Monday August 29, 2022

Consequences of climate change scary

Consequences of climate change scary

Floods in Pakistan have hit a wide area of the country.

Pakistan has witnessed unprecedented higher rainfall in provinces like Sindh and Balochistan this year. The number of people who died in the flash floods, caused by the excessive rain has risen to more than a thousand people, and hundreds of thousands of others have been left homeless. International aid has been rushed from the United Arab Emirates, Turkiye and Qatar. But the fury of the monsoon has left experts in a state of shock. The last time there was excessive rainfall of this intensity was in 1994, and before that in 1961.

What is surprising is that the rainfall this year has been hundreds of times more than the average rainfall in Sindh and Balochistan.  In Sindh, the excess rainfall is 522 per cent and in Balochistan 469 per cent. According to the Department of Meteorology, Sindh has received 680.5 millimetres rain since July this year. And this is 522 per cent more than the average annual rainfall. The average annual rainfall in Sindh is 109.5 millimetres. In Balochistan, the average annual rainfall is 50 millimetres. But so far this year, Balochistan has received 284 millimetres of rainfall. And this is 469 per cent more than the average. Pakistan has received 207 per cent more rainfall this year.

Former director of the Department of Meteorology Ghulam Rasool says these are the effects of long term changes. He points to the increase in population as one of the reasons. He said, in 1951 every individual had access to 5,000 cubic metres of water. He says that has now been reduced to 851 cubic metres of water per head. He also observes the fact that spring has disappeared from the cycle of seasons in Pakistan. He days that there is now a sudden transition from bitter cold of the winter to the sweltering summer.

The extreme weather events, which have become common in the last few years, is indeed a signal of the fact of climate change. Many governments still refuse to accept the fact that climate change is a direct challenge as to how intend to manage our natural resources. The monsoon fury in Pakistan seems to display the characteristic of a 30-year cycle -- 1961, 1994, 2022 -- and it can be argued plausibly this could not be connected with climate change. But that would be a short-sighted response to the issue. As has been pointed out by weatherman Ghulam Rasool, there is a perceptible shift in the change of seasons, with harsh winters followed by harsh summers, gradually squeezing out the space for the gentle spring. He has also shown the reduction of the water available per individual, from 5000 cubic metres in 1951 to 851 cubic metres in the present day.

Though governments have been formulating climate change policies in the past 20 years of the 21st century they seem to be inadequate responses. And in developing countries like in Pakistan, there is inadequacy of funds as well as technology to cope with the challenge of climate change.

It can also be seen that climate change does not impact countries and people separately. What is happening in Pakistan is intimately connected with similar developments in Afghanistan and parts of eastern Iran. It would require common policies cutting across national boundaries. What is missing then is the regional approach. Each country, each government is preparing its own climate change response in isolation. There is the other extreme of formulating global policies at the level of the United Nations Organisation (UNO), which sound grand but they do not relate to ground reality. What is needed is a regional approach, cutting across national boundaries.

The natural regional grouping in the case of Pakistan seems to be that of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran as far as climate patterns in the western provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan are concerned. Similarly, towards the Punjab in the eastern part of the country, India and Pakistan will have to form a regional grouping.


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