KARACHI — While the U.S. clings to its way of life and is still spared by the effects of climate change, countries around the world are already facing the realities of the man-made crisis. Of the top 10 countries most impacted by climate change, Pakistan sits at number seven. Climate change in Pakistan has brought about extreme and erratic weather conditions, regular floods and lower agricultural outputs.
The 133 events in Pakistan directly attributed to climate change in the past two decades have cost the country $3.82 billion. Agriculture and food security are at the highest risk in Pakistan due to temperature increases higher than the world average, subsequent stress on water resources and more frequent droughts and floods from glacial melt. These effects directly reduce agricultural productivity.
Livestock has also taken a hit with a 20 to 30 percent decline in production. As meat, milk and poultry supplies thin, prices rise out of reach of the average Pakistani.
Preventative measures to counter the effects of climate change in Pakistan are incredibly costly. Early warning systems (to monitor climate), water management systems and installation of drip and sprinkler irrigation systems present a strong financial barrier. Installations in rural regions require a trained technical staff, of which there are few in affected areas. Taxes on and a new market for the new materials also curb enthusiasm for taking initiative.
The government drafted a handful of ideas to respond to the effects of climate change in Pakistan. Syed Rizwan Mehboob, the Prime Minister’s focal person on climate change, demands heightened water management so surplus water from flooding can be stored for times of drought. Rapid glacial melt coupled with monsoon rains caused the devastating floods of 2010. Pakistan lost 5 percent of its GDP due to losses of human life and infrastructure. As both glacial melt and monsoons are guaranteed to recur in the future, an elevated response system is incredibly necessary.
Standing between Pakistan and economic ruin is Karachi, the financial backbone of the country. Karachi is Pakistan’s most populous city, with 17 million inhabitants and an additional 1 million migrant workers every year. As Pakistan’s main port city, it accounts for 42 percent of its total GDP. It generates half of the country’s tax revenue and plays host to the stock exchange, central bank and strongest real estate market.
Karachi’s close positioning to the Indus River Delta makes it highly vulnerable to flooding and land erosion due to rising sea levels. Parts of the city are already underwater. Dr. Inam of the NIO states, “with the current rate of climate change, the economic hub of Pakistan has 35 to 45 years before it completely submerges into the Arabian Sea.”
The Paris Agreement of 2015 instilled an obligation in all member countries, including Pakistan, to follow strict guidelines and measure and report progress more intensely and frequently. The agreement emphasized that the responsibility for climate change lies with all nations.
In 2015, Pakistan also joined the list of 19 nations where a majority of citizens view climate change as a top global threat. The government allocated 58.8 million rupees to combat climate change. However, the decreased production of agriculture and livestock has destabilized Pakistan’s economy. The country has the 6th largest population in the world and is growing by 2 percent annually; alleviation of economic strain seems doubtful in the near future.
Countries around the world should follow Pakistan’s lead in taking climate change seriously. Countries experiencing current economic stability like the U.S. could then offer financial assistance to countries already destabilized by the effects of climate change.
– Sophie Nunnally