Wednesday June 12, 2024

Human ecodynamics

By Ali Rehmat Shimshali
November 26, 2022

As humans, we have excluded ourselves from the ecological cycle, pretending to be owners of the planet and its natural resources. This is truly unnatural.

We need to understand that we are one of the major components of the ecosystem, and therefore, any impact on the ecosystem will also have an impact on us. We cannot deny this fact as we are a global community. Unfortunately, we have confined our thoughts, developmental approaches, and securities within small boundaries. We need to understand that our destructive approaches to the ecological system will ultimately lead to our destruction.

I often find it curious to see people advocating to save the planet and maintain the global temperature. The planet has undergone many climatic changes, and it has survived and evolved during all conditions, but the issue of our survival as humans remains at the top. So, instead of advocating to save the planet, we need to think and advocate to save ourselves from the trap we have built for ourselves in the run for economic gains. Developed countries need to realize the issue’s sensitivity and make efforts to shift to greener and more sustainable approaches for development.

Human interventions and unsustainable developmental approaches have increased global temperatures and thus the frequency of disasters. These calamities cause serious disruptions to the functioning of societies when these disastrous events interact with conditions of exposure, vulnerability, and capacity, leading to human, economic, material, and environmental losses.

The least developing countries are the most vulnerable to climate change and its impacts. Their economic growth, livelihood, and survival depend highly on climate-sensitive sectors. It is unjust to force them to adapt to and cope with the catastrophic impacts of climate change without any assistance while rich countries keep maintaining their economic well-being, endangering the lives of vulnerable segments on earth.

The Emissions Gap Report 2022 prepared by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) shows that the US is the top contributor to global CO2 emissions with 14-ton CO2 equivalent (tCO2e), followed by Russia at 13 tCO2e. China is at 9.7 tCO2e, Brazil and Indonesia contribute about 7.5 tCO2e each, and the share of the EU is 7.2 tCO2e. The least developed countries emit 2.3 tCO2e per capita annually. These figures might not be significant for developed countries as they have resilient infrastructure and lifestyles to cope with climate change and its impacts. But developing countries face the devastating effects of global warming due to poor economies, infrastructure and coping capacities.

The 2022 floods have caused huge devastation across Pakistan, affecting 33 million people (one out of every seven Pakistanis). Around eight million have been displaced by the floods. The death toll directly has been 1,700, one-third of which were children. The floods have caused $30 billion losses in damage and economic losses. Economists fear that this situation may push over nine million people into poverty. World Bank estimates show that Pakistan will face a projected loss of 2.2 per cent of FY22 GDP.

It is a huge task for developing countries like Pakistan to cope with a loss of such magnitude, as some of the losses are irreparable, irreversible, and irrecoverable. Lives lost in disasters can never be reversed, the psychological impact of these hazardous events on survivors remains ignored, the flood-affected pregnant women are still in tents, and livelihood sources along with life savings are inundated.

Pakistan has all the reasons to raise its voice for climate justice and loss-and-damage compensation from the international community. It contributes around 0.8 per cent of the total global emissions and yet remains on the top 10 list of countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change.

Fortunately, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif served as a co-chair for the recently concluded COP27, which provided a great opportunity for Pakistan to raise its voice for climate justice and loss-and-damage financing at the global platform. The major achievement of COP27 is the approval of the Loss and Damage Fund – the proposal itself was included on the formal agenda for the first time. However, Pakistan needs to revisit its approaches to climate change and disasters.

The government, the NDMA, and other stakeholders need to work together to fill the data gap of pre-disaster scenarios so that an evidence-based post-disaster scenario could be developed to build and win the cases of climate justice and loss-and-damage funding facilities.

The slogan, ‘What happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan’, raised during COP27 at Pakistan’s pavilion, was a clear message to the world about climate change and its consequences.

Our development and economic agenda need to be analyzed through the lens of sustainability which can only be ensured when societies are just, inclusive, transparent and vision-oriented, enough to prioritize developmental approaches through cost-benefit analyses. Being humans, we measure our benefits in monetary terms and ignore the complicated intersectoral bonds that can cause indirect damage.

A clean and healthy environment is the right of every individual, which is also reflected in international efforts such as the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 and the Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda).

Both Agenda 2030 and the Sendai Framework strongly focus on inclusive economic, social, health, structural, legal, cultural, educational, technological, political, and institutional measures in tackling environmental degradation and climate change while ensuring ‘no one is left behind’. These international efforts will not remain inclusive nor achieve their goals if developed countries exclude themselves from complying with the demands of the frameworks for their economic gains.

Therefore, developed countries, while playing a major role, must join hands with developing countries to save humanity from the future disastrous impacts of the evolving climate issues. We must consider ourselves an integral part of the ecosystem to make it better. Isolation will only make things worse.

The writer is project assistant, Sustainability and Resilience Development Program – SDPI. The article reflects the writer’s own views. He can be reached at: