in coming years more bouts of inclement weather patterns like the heatwave in Karachi that led to over a thousand deaths in a few days.

Based on various studies and projections, the ministry, headed by Senator Musha­hidullah Khan, says that global warming is going to affect Pakistan more than the rest of the world, which warrants drastic measures at policy making levels.

According to the ministry’s estimates, “climate change projections [show] that the average temperature over Pakistan will increase in the coming decades at a pace faster than that of the average global temperature and may exceed by about 1 C° during the near future period of 2010-2039.”

Studies also reveal that temperatures in the northern parts of Pakistan will rise more than in southern areas, says a report prepared by the ministry on the changing weather patterns.

Worldwide, the average global temperature of the earth has been increasing due to growing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution (mid-nineteenth century).

During the last century it increased by 0.6 C° globally, as reported by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its assessment report (IPCC AR5) released last year. During the last century, the average temperature in Pakistan increased by 0.6 C°, like the increase in average global temperature. The average temperature in Pakistan during the period 2000-2012 was recorded at 0.7 C° higher than that experienced during the period 1985-1999.

The most prominent aspect of climate change is an increase in frequency and intensity of extreme climate events such as floods, droughts, cyclonic activities, unusually very high or very low temperatures and extreme precipitation events.

The higher the temperature, the higher is the increase in the frequency and intensity of such events. The most prominent extreme hydro meteorological events experienced in Pakistan during the period 1991-2014 can be easily recalled – the ‘super floods’ in 2010 which resulted in about 2,000 deaths, over 20 million people affected, several million hectares of agricultural land devastated, large-scale disruption of road and railway, communication network, etc. The overall financial damage was said to be to the tune of US $10 billion.

“And there is a strong likelihood that with increased global warming in coming decades, incidences of such extreme events in Pakistan will increase further,” the ministry says in the report.

Shedding light on the country’s vulnerability to climate change, the report referred to the findings of the German Watch, an independent NGO, which ranked Pakistan as the 8th most susceptible country to climate change, based on its analysis of 20-year data from 1991-2010 for hydro meteorological disasters.

Climate change impact studies included in the ministry’s report pointed out that the increasing temperatures will negatively impact crop yields in Pakistan. For example, it has been found that the average per acre yield of wheat crop is likely to decrease by about eight per cent and that of the basmati rice by about 15 per cent by the end of this century. Thus climate change poses a serious threat to the country’s food security.

The water security of the country is also threatened by climate change: the increasing temperatures in the northern mountains of will result in glacier melting, thereby affecting flows of the Indus River System (IRS). The glacier melting may result in an increase in the IRS flows for a few decades, followed by reduced flows once the glaciers are depleted. This is a serious cause of concern for Pakistan because it is already a water stressed country.

There are also less obvious impacts of climate change such as in the health sector.

For instance, climate change is also linked to the increasing occurrence of dengue fever in the country over the past few years. This is in addition to the diseases such as malaria, cholera and various stomach illnesses that are associated with the accumulation of dirty flood water.

The ministry claims that with the initiatives taken by it over the past few years, the adverse impacts of the climate change can be addressed. For example in order to scientifically address various climate change issues, the government has established a Global Change Impact Studies Centre. It will help to determine likely future climatic changes in various parts of the country, including impact on various socio-economic sectors.

Based on the report prepared by the national level task force on climate change, National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) was approved by the government in 2012 and launched in Feb 2013. Nine months later, a Climate Change Division was established. But it is early to say how effective these institutions will be and how sincere the government is about addressing climate change.

Published in Dawn, July 22th, 2015

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