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Wednesday May 29, 2024

Burning planet

The new wave of development has made more countries adopt policies that are not climate-friendly

By Editorial Board
April 13, 2024
Turkana women carry firewood past the carcass of a cow in northern Kenya. — AFP/File
Turkana women carry firewood past the carcass of a cow in northern Kenya. — AFP/File

Years of neglect and a lack of willingness to do something about the climate threat have now created an inescapable situation where unprecedented levels of heat are slowly becoming the norm. Last year, 2023 became the hottest year in history. Now, 2024, according to reports by the UN, is all set to break the record. The UN has warned that massive heatwaves across East Asia and the Pacific can place millions of children at risk. Over 243 million children across the two regions are estimated to be affected by soaring temperatures, according to data provided by Unicef. In the first weeks of April alone, temperatures in several countries, including Thailand and the Philippines, have already crossed the 40-degree mark. Unicef also says that soaring temperatures are a lethal threat for children. That a change in temperature patterns is more likely to affect children is true. In Pakistan, we recently saw how a severe wave of cold affected children with deadly pneumonia, with dozens of deaths reported in Punjab, where the cold was more severe. The 2015 heatwaves will forever be a reminder of the dangerous turn climatic events could take. In that year, at least 1,000 people, including adults and children, died because of a devastating heatwave.

It is rather surprising that even though the effects of climate change are more visible than ever, countries have been slow to take meaningful action to mitigate the impact of this global phenomenon. The new wave of development has made more countries adopt policies that are not climate-friendly. The cutting down of trees and green lands to make way for air-conditioned concrete jungles is a recipe for disaster, and yet no country considers changing course. In Pakistan, too, fertile lands are being razed to set up housing societies. The country’s rising population now demands low-cost, small houses with no separate space for house plants and trees. Our lifestyle habits have to change if we are to fight against the climate threat. Otherwise, we should be prepared for sweltering heatwaves for months.

The latest spell of winter, where most countries recorded less than the average temperature, hints at changing weather patterns. The health of the planet is beneficial for all of us. The development race should not blind countries to the impact their actions have on the planet. It is time the world seriously considered changing its ways and working towards improving the planet’s health. Pledges made at climate conferences are not enough. Countries have to invest in firms producing sustainable products to deal with the climate threat. While the world’s 1.0 per cent may think that fully equipped bunkers can save them from the climate catastrophe, the reality is just the opposite. The effects of climate change are more visible in developing countries because these regions do not have the protective layers that rich nations do. But the insanity of changing climate patterns shows that the developed world will not remain immune to the growing threat of climate change. It is time to act.