Saturday April 20, 2024

An inconvenient truth

By Nudrat Fatima
August 21, 2023

There’s a hurricane brewing in Pakistan. Not just a political maelstrom marked by party rivalries, power plays, and social unrest, but a literal storm brought on by climate change. The question isn’t whether the storm will hit – it already has – but whether our politicians will continue to dither or finally take decisive action.

Looking at Pakistan’s political scene – a revolving stage of the PPP, the PML-N, and the PTI – it has thus far proven dismally ineffective at addressing the climate crisis. As I write, Pakistan sits in the unenviable position of being the fifth most vulnerable nation to climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2022. Yet our leaders seem to remain blissfully, or perhaps willfully, ignorant of the gravity of our situation and they are busy playing the blame game.

Sure, we’ve seen an occasional nod to the environment. The PTI’s Imran Khan waved the green banner with his ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ project and ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ initiative. But these are mere window dressing, palliatives meant more for international optics than substantive domestic impact. We need comprehensive, systemic changes, not isolated projects that merely graze the surface of a deeply-rooted crisis.

And what of the PPP and PML-N? They’ve vocalized their commitment to environmental issues, but where are the policies that back up their words? It’s easy to talk about change; it’s harder to implement it.

But here’s the real kicker: our politicians seem to think that the climate crisis can be compartmentalized, boxed away into the corner labelled ‘environment’. They couldn’t be more wrong. Climate change is not a standalone issue; it’s a hydra-headed monster that affects every single aspect of our nation – from our economy and security to our social fabric.

When floods ravage our lands, it isn’t just the environment that suffers; it’s our agriculture, our economy, our people. When droughts parch our crops, it’s not just an environmental issue; it’s a crisis of food security. And when millions are displaced due to environmental catastrophes, it’s not just an environmental problem; it’s a ticking time bomb of social unrest.

To our political leaders, I say this: You ignore climate change at your own peril. You may choose to overlook the climate crisis, but it will not overlook you. It will insinuate itself into every policy, every debate, every decision that you make. And the longer you choose to disregard it, the larger and more destructive it will become.

The climate crisis is not waiting for our politicians to catch up. It is happening now, and it requires our immediate attention and action. We need a government that doesn’t just pay lip service to the environment but embeds climate action into the very core of its governance. A government that recognizes climate change for what it is: not just an environmental issue, but a national emergency.

We’ve seen enough political storms in Pakistan. It’s time to brace ourselves for the real one. To our politicians, I implore you, stop politicking and start acting, because this is one storm we cannot afford to weather. The time for action was yesterday; the need for it is now.

Another flood is on its way to hit the population: are we ready?

The writer is a PhD scholar at Michigan State University, USA.