The Impact of Climate Change
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