Climate risk report
CLIMATE change is now a reality. According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2016, which makes a survey of 195 countries facing varying degrees of climate risks, 10 are the most affected, including Pakistan. The report, released by the Bonn-based advocacy group Germanwatch, says that Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti were the most afflicted by climate disasters between 1995 and 2014. Next were the Philippines, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, Thailand and Guatemala.
Altogether, more than 525 000 people died as a direct result of about 15 000 extreme weather events and losses between 1995 and 2014. The climate risk report analyses as to what extent countries have been affected by the impacts of weather-related events - storms, floods, heat waves etc. The most recent data relate to the year 2014 and 1995-2014. This year's 11th edition of the analysis shows that less developed countries are generally more affected than industrialised ones. Most of the countries who made it in the top 10 for extreme weather in 2014 had suffered exceptional catastrophes.
The Global Climate Risk Index ranks Pakistan eighth, two spots higher than last year's 10th spot, on the list of countries most affected by the extreme weather in the last 20 years (1995 to 2014).
After low rainfalls in March 2014, which threatened food security of poor households in the country, heavy monsoon rains and floods in September caused 367 deaths, affected more than 2.5 million people and over 1 million acres of cropland. According to the Recovery Needs Assessment and Action Framework 2014-16 report prepared by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and United Nations Development Programme, the severe monsoon floods in recent years have largely affected infrastructure in Punjab and Azad Kashmir where more than 5,000 community development schemes have been damaged costing over Rs15 billion to the national exchequer. It is estimated that around 7,550 micro, small and medium size basic Community Physical Infrastructure (CPI) units are still in need of partial or full repair in the worst hit districts. These include damaged link roads, culverts, embankments, irrigation channels, school buildings, health services and water supply facilities.
After a long wait, the Paris climate summit held last month served as useful forum to discuss several international policy issues relevant to reduce the impacts of extreme events. The Paris climate change accord committed 195 countries, especially the industrialized ones, to cut the growth of their greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement also called for keeping the "increase in the global average temperature well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees". The Paris deal represents a historic breakthrough on an issue that has foiled decades of international efforts to address climate change. Previous attempts at climate control mainly focused on action by developed economies like the United States to lower greenhouse gas emissions. But under the Paris deal the obligation is total, all across the board, requiring action in some form from every country, rich or poor.
Despite tell-tale signs of climate disaster looming on the horizon, the government of Pakistan has not yet addressed the issue with the seriousness it deserves. As we can see, the weather patterns and cycles are changing fast. Summers are hotter than before, while frequent bouts of freezing cold mark the winters. Monsoon flooding is now a regular annual feature. These are danger signals indicating that worse lies ahead. It is time the ministry of environment woke up and put its act together to meet the challenge of climate change.