Friday, January 27, 2012

The rising cost of climate change

From: DawnNews ByAnish Alavi

In Pakistan, 3.57 billion dollars need to be spent in the coming 18 years to deal with the affects of climate change. —File image

In Pakistan, 3.57 billion dollars need to be spent in the coming 18 years to deal with the affects of climate change. — Photo by Amir Patni

Pakistan, Guatemala and Russia have been the countries worst hit by climate change in the recent past, with thousands of lives lost to extreme weather events.

In addition to being the worst-affected, the poor developing countries hit by climate change have had the least amount of responsibility towards causing these catastrophes. While earth’s climate has been evolving continuously over the last millennium, the last two centuries have seen unprecedented threats to climate change.

Located in the sub-tropics and partially in temperate regions, Pakistan’s southern tip hits the Arabian Sea and at its northern end are the Great Himalayas. Climatologically, most parts of Pakistan are arid to semi-arid with significant spatial and temporal variability in climatic parameters. Fifty nine per cent of the annual rainfall which occurs in the country is due to the monsoon rains.

The northern region is dominated by the mountains where climate is ranging from humid to arid. Below the north, tropical continental climate prevails. The Greater Himalayan region receives winter precipitation mostly in the form of snow and ice, and the melting snow keeps the rivers flowing through out the year.

The coastal climate of Pakistan is restrained to a narrow strip along the coast in the south and south east. However, as large numbers of residents dwell in low coastal areas or near the river delta where sea level rise and flooding are frequent, Pakistan has to suffer a great loss every year.

At a recent seminar held at Karachi’s NED University, “Climatic change and its impacts especially on Pakistan” was highlighted and experts discussed climatic change in Pakistan.

Discussing the subject of ‘Biodiversity in Pakistan,’ WWF Pakistan Director and team leader Rab Nawaz that while an average number of 20-25 new species are found every year, world is also losing five species per year. Some of these species, which are found in Pakistan include: The species which he highlighted were:

  1. Himalayan Monal: Found in Gilgit and Skardu regions, these live on glaciers and have a vibrant colour but due to the depletion of the glaciers, this species seems to be disappearing in the recent past.
  2. Indus Blind Dolphin: These are found in the Indus River up until the border of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The recent droughts have increased the death-rate amongst this species.
  3. Green turtle: Pakistan is known for the unique breeding beaches of the green turtle, but due to the variation in the temperature of the climate, they are also vanishing.

Meanwhile, Professor Imran Ahmed highlighted water-related issues being faced worldwide. “In Bangladesh,” he said “the harvesting season is usually hit by droughts and by the time the season is over, monsoon rains begin, which affects the agriculture sector.”

In other parts of the world, Zimbabwe is also hit by drought on a regular basis, whereas in the UK, frequency of floods has been increasing along with comparatively warmer summers.

In Peru, warmer regions are moving towards the colder regions and cold regions are moving towards the warmer ones.

Elaborating on the subject of climate change, Ahmed said that weather is the state of an atmosphere while climate is the weather persistent for 20-30 years.

He argued that it is not global warming alone that is pushing the world towards climatic catastrophe, adding that climatic change is impacting on air pollution, and it increasing health risks, decreasing the crop yields and affecting the bio-diversity.

Ahmed noted that while on one hand scientists complain about depletion of glaciers, on the other hand they claim an increase in the number of glaciers in the north.

The last speaker was Mohammad Ahsan Siddiqui, who is Assistant Professor in Environmental department at NED University and he spoke on cost of climate change in Pakistan.

He said that according to a World Bank report on Pakistan, $3.57 billion need to be spent in the coming 18 years to deal with the affects of climate change.

According to statistics, Siddiqui said that around 23 per cent of Pakistan’s land area and 50 per cent of the entire population is vulnerable to the climatic change related disasters.

According to the Lancet Volume 376, September 25, 2010, crop damages due to the flood in Pakistan in 2010 require $1 billion to be spent.

Referring to the future predictions, he claimed that more floods, droughts, severe heat waves are predicted and that $5.75 billion would be required to deal with these disasters.

He stressed that creating awareness, preparing for natural disasters and the interpolation and extrapolation of data predicting and correlating events would help minimize the cost impact.

Closing the event, NED University’s Vice Chancellor Abdul Kalam said, “we will die one day, but if we did not do something regarding to the climatic change, the coming generations will not forgive us”.

The writer is an assistant multimedia content producer at Dawn.com.

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