Karachi rainfalls, Lahore’s smog, and melting Himalayas are just some of the examples of climate change in Pakistan. Pakistan has a minute contribution to total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission, less than 1% but it is among the countries most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Additionally, being an emerging country it has very low financial and technical capacity to adapt to the changes.
Climate change is a global phenomenon, however, its effects are more widely felt in developing countries. Such is the case in Pakistan, it is an agriculture-based economy, which is directly affected by this situation. Hence, the major impact of climate change is on agricultural production due to changes in temperature, rain pattern, floods, and droughts. This raises major concerns of food security and water availability, due to the rapidly changing environment.
According to a recent study, wheat production of South Asia will decline by 50% by 2050. This is alarming as wheat is one of Pakistan’s major crops. Furthermore, almost 50% of Pakistan’s population is employed in the agricultural sector, so any disturbance in the crop yield or production levels will have a direct effect on the rural population – trapping them in an irreversible poverty trap.
Extreme weather events at high frequency in Pakistan (and the surrounding region) are directly linked to climate change. In recent years, Pakistan has been facing stronger monsoons than in the past, in 2019 it was 323 millimeters, and in 2020 so far the total rainfall is at 450-500 millimeters. This extreme monsoon combined with Pakistan’s poor infrastructure has claimed more than 400 lives, along with 200,000 houses being damaged. Due to the heavy downpour and the rise in melting ice, Pakistan also recorded higher rates of flooding in the last decade. Experts predicted that as a result of flooding, 20% of the rural population will be forced to migrate towards major cities. In turn, increasing the pressure on
On the other hand, this rainfall has relieved Lahore of the plight of smog season. The smog issue in Lahore has seemingly worsened over the last 5 years. This rise in air pollution has directly been linked to the power, industry and transport sector in Punjab. Thick smog has resulted in numerous fatal traffic accidents as well as severe health problems. According to a 2014 study by the World Bank, every year 20,000 people in Pakistan die as a result of air pollution-related issues. The figure is expected to rise in the following years if sufficient action is not taken. Smog is also aggravating the impacts of climate change.
Another dark side of the climate change issue is the depleting fishing bodies. Due to climate change, the water temperatures have risen which will result in reduced fish biodiversity, favoring warm-water species over cold-water ones. As northern fisheries are exclusively dependent on cold-water species such as Waziristan and Chush snow trout. Fishing provides a substantial income for many communities in Sindh and Punjab, so the predicted decline in fisheries will result in drastic sociological consequences.
On the bright side, as of the past decade, the issue of climate change is being taken seriously in Pakistan. Although Pakistan ratified the Paris Agreement (2016) and even introduced National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) in 2012, followed by a Framework for Implementation of Climate Change Policy (2014-2030), no substantial efforts had been made to curb the issue at hand. NCCP was successful in setting forth a road map for the identification of national factors and causes adding to the adversity of climate-related problem and offering possible solutions. It is also credited for the Billion Tree Campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that restored 350,000 hectares of forest land. The Framework for Implementation of Climate Change Policy (2014-2030) was introduced as a follow-up to the NCCP, it was meant to serve as a go-to document for local and provincial adaptation action plans. Furthermore, it introduced short-term and long terms plans, which have not been followed-up. The issue with both of these policies was in the implementation phase; lack of accountability and urgency.
However most recently, in 2017 the Climate Change Act was introduced as an effort to approve and oversee the implementation of mitigation and adaption policies. A separate body namely Pakistan Climate Change Authority (PCCA) was established to research and advise the government regarding legislative measures relating to climate change. The policies that this act introduced were: address the issue of climate change, meet Pakistan’s obligations under international conventions and agreements, and lastly give effect to the national climate change policy. The problem with this act was that while it did look good on paper, it falls embarrassingly short of introducing effective measures to enable change.
With all of the facts and figures laid out, Pakistan’s government has not been able to bring any significant change. We can never reverse the effects of climate change if the government is launching tree-planting drives and promoting coal simultaneously. Pakistan must fully switch to wind and solar energy, if we want long-lasting change. Another problem is that there are numerous policies to address the issue of pollution and climate change at large, but not enough accountability. These policies are almost never carried out due to corruption, lack of funding, and public interest.
However, we are still hopeful as environmental policies usually take some time to show their impact. After all, our economy and the livelihood of the people is directly dependent on the environment.
Hassan, Ayeda. “Climate Change Legislation in Pakistan – A Road to Nowhere” Courting the Law, November 19, 2018.
Hasnain, Sara. “What do fish have to do with climate change?” Tribune, June 18, 2010.
Rafay, Ahmad. “The Lahore smog isn’t Indian farmers’ fault alone. Pakistan should look within” The Print, November 19, 2019.
Jalil, Xari. “ENVIRONMENT: UNABLE TO BREATHE” Dawn, Jan 24, 2019.
“Climate Change and Its Impact on the Yield of Major Food Crops: Evidence from Pakistan” Foods 2017.
S. Khan. “Pakistan: Climate change, environmental problems put government in a bind” DW, September 8, 2020.