The Im­pact of Cli­mate Change

Southasia - - COMMENT -

Cli­mate change is a se­ri­ous is­sue that is im­pact­ing the world in a very grave man­ner. Un­for­tu­nately, South Asia is one of those parts on the globe that has to bear the worst of this weather phe­nom­e­non. What wors­ens the prob­lem is the fact that South Asia is also one of the poor­est re­gions in the world and none of the eight South Asian economies is fit enough to face the va­garies of cli­mate change ev­ery year. Cli­mate change is a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet's weather pat­terns or av­er­age tem­per­a­tures. Sci­en­tific re­search shows that the cli­mate - that is, the av­er­age tem­per­a­ture of the planet's sur­face – rose by 0.89 °C from 1901 to 2012. To help con­di­tions re­main con­stant, the earth is wrapped in a layer of green­house gases. When fos­sil fu­els - coal, oil and nat­u­ral gas - are burnt they re­lease car­bon diox­ide into the at­mos­phere and this pen­e­trates the green­house blan­ket. As such, the big­gest cli­mate pol­luter in the global con­text is the power sec­tor.

In South Asia, the ef­fects of cli­mate change are tak­ing a toll on the col­lec­tive econ­omy, with the re­gion at risk of los­ing up to 8.8 per­cent of its GDP by 2100. One of the most vul­ner­a­ble re­gions to cli­mate change is South Asia is Bangladesh. It has been fore­cast that six coun­tries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, In­dia, the Mal­dives, Nepal and Sri Lanka – could suf­fer from an av­er­age eco­nomic loss of around 1.8 per­cent of their an­nual gross do­mes­tic prod­uct by 2050, ow­ing to cli­mate change. Pak­istan also makes a tiny con­tri­bu­tion to the world’s global green­house gas emis­sions and is among the coun­tries most vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change. The coun­try has a very low tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial ca­pac­ity to adapt to the ad­verse im­pacts of cli­mate change, which is brought about by the melt­ing of glaciers in the Hi­malayas which in­creases flow rate of many of the coun­try’s ma­jor rivers. The re­sult­ing floods im­pact millions of lives. The weather changes are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly volatile, with the trend wors­en­ing ev­ery year.

Cli­mate change con­trib­utes to ma­jor sur­vival con­cerns for Pak­istan, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to the coun­try’s wa­ter, food and en­ergy se­cu­rity. The city of Karachi, Pak­istan’s largest pop­u­la­tion cen­tre, was hit by a heat wave of enor­mous pro­por­tions in 2015 and suf­fered hun­dred of ca­su­al­ties. It has been es­ti­mated that the rise in tem­per­a­ture in Pak­istan is higher than the av­er­age global tem­per­a­ture in­crease. Given this fact, it is ex­pected that ex­treme heat waves will be­come more com­mon world­wide ac­com­pa­nied by other volatile changes. In the South Asian con­text, the con­se­quences of such en­vi­ron­men­tal changes would in­clude in­creased deaths caused by volatile rise in tem­per­a­tures, de­creased wa­ter avail­abil­ity and low wa­ter qual­ity in many arid and semi-arid re­gions, an in­creased risk of floods and droughts, re­duc­tion in wa­ter reg­u­la­tion in moun­tain habi­tats, de­creases in re­li­a­bil­ity of hy­dropower and biomass pro­duc­tion, in­creased in­ci­dence of wa­ter­borne dis­eases such as malaria, dengue and cholera, in­creased dam­ages and deaths caused by ex­treme weather events, de­creased agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity, ad­verse im­pact on fish­eries and ad­verse ef­fects on many eco­log­i­cal sys­tems. These changes could, in turn, ham­per the achieve­ment of many of the Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goals (MDGs), in­clud­ing those of poverty erad­i­ca­tion, child mor­tal­ity, malaria, po­lio and other dis­eases and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity. Much of this da­m­age would come in the form of se­vere eco­nomic shocks, in­crease in ex­ist­ing so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems and mi­gra­tion within and across na­tional bor­ders.

From melt­ing Hi­malayan glaciers in In­dia, Nepal and Bhutan that pose the risk of flash floods to the rise in sea lev­els that threat­ens the coast­lines of Bangladesh and Mal­dives and ab­nor­mal mon­soon rains and heat spikes in parts of In­dia and Pak­istan, South Asia is highly vul­ner­a­ble to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. While cli­mate change is a global prob­lem, the so­lu­tions for ad­dress­ing cli­mate change in South Asia are lo­cal. One so­lu­tion is for the re­gion to move on a low-car­bon growth path through in­vest­ment and ad­vi­sory sup­port in re­new­able en­ergy, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and re­source ef­fi­ciency and by pro­mot­ing cli­mate re­silient devel­op­ment. This would en­com­pass hu­man health, wa­ter sup­ply and san­i­ta­tion, en­ergy, trans­port, in­dus­try, min­ing and con­struc­tion, trade and tourism, agri­cul­ture, forestry, fish­eries, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and dis­as­ter man­age­ment. It needs to be re­al­ized that cli­mate change is just not an en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue but one with se­vere so­cioe­co­nomic im­pli­ca­tions.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal

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