Cli­mate risks

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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