LONDON: A Pakistani environmentalist and Oxford University lecturer Dr Abrar Chaudhury has received the ‘Best Doctoral Dissertation Award 2017’ by the Organisation and Natural Environment Division (ONE) at Academy of Management in Atlanta for his pioneering work in managing climate change in developing countries including Pakistan. The award recognises relevance, scholarly contribution, theoretical and methodological rigor, as well as practical implications in selecting the best dissertation.
Abrar’s doctoral research investigated the challenges of adapting to the adverse impacts of climate change in agriculture in developing countries, including Pakistan. Agriculture occupies roughly 40 to 50% of the earth’s land surface and is the single largest source of income and jobs for poor rural households in the developing world. In Pakistan it is the second largest economic sector, contributing approximately 20-25% to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and absorbing roughly 42% of the labour force. Global warming reduces crop yields, threatening global food security and push millions into poverty.
Speaking to Geo News, Abrar elaborated: “My work requires crossing disciplinary boundaries from natural science (understanding climate change), social science (how people are impacted and how they react) to management science (how responses are planned and organised). The research is close to my heart and touches on the bigger reality of how we can live in and adapt to an unpredictable and changing world with an ever-increasing population” The PHD has already translated into several high-level journal publications, working papers and blogs.
The award committee praised his research noting: "It was extremely impressed with the novelty of the dissertation, the setting and detailed data and analyses, as well as the important practical implications of the work.”
Abrar said: “I am delighted to receive this award as a Pakistani and the recognition of my work in developing pragmatic solutions for tackling the wicked challenge of climate change in resource constraint countries. I look forward to continuing researching this important work in home country of Pakistan, building on my strong association with Oxford University.”
Abrar has an interesting and diverse career. He grew up and studied in Lahore, training as a Chartered Accountant. He went on to lead one of the oldest Pakistani accountancy firms, set up by his grandfather who was the first member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan. Abrar’s passion for the environment drove him to get a doctorate in Environmental Change and Management, an MBA, and an MSc in Environmental Management from the University of Oxford.
He told Geo News his inspiration for studying climate change came from the 2010 floods in Pakistan. “Pakistan experienced its worst ever natural disaster in 2010. One-fifth of the country was under flood-waters, displacing millions of people and causing damage at scale of billions of US dollars. Despite promises for better prevention and coping measures by the government, civil society, and the global community, there was little evidence of actions to create capacity for local populations to deal with environmental shocks and adapt to longer-term environmental change. As an accountant I understood numbers but not the science behind climate change and extreme events. I wanted to learn what causes climate change and why our response was so lackluster, despite Pakistan consistently ranked as one of the most climate-vulnerable places in the world.”
“I took a leap of faith, stepped out of my comfortable professional life, enrolled myself in Oxford. I have never looked back”
He added: “The Pakistani floods were an eye-opener to the size and complexity of the climate change challenge in Pakistan and developing countries in general, and the substantial gap in the means for effective responses. My research showed that effective responses requires combined and sustained efforts of many disparate actors, from governments offering strong policy frameworks, experts creating evidence-based knowledge on local threats to treasury and development partners offering complementary assets and resources. Post-flooding analysis in Pakistan highlighted that recognising the challenge and setting policy is not enough. If efforts are fragmented and uncoordinated, responses are unlikely to be effective, leading to recurring disasters.”
Abrar divides his time between Pakistan and Oxford, focusing on identifying practical and implementable solutions for climate change in Pakistan.