The Nations: Considerable increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, erratic monsoon rains, floods, droughts and rising sea level are indicators of Pakistan’s vulnerability to drastic climate change which could be addressed through measures suggested in national policy on climate change. The meteorologists and environmental experts while presenting their papers at a conference titled ‘Climate Change-basic understanding and current issues of Pakistan’, spoke about possible impacts of the climate change which included decrease in crop yields up to 30 percent, decrease of fresh water availability ranging between 12pc to 20pc by 2050 in South Asia particularly in river basins.
The event was organised by the Coastal Development Authority of Sindh government here at a local hotel on MondayDr Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, adviser to government of Pakistan on climate change, while presenting his paper on ‘Climate Change and Pakistan’s increasing Vulnerability’ highlighted factors leading to global warming. He told that the continuous flow of energy from the sun reaches the earth as visible light, out of which 30 per cent immediately scattered back into space, 70 per cent penetrates the atmosphere to heat up the surface.
He said that this energy is emitted from the earth into the atmosphere as infrared light, while some of this infrared irradiation is adsorbed by components in the atmosphere so called greenhouse gases. These greenhouse gases can re-emit this energy in all direction, as result of this, effect the earth is kept some 30°C warmer than without these GHGs, essential for live on earth, he added. Dr Chaudhry, who is the vice president of World Meteorological Organisation-Asia Region, pointed out that earth is de-glaciating. He cited that since 1979 more than 20 per cent of the Polar Ice Cap has melted away. Regarding some projections of future climate change, he said that sea level will rise by between 7 inches and 2 feet in the 21st century. Dr. Chaudhry further said that the global climate change is the most dangerous and difficult environmental problem humans have ever created, but there is much that individuals, firms and governments can do to reduce the danger.
Talking about Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change, he said that the considerable increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, erratic monsoon rains causing frequent and intense floods and drought are the impacts of the climate change in the country.He further said that the projected recession of (Hindukash) glaciers threatening water inflows into Indus River System, besides increased temperature leading to reduced agricultural productivity and increased intrusion of saline water into Indus delta due to sea-level rise are Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change. He cautioned that these threats may lead Pakistan to water scarcity and food insecurity.
Other possible impacts of the climate change may lead in decrease of forest productivity, reduced forest area, unfavorable conditions for biodiversity, changes in species composition and higher flood risks in the country. Regarding the impact of climate change on human health, he said that the climate change induced extreme temperature and rainfall events may cause increase incidence of diarrheal and many vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue.He opined that there are two key ways of responding to climate change, one is through adapting to the changes and other is through mitigation measures for greenhouses gas emissions reduction.
Regarding policy development consultation process initiated after a lengthy consultation with all the relevant stakeholders including federal ministries and departments, provincial governments and their line-departments, NGOs and civil society organisations, a national policy on climate change has been finalised.
He said that the policy goal was to ensure that climate change was mainstreamed in the economically and socially vulnerable sectors of the economy and to steer Pakistan towards climate resilient development. Dr Chaudhry informed the conference that the key factors for adaptation to climate change are water resources, agriculture and livestock, human health, forestry and biodiversity, disaster preparedness, and other vulnerable Eco-Systems include Mountain Areas-Rangeland and Pastures, Arid, Hyper Arid Areas-Wetlands and Coastal and Marine Ecosystems.
The local rain harvesting measures and conservation, reduction in irrigation losses and use of efficient irrigation techniques, increase of water storage capacity as well as identification of new dam sites have been suggested as adaptation measures in water resources, besides steps for protection of surface and ground water degradation, recycling of waste water, protection of catchments and reservoirs and rational ground water exploitation were also suggested in the climate change policy.
He disclosed that in the last year’s rains about 50 million acres foot water was wasted, which was higher than the storage capacity of Tarbella Dam. He said that strengthen flood forecasting warning system, enforcement of flood plain regulations; strengthening barrages capacity, rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure & river embankments have been suggested climate change policy for disaster preparedness in the country.
To promote increased use of renewable energy such as wind, solar, bio-fuels; increase the shares of nuclear power and hydroelectric in the energy mix and preference in import of LPG, LNG natural gas over oil have also been suggested as measure to mitigate climate change in energy sectors.Meanwhile, Dr Ghulam Rasool, Deputy Director of Pakistan Meteorological Department said that only 5% to 15% more than normal rains have been predicted for this monsoon season in the country. On this occasion, Director General SCDA Muhammad Haneef Pathan, Director GIS, SCCDP Mustafa Sarwar Abbasi and Consultant of SCDA Shamsul Haq Memon also spoke on the subject.
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