Pakistan 12th most vulnerable to climate change in world: New research

KARACHI: Pakistan is very sensitive under the influence of changes in climate. Pakistan’s vulnerability is due to two reasons. First, Pakistan’s geological location on the world map, its unique landscape and weather condition susceptible to climate change. Second, due to changing climate, Pakistan’s various sectors and aspects are under serious threat. These are agricultural sector which is under the influence of temperature and precipitation, sensitivity of population due to water, food, shelter, and human migration crisis, coastal belts due to rise in sea level, glaciers due to rising of temperature, ecosystem, biodiversity, and forests which are highly vulnerable to climate change, according to a research conducted by Imtiaz Ali at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad. The title of the research is ‘Climate Change: A Potential Non-Traditional Security Threat to Pakistan.

The research said: “Pakistan is a victim of horrible incidents of climate change. Though Pakistan’s contribution at the global average is minuscule, it is 12th most vulnerable to climate change in the world. Climate change affects countries more which lies in the temperate zone-below the line of equator. Pakistan lies in the temperate zone, because of this, Pakistan is very prone to droughts, low precipitation in lower parts and heavy rainfall in upper parts, cyclones, heat waves and water shortage for agriculture and drinking purpose are main repercussions of climate change. Its geographical location, landscape and climate is particularly vulnerable to climate change.A variety of landscapes marks the physical geography of Pakistan. Pakistan lie in temperate weather zone on the world map where temperature increases unexpectedly. It comprises northern mountains, central plains, southern deserts, western plateaus and hills, coastal areas and forests. All these features are vulnerable to climate change.”

Pakistan is a developing country; its 30 per cent population is living below poverty line and its technical and financial capacity is insufficient to face the challenges of climate change. Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change comes from geographical location, physical landscape, natural climate system, endemic poverty, outdated disaster management infrastructure, poor technical and resource capabilities.

By virtue of its natural features and system’s incapacities, the most vulnerable sectors and aspects to climate change in Pakistan are agriculture sector due to water shortage and dwindling soil, population sector due to disasters, migrations and worsening human security problems, coastal belts due to sea level rise, mountainous and glaciers, ecosystem and biodiversity and forestry are under serious threats.

Imtiaz said in the report: “The IPCC projecting average world surface temperature would increase from 1.4 degrees centigrade to 5.8 degrees centigradec over the course of the 21st century. It is evident that the alteration in the planet’s ecological, biological and geological system will not only continue but also intensify.”

He further said: “Pakistan is prone to a range of natural disasters, including cyclones, floods, drought, intense rainfall, and earthquakes. In Pakistan 40% of the people are highly vulnerable and are frequently exposed to multiple disasters”. This exposure to danger is predicted to be exacerbated with imminent impact of climate change. There has been escalation in the incidence, intensity and frequency in the climatic events in Pakistan which are more extreme and heavier precipitation that happened as in 2010 and three successive years. The deluge of 2010 has broken all past records of extent and force. It affected more than 20 million populations which is more than those hit by Tsunami in 2004, earthquake in 2005 in Pakistan and 2009 in Haiti. “Other disasters noticed in Pakistan are hailstorm, dust, thunder and heat waves have additionally been watched since recent past. Such natural catastrophes have brought immense misfortune of many valuable lives, destruction of property and regular assets loss worth billions of rupees. As per a World Bank Report (2006), the nation bears a loss amounted $4.5 billion annually from natural disasters induced by climate change.”

Pakistan is a country with ecologically and geographically diverse features and having large populations living along coastal belts, river deltas and arid regions, which are at direct risk of flash flooding, sea level rise and droughts caused by climate change. Climate change raises fears of its tremendous socio-economic and environmental impacts. Pakistan is frequently exposed to natural calamities like floods, droughts, earthquakes and cyclones.

Coastal areas are among the most sensitive aspect to climate change in Pakistan. Projected impacts are included rise of sea level, stronger tropical cyclones, soaring sea surface temperature and acidification of surface water. The repercussions of these changes on coastal ecosystem and communities could be threatening the health, livelihood, destroying infrastructure and displacing millions of population. “Mounting sea levels can also exacerbate saltwater intrusion into the rivers and aquifers that furnish freshwater to coastal settlements”

“The Himalayan-Karakoram-Hindukush (HHK) glaciers are the third largest ice mass on the earth, after the Arctic and Antarctic. It is reported all over the world that glaciers are receding since the last century, those in the HHK region are found to be melting faster than any others. The alarming situation is that if the present speed of recession continues, the HHK glaciers might become extinct by 2035. The excess of melting of HHK glaciers are expected to cause flooding in the Indus and its tributaries for the coming two to three decades than it will be preceded by reduced river flows as the glaciers retreat. The Indus River is the only source of Pakistan’s water resources and it supply water for agriculture and hydroelectricity. Any interruption to this hydrological system will have disastrous impacts on Pakistan’s economic and social life,” the reasearch concluded.