Climate Change Myth or Reality
News about climate change break through almost daily, it seems. Yet for many readers, it is abstract science that doesn't imply to connect to their busy lives.
Climate marches in the UK and COP21 agreement on carbon emission pinpoint that people are responding to this issue widely. Each and every tier of the society will be influenced from these climatic changes. Climate change is impacting the migration patterns of humans as well other biological species such as birds.
Changes in seasonal migration patterns of different bird’s species have become evident over the last two decades in different areas of Pakistan.
Residents of soon valley district Khushab, Punjab have noticed these changes over the last two-three decades.
A large number of migratory birds fly a long and laborious journey from Siberia and other Central Asian Republics (CARs) to Uchali and Kabekhi Lakes.
The migratory birds stay here until March, when their young are able to fly with their parent back home. Climate change is a worldwide phenomenon and has become a hot issue for debate among scientists over the last two decades.
Around 97% of climate scientists argue that human-induced climate change is a certainty. The academic debate among scientists is presenting the evidence from various research studies regarding the quantity and quality of the climatic changes.
Unfortunately most of south Asian countries are more vulnerable to these changes as compared to their share in carbon emission. Pakistan, along with some other developing countries, has been ranked as one of the most at-risk because of its vulnerability to climate change and lack of resources to respond. In developing countries, such as Pakistan, climate change poses a serious challenge to social, environmental and economic development, and lead to migration within and across national borders of Pakistan.
The effects of global climate change in Pakistan are already evident in the form of growing frequency of droughts and flooding, increasingly erratic weather behavior, changes in agricultural patterns, reduction in freshwater supply and the loss of biodiversity. Pakistan’s vulnerability factor is more obvious due to its agro-based economy.
Scientists have been attempting to assess the rate of change, as well as suggesting mitigation and adaptation strategies. If the projections of such findings are correct, the destruction that will occur in every sphere of life will be so severe that those kinds of solutions will be swamped by reality.
A broad consensus among policy makers and academia that every action has it’s an own chain of reactions whether positive or negative, so we cannot stop these drastic and erratic environmental changes completely.
What we can do to reduce the impacts of these changes is try to prepare communities and sections of societies to cope with and adapt to the changes accordingly. We cannot stop these changes for a number of reasons.
The impacts of these changes are often trans-boundary in nature, and involve areas where countries are sharing natural resources in different watershed and basin areas.
The exploitation of these natural resources under the nation-state paradigm of development complicates possibilities for the sustainable consumption of these natural resources.
The Indus River Basin is a unique example for this irrational and unsustainable consumption cycle of fresh water resources. Following the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, India misused its upper riparian position and stopped the water of eastern rivers completely, regardless of the environmental degradation and ecological damage to the lower riparian basin area.
Analysis of the historical trends of discharge of the rivers Ravi and Sutlej clearly shows the troublesome situation on the river basin and livelihoods, flora and fauna dependent on it.
As the situation is becoming extremely difficult for downstream livelihoods and agro-biodiversity, this trans-boundary water dispute put pressure disproportionately on the downstream, southern Punjab and Sindh.
The uneven impact of climate change affecting the poorest and most vulnerable populations first and worse raises important questions around climate justice that it is essential to consider further.
Yet, despite the disproportionate effects of climate change on certain communities as opposed to others, we are part of an interconnected society and outcomes on some will ultimately hurt us all.
Therefore, it is important to remember that “we are all in one boat” to reject differences based on nationalistic or other identities, and unite together to try to think and act rationally to face these drastic climatic changes.
Multiple economic sectors, including industry, business, agriculture, and tourism, are under threat of climate change. There is a need to build a multilateral and integrated approach to mitigate climate change.
Pakistan is an agrarian country whose major share of the economy derives from agriculture, with around one quarter to half of the population dependent upon the agricultural sector.
Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan's economy, but unfortunately, agriculture is also becoming a major threat to the natural resources like freshwater and biodiversity. One of the gravest impacts on water quality today is a result of high-input agriculture.
Like greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), the runoff of nutrients, soils, and pesticides from modern agriculture is a classic failure of the free market to internalize environmental costs into the price of the product. In the case of GHG emissions, these costs are associated with using the atmosphere for the gas byproducts of fossil fuel consumption, which consequently warm the earth.
In the case of agriculture, the costs are associated with allowing runoff to degrade water quality for aquatic life and downstream users. Vara Prasad, professor of crop eco-physiology found that “Wheat yields are projected to decrease by 6 percent for each degree Celsius the temperature raises if no measures to adapt to extreme weather fluctuations are taken”. He added “We have to learn how to manage the crops in terms of water, which will be a very, very good help for us now and in the future”.
The Green Revolution and pressure to feed ever increasing populations forced the farmers and policy-makers towards the unsustainable usages of natural resources. The false perception that more use of fertilizer, pesticides and water will increase production also plays a vital role in the degradation of natural resources like soil and water.
When we use more fertilizer we ultimately need more water to meet the crop's water requirement.
We have to shift our focus towards organic agriculture. Embryo-less seeds of different crops play a positive role in enhancing production, but on the other hand these seed varieties have less capacity to adapt to the climatic changes, whereas local traditional seed of different crops have greater adaptation capacity.
Another rationale behind climate-smart agriculture is to adjust to the new growing conditions in a sustainable fashion, because yield gains experienced during the Green Revolution, particularly with major crops, have nearly stagnated.
Using seeds specifically bred to withstand certain temperatures or moisture levels, coupled with better water management, can help to keep improving agricultural productivity.
A multilateral and multi-tiered approach to cope with and adapt to climate change is essential for Pakistan.
We need to introduce institutional reforms both at national and international levels to mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases, as well as to put measures and policies in place to transition to the new world we are entering.
We south Asian countries will also need to take a strong negotiating position at different international forum, to put pressure on developed countries to fund our transition to a renewable energy economy as well as to adapt to the water, energy and food security challenges we are already beginning to face.