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February 13, 2018

Apocalypse now


February 13, 2018

Our future may well be apocalyptic if efforts are not made to address climate change challenges. This is what the Climate Change Profile of Pakistan released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has warned of. The news itself is hardly surprising. Pakistan has been near the top of the lists of countries considered most vulnerable to climate change. Already facing water stress, the country has been plagued by cycles of floods, drought and heatwaves in the last decade. But any and all evidence offered related to climate change has prompted little action from authorities. This could be the fate that the ADB report faces. It is out of tune with the current developmental agenda, which prioritises fossil fuel based development over green development strategies. It is this logic of development which the ADB predicts will lead to Pakistan’s greenhouse gas emissions doubling within two years and going up 14 times by 2050. Over the last 50 years, mean temperature in Pakistan has increased by almost 0.5C per year. Heatwaves have increased five times and the sea level has gone up by 10cm. This is much higher than pledges made in the Paris climate change accord. But the climate change accord aside, the rise in emissions rates threatens Pakistan’s future.

Glacial melting and changing rainfall patterns are the most immediate effects the country is facing. They pose an immediate threat to both the agricultural and energy sectors. But there is also a threat to the future of cities like Karachi with an anticipated 60cm increase in sea levels by the end of the century. The overall temperature increase is likely to range between 3C and 5C – higher than the 2C cap put in the Paris accord. Limiting the increase will require a dual strategy: a change of development approach at home while also working with the global community to ensure that climate goals are met. While some may find this doomsday scenario to be unnecessarily alarmist, the evidence is clearly there. Floods, heatwaves and smog have become recurring events. Those facing them encounter the dystopian future that may become an even more regular occurrence. The future is set to be scary if the current patterns of development continue. This is why there is an urgent need for a radically altered development strategy – not because someone else is telling us but because it is the only way to ensure our survival in the medium term. The government will have to consider emergency measures to deal with the impact of climate change. If the warnings are not heeded now, those in power today will be held responsible by history for failing to save our children’s future.

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