Cli­mate change

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL -

EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL ex­perts and sci­en­tists in in­creas­ing num­bers around the world have come to rec­og­nize that cli­mate change is one of the great­est threats fac­ing the planet earth. The earth is warm­ing up and ad­versely af­fect­ing the liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment. With in­creas­ing global warm­ing, all kinds of species and their habi­tats are on the re­treat and ecosys­tems es­sen­tial to the sur­vival of hu­man life on earth are col­laps­ing. The planet we live on is fi­nite, and can­not ac­com­mo­date a con­stantly in­creas­ing de­mand on its re­sources. Global warm­ing is al­ready caus­ing dam­age in many parts of the world. Since 2002, the US has ex­pe­ri­enced nu­mer­ous out­breaks of worst wild fires and dust storms across the land. Ex­treme heat waves have caused more than 50,000 deaths in Europe, In­dia and other parts of the world over the last decade. And in what sci­en­tists re­gard as an alarm­ing sign of events to come, the area of the Arc­tic's peren­nial po­lar ice cap is de­clin­ing at the rate of 9 per­cent per decade. As com­pared with the past, hur­ri­canes and storms have be­come stronger and more dan­ger­ous.

Many global is­sues are cli­mate-re­lated, in­clud­ing ba­sic needs such as food, wa­ter, health, and shel­ter. Changes in cli­mate may threaten these needs with in­creased tem­per­a­tures, sea level rise, changes in pre­cip­i­ta­tion, and more fre­quent or in­tense ex­treme events. Sci­en­tists study­ing global warm­ing agree that a highly dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion is likely to de­velop if cur­rent trends are not ar­rested. Melt­ing glaciers, early snowmelt and se­vere droughts will cause more dra­matic wa­ter short­ages around the world. Ris­ing sea lev­els will sub­merge coastal cities.

Over the last few years Pak­istan, too, has seen ex­treme weather con­di­tions and been re­peat­edly bat­tered by floods and droughts. We are in­creas­ingly wit­ness­ing un­pre­dictable rain­fall, in­creased tem­per­a­tures and sea­son changes. Changes vary by re­gion, such as in­creased rain­fall and ex­treme weather events in Punjab and Sindh and de­creased rain­fall in Balochis­tan. In Au­gust 2010, record mon­soon rains flooded large tracts of land in Pak­istan. The floods forced 6 mil­lion Pak­ista­nis to flee their homes and af­fected about 20 mil­lion peo­ple in some way. NASA im­ages in 2010 showed the river In­dus 14 miles wide or more as com­pared to only 0.6 miles in 2009.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and sci­en­tists agree that dras­tic ac­tion is needed to tackle the threat of global warm­ing and cli­mate change. In 1988, the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC) was cre­ated by the United Na­tions En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme to as­sess the sci­en­tific knowl­edge on global warm­ing. The IPCC con­cluded in 1990 that there was broad in­ter­na­tional con­sen­sus that cli­mate change was hu­man-in­duced. That re­port paved the way for an in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tion for cli­mate change called the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (UNFCCC), signed by over 150 coun­tries at the Rio Earth Sum­mit in 1992. The Ky­oto Pro­to­col, which was signed in Ja­pan in De­cem­ber 1997, im­ple­mented the ob­jec­tive of the UNFCCC to fight global warm­ing by re­duc­ing green­house gas con­cen­tra­tions in the at­mos­phere. The Pro­to­col puts the obli­ga­tion to re­duce cur­rent emis­sions on de­vel­oped coun­tries on the ba­sis that they are his­tor­i­cally re­spon­si­ble for the cur­rent lev­els of green­house gases in the at­mos­phere. The renowned de­vel­op­ment ex­pert, Martin Khor, says that that tak­ing his­tor­i­cal emis­sions into ac­count, the rich coun­tries owe a car­bon debt be­cause they have al­ready used more than their fair quota of emis­sions. So far, how­ever, rich na­tions have done very lit­tle within the Ky­oto pro­to­col to re­duce emis­sions by any mean­ing­ful amount, while they are all for ne­go­ti­at­ing a fol­low-on treaty that puts more pres­sure on de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to agree to emis­sions tar­gets.

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