Adapting to climate change
By: Saima Baig
the past two decades it has become increasingly clear that
climate is changing across the globe.
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its first
assessment report in 1990, highlighting this aspect.
Since then, its subsequent
reports have continued to provide further and increasingly
stronger evidence that human induced climate change has
immense effects on societies and ecosystems.
Especially forests and
coastal areas, both of which are crucial for human
Extreme events are also
expected to increase in magnitude and frequency, putting
human lives in danger. This is already happening as typhoons
and other climate related events increase.
In 2014 typhoon Hagupit swept
across the Philippines, which devastated forests and coastal
areas and adversely impacting a large human population.
Changes in rainfall and
runoff patterns will result in decrease in the availability
of water in many parts of the world's forested watersheds,
thus decreasing the goods and services they provide.
The United Nations Framework
Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) was formulated as a
response to this and the countries that have ratified this,
meet every year to discuss courses of action to deal with
Pakistan signed the
Convention in 1992 and became a signatory in 1994. The
latest Conference of Parties took place in December, 2014
(the same time as Typhoon Hagupit).
Generally, the focus of these
conferences has been to reach agreement to curb emissions,
however it has increasingly become clear that adapting to
climate change is an important strategy (among others) to
cope with a changing climate and its impacts.
This is because even with
current mitigation efforts the climate does and will
continue to vary.
This means urging countries
to adjust human and natural systems to become more resilient
and to be able to cope with the harmful effects of climate
It is worth noting that
Pakistan does not contribute extensively to global emissions
(0.7%). However, its carbon emissions continue to increase
with the transport sector being a significant contributor.
Due to the increase in global
emissions Pakistan, like other developing countries, stands
to be adversely impacted. A warming climate will increase
glacial melt in the Himalayas thus leading to excessive
flooding and will also affect water resources further. Sea
levels will rise and flooding will also be experienced from
the Arabian Sea.
Therefore, it is crucial for
Pakistan to implement effective strategies to adapt to such
eventualities, in order to deal with the expected mortality
rates due to flood and drought situations (as can already be
seen in Thar).
One of the reasons for such a
huge loss of life in Thar has been due to lack of
The Lima conference has laid great emphasis on adaptation in
developing countries. However, there were deep disagreements
between rich and poor countries over national
responsibilities, which almost derailed the talks.
An extremely "watered down"
deal was reached in the early hours of the morning on the
Extensive issues remain
regarding funding commitments from developed nations to help
developing countries to adapt to climate change.
However, the stage was set
for a new climate agreement, which will be struck next year
Agreements were reached to
curb emissions and funding was pledged to the Green Carbon
Fund, which will assist countries such as Pakistan to
achieve low-carbon growth.
The one and only time Pakistan submitted a National
Communication to the UNFCCC was in 2003, which highlights
significant climate related changes in (among others) water
resources and agriculture, the country's mainstay.
Sea level rise in the coastal
zone was estimated to be 1.1 mm annually, which does not
bode well for Karachi, the economic hub.
At the time of the submission of the National Communication,
adaptation plans were still in the planning stage. Various
international and national NGO are working to build capacity
for climate adaptation.
But if Pakistan is to develop
economically, an extensive effort needs to be made by the
government to increase the adaptive capacity of its rural as
well as urban population.
Importantly, Pakistan has to
play an important role in the UNFCCC negotiations if it is
to have any say in future deals.