Climate emergency

January 21, 2024

Pakistan could face severe consequences of rising global temperatures during 2024

Climate emergency


cientists have warned that 2024 could be the hottest year on record. It is expected to beat 2023 as the hottest year recorded in history. Climate change is of course the only reason.

The World Meteorological Organisation, a specialised agency of the United Nations that monitors earth’s atmosphere stated in a recent statement that the global temperature has risen to 1.2 degrees C above the pre-industrial average, based on the ten-year global average temperature from 2014 to 2023.

The signs of change in weather patterns and rising temperatures are also visible in Pakistan. These have already affected the socioeconomic sector in the country. The semi-arid agricultural land and mountain communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are more vulnerable than most. In the past few years, many parts of the country have faced droughts while others have received heavy rains and suffered on account of floods.

Until mid-January, Parachinar, one of the coldest sub-divisions in Kurram disrict, located to the south of the Hindu Kush range, hadn’t received the season’s first snowfall. The valley used to start getting snowfall in December.

Heavy snow in winter is an indicator of abundant water in summer. The snow-melt from Spin Ghar (meaning the white mountains) is a lifeline for the local community. “The farmers are worried about potential low yield of wheat,” says Zahid Hussain a small-scale farmer in Parachinar valley.

Pir Panjal, a chain of mountains in the Lower Himalayan region in Azad Kashmir is also known for heavy snowfall. This year, it has yet to receive the season’s first snowfall. Sardar Imran Azam has shared a photo from January 16, 2017, of Rawalakot’s picturesque valley.

“That was probably the third snowfall of the season. In the current winter season, we haven’t received even rain. If the valley doesn’t receive snow, the community will have to face water scarcity in summer,” he says. Imran says forest fires have been reported due to dry weather in the Pir Panjal mountains. As a result, a large portion of the forest has been destroyed.

In summer, the frequent glacial lake outburst flood events are washing away homes and communication networks in Upper Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Countries like Pakistan are not prepared to handle extreme weather.

Bareera Mirza, a PhD candidate and research scientist in the USA, is working on a project funded by NASA Goddard Terrestrial Hydrology. She is a snow data scientist working to improve snow estimation for better water resource management and to address the climate change crisis.

Responding to questions through email, she says, “The United Nations has recently announced a forecast for a warmer 2024 that has sparked concerns, particularly for nations like Pakistan. It is worth noting that Pakistan bears a disproportionate burden of the climate crisis, despite contributing less than 1 perecnt to global greenhouse gas emissions.”

“The anticipated temperature rise in Pakistan poses an imminent threat, heightening vulnerabilities in vital sectors such as agriculture, water resources and health. It is important to avoid exacerbating the challenges faced by a population already grappling with the consequences of an unjust climate calculation,” she says.

Over 600 million small-scale farmers produce a third of the global food supply. Small-scale farmers in Pakistan are vulnerable to climate change. Ghaffar Ali, a small-scale farmer in Charsadda, a Khyber Pakhtunkhwa district known for agriculture, says the previous year’s extreme weather events from May to August affected his tomato crop.

“We have not recovered from last season’s losses. The scientists are saying the current year will be hotter than the last year. The farmers are not ready for adaptation. It will affect more small-scale farmers in the province,” Ghafar Ali says.

“To comprehensively address the climate crisis, it is important to recognise the complex interplay between climate and socioeconomic factors. Using sensors aboard satellites and aircraft, along with socioeconomic data, provides valuable insights into earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and life. The monitoring reveals distinct patterns of environmental challenges, highlighting a greater impact on vulnerable communities,” Bareera Mirza says.

“For Pakistan to deal with this issue, urgent, science-based policies are necessary. Protecting the most vulnerable communities should be prioritised to promote resilience and sustainable adaptation strategies. This is crucial for navigating the impending climate crisis in Pakistan and globally. International cooperation is essential to address the underlying causes of climate change and promoting a just and sustainable future for all,” Mirza says.

Due to rising temperatures, scientists and world leaders have termed this an era of global boiling. Leaders are taking action to cope with rising temperatures, but more steps are needed for achieving net zero emissions.

Dr Muhammad Fahim, the Pakistan Meteorological Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar deputy director, agrees that the average temperature is rising. “The past eight years have been declared the hottest. In order for humans to control the rising temperatures, we need to reduce greenhouse emissions to net zero.”

“If the trends in global emissions continue, then 2024 could be the hottest year. The policymakers are working on actionable measures to reduce greenhouse emissions, but controlling global warming is not a shutdown button, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will take several years to come down,” Fahim says. He says the rising temperature is a reality. To live on the planet Earth and minimise the climate change impacts we need to be resilient.

“Mountain communities in northwest Pakistan are among the most vulnerable to rising temperature. They have to be prepared for extreme weather events, more droughts, heavy rainfall and floods,” Dr Muhammad Fahim says.

The writer is a freelance multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney

Climate emergency