Climate change is an emerging threat to our planet. It has manifested in disasters of unpredictable frequency and intensity in different parts of the world. The climate plays such a major role in our planet’s environmental system that even minor changes have impacts that are large and complex. Climate change affects people and nature in countless ways. It often increases existing threats that have already put pressure on the environment. However, this problem has not appeared overnight it has been 30 years since scientists first alerted the world to the dangers of climate change. Changes in nature have serious implications for people and our economic system. The insurance industry estimates the potential economic damage, caused by the impacts of global warming, to be hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
The phenomenon of climate change has evolved from an environmental issue to a serious security challenge, which is currently being debated as security as well as a development challenge around the globe. In the present day national security settings, climate change adds new hostile and stress factors which have serious consequences. Climate change, if not combated effectively can act as a catalyst for adverse political and social change. Pakistan is already facing multiple security and development challenges and the addition of climate change is likely to make the matrix even more complex. Therefore, a collective effort by the state, society and international community is indispensable. If a state is fragile and society is not able to cope with climatic hazards, it results in environmental stress; which if exploited by hostile forces can generate negative societal consequences. Pakistan’s vulnerability can be assessed from its huge population of 180 million of which nearly 54 Million are food deficient.
The youth is increasingly being affected by calorie insufficiency in their daily diet. Moreover, floods and droughts threaten agriculture; scarcity of water carries the potential to gravely affect human security. At the same time, extremely low human development index, poverty and societal fissures adversely affect societal capacity. Climate change is particularly a real national security threat, however; there exists no proper research and policy framework on the subject.
“The climate change is a global challenge and it requires global solidarity” –Antonio Gutierrez, UN Secretary-General said.
This is the reason COPAIR has published research papers, reports and convened sessions to gather insights from experts, activists and ecopreneurs of the globe to not only highlight the challenges but also share their stories and provide a way forward for this global challenge. Amna Malik, President COPAIR says that only an awareness campaign will not solve this problem so we have to take action and we urge that individuals, the business community and governments should do their part and take collective actions underlying the three pillars of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaption and financial commitments. In a recent virtual “Climate Ambition Summit”, leaders from more than 75 countries participated and provided assurances to take substantial measures to overcome this crisis but the need of the hour is that every individual should take action and contribute to overcoming this menace.
“We have to undertake and adopt the nature-based solutions, which are in line with the SDGs” –Amna Malik, President COPAIR
Moving towards the contributions of Pakistan, it is pertinent to mention the fact that Pakistan has been listed as the seventh most vulnerable country although the country’s contribution to climate change is least in comparison to the developed nations. However, the country is seriously committed to tackling the vagaries of climate change, both at the official as well as non-official level. To highlight Pakistan’s government initiatives, one must take into consideration that Pakistan has become the first country to accomplish Goal 13 of SDGs and for this, the country has taken several steps, such as:
- “Clean Green Pakistan” to curb pollution and reduce the effects of climate change
- “Billion Tree Tsunami” ties in the needs for sustainable forestry development, generating green jobs, gender empowerment, preserving Pakistan’s natural capital while also addressing the global issue of climate change
- “Right to a clean, green and healthy environment” as a fundamental right of all citizens of Pakistan
- A significant increase in the protected areas for national parks. In the past, there were only 30 protected areas for national parks while now the number has been increased to 45
On the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement, PM Imran Khan in a virtual “Climate Ambition Summit” vowed that, “By 2030, 60 per cent of all energy produced in Pakistan will be clean energy generated through renewables and 30% of all vehicles would be on electricity.”
While bringing the private sector’s contribution to light, one must know that there is a wave of awareness among corporates of Pakistan and private entities are doing their best to overcome this challenge in Pakistan. There is a sense of corporate social responsibility and its manifestation is evident from the plantation drives and promoting environment-friendly products and solutions by Pakistan’s corporate sector. Manufacturing industries of Pakistan are now committing themselves to reduce their carbon footprint and transitioning towards clean energy, and youngsters are making strides through launching awareness campaigns and convincing society to alter their consumer behaviour.
We do need to reset and this is certainly possible, it is not as simple as pressing okay on a keyboard and there is a very limited period within which we must act decisively and comprehensively. Science is not fake news and it is the best way that we have of understanding the world around us. To understand the fragility of our planet, we have to look at the pictures of Earth taken from space, showing the thin blue line across the planet. With an annual temperature rise of 2-degree centigrade due to increased burning of fossil fuels and deforestation we are thickening this blue blanket and this is resulting in an erratic duration of extreme weather events, droughts, wildfires and flooding etc. threatening the biodiversity and sustainability of the planet. The record-breaking temperature increase of Turbat, reaching up to 54 degree Celsius is not accidental as in May 2020 the figure again reached 53.5 degrees, showing this increase in temperature and global warming is seriously damaging the infrastructure and lives around us.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme report:
- Earth is on the way to an additional 1.9C (3.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming from now, far more than the internationally agreed-upon goals in the Paris accord.
- About nine million people a year die from pollution.
- About one million of Earth’s eight million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction.
- Up to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, toxic sludge and other industrial waste are dumped into the world’s waters every year.
- More than three billion people are affected by land degradation, and only 15 percent of Earth’s wetlands remain intact.
- About 60 percent of fish stocks are fished at the maximum levels. There are more than 400 oxygen-depleted “dead zones” and marine plastics pollution has increased tenfold since 1980.
UN Chief Antonio Guterres wrote the preface of the report and said that: “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is senseless and suicidal”
While backing a new blueprint to put an end to the challenges of climate change, which includes, providing huge subsidies of $5trillion to industrial agriculture, fossil fuel, and sectors like mining for an expedited shift in reducing the carbon footprint. Another much-needed recommendation provided by him was to devise a new mechanism for the performance of governments, which accounts for the value of preserving ecosystems as well.
The remedies are to have a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy such as using solar, wind and green hydrogen for energy production, opting for electric vehicles, raising awareness and changing consumer behaviour, promoting eco-friendly startups, changing our ‘conventional’ methods to ‘adaptive’ ones by acquiring the best communal solution, and restoring forests as they act as carbon sinks.
As Grant Liney, a climate activist and educator says, “We need to understand that once science tells us that we have a problem, we have to follow it with politics. We have to go to political action. It is not the responsibility of science. It has identified the problem. Now, we need to understand that and it is much more important to change laws than light bulbs. When you change a law, you change how the system works. We have to understand that and well. This is the kind of change we need and we have to understand that.”