According to the recent State of the Climate report, the earth is getting hotter and hotter. Last year saw the highest air and sea surface temperatures since the industrial age began, as well as the highest concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. There is an alarming acceleration in the melting of Arctic ice cover as glaciers the size of entire countries break off from the ice mass and float off into the waters. The highest-ever sea levels have been recorded as well as the most extensive drought in the world. The report has noted that a range of key climate and weather indicators shows the planet is growing increasingly warm, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. The situation is a result of the increasing influence of long-term global warming.
According to the report, unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases are polluting the atmosphere, acting like a blanket to capture heat around the Earth. All major greenhouse gases that drive warming, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, rose to new heights. Atmospheric CO2 concentration reached 402.9 parts per million (ppm), surpassing 400 ppm for the first time in the modern record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years. Melting glaciers and polar ice caps swelled the world's oceans, and the global average sea level rose to a new record high - about 8.25cm higher than the 1993 average. In the polar regions, sea ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic hit record lows. Land temperatures warmed too - the average Arctic land surface temperature was 2 deg C above the 1981-to-2010 average. Drought was unusually widespread as well. At least 12 per cent of land surfaces experienced severe drought conditions or worse each month of the year: "Drought in 2016 was among the most extensive in the post-1950 record".
The Global Climate Risk Index ranks Pakistan eighth on the list of countries most affected by the extreme weather in the last 20 years. The climate risk report is a red signal which the world can ignore at its own peril. Scientists point to the mounting threat from storms, floods, droughts and rising seas if mankind does not reduce emissions from heat-trapping greenhouse gases, especially from fossil fuels. It is pertinent to note here that the report has only looked at the direct results of extreme weather, whereas the indirect consequences of extreme weather such as drought and famine resulting from heat waves can be much more deadly. Global warming is a direct cause of gradual sea-level rise, glacier melting and more acidic and warmer seas. It is yet to be fully recognized that the Climate Risk Index indicates a level of exposure and vulnerability to extreme events that countries should understand as a warning to be prepared for more frequent and/or more severe events in the future.
Despite growing 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 government woke up and put its act together to meet the challenge of climate change. To start with, we must review the policy of setting up coal-fired power plants to solve our energy problems. There is need for a comprehensive environmental policy to tackle the looming climate crisis ahead.