By: MUHAMMAD ABDULLAH WARRAICH

Sleep-walking into a nightmare


A recent report claims that Pakistan lies in a geographical region where rise in temperature is expected to be higher than the rest of the world. Currently, Pakistan ranks 7th on the list of countries that are most affected by climate change; the danger that was only a prediction now surfaces as a real threat to Pakistanís existence


With over 70 thousand dead and almost $118 billion lost in a war against reckless hate, many in Pakistan mistakenly believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to their existence. They fall in this delusion that the worst is happening and will, in time, pass; and what could possibly be worse than the worst, they think to themselves. Of course, nothing trumps what is already the limit; which is why it is important to understand that the greatest challenge that Pakistan confronts is not terrorism, even with the menace that it associates, it is climate change.

Amid NASAís daunting reports on the significant rise in world temperature, global warming has become a fact that many nations adhere to. Sixteen of the first seventeen years of the 21st century were the warmest since 1880, when modern temperature record keeping began. The year 2016 was the warmest and the third consecutive year that reached a record temperature. With the world warming at an unprecedented rate, it becomes desperately imperative for the policymakers in Pakistan to discern the impact that climate change may have on peopleís lives.

A recent report claims that Pakistan lies in a geographical region where rise in temperature is expected to be higher than the rest of the world. Currently, Pakistan ranks 7th on the list of countries that are most affected by climate change; the danger that was only a prediction now surfaces as a real threat to Pakistanís existence.

Hosting the junction of the Himalayas, Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges and home to over 5,000 glaciers, Pakistan has more glacial ice than anywhere on earth outside the poles. Many individuals and organisations around the world, with genuine understanding of the science behind climate change, have been busy sharing their two cents on the matter, giving special attention to Pakistan. The UN science body, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is one of the more credible sources in this regard. They came up with a harrowing report on the situation of glaciers in Pakistan, stating that by 2030, glacial ice in the country will vanish. Refuted a year later, this report was greatly criticised and most of the members of the IPCC disowned the prediction. Joining heads again, members of the panel in various interviews reiterated their previous claim, with a pinch of modification; thus, giving a few more decades to the pleading lumps of ice.

Even if the glaciers do get a few more years from the worldly judges of natureís faith, it promises no respite to the Pakistanis, especially those living in the Northern areas. See, people do believe that the glaciers will last longer than recently predicted, but that does not mean that they have stopped melting more rapidly than before. This should be alarming for the residents of the mountainous regions because when ice melts and flows down the slope, it picks up speed with distance that it covers. This results in extraordinary floods, called Ďflash floodsí. Adding insult to injury to the locals, these floods are compensated with rain. This leads to another problem that too is associated with a change in climate; monsoon rains have become more intense in the North than they were before.

Monsoon normally emanates from the moisture swept over India and the Bay of Bengal. Rains open up in the East before migrating Northwest; they dissipate as they reach Islamabad before dying in Afghanistan. According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), over the last three decades, the centre of Pakistanís monsoon has shifted to the Northwest. This makes it almost impossible for the riverbanks to contain water, especially when both intense rain and fast melting glaciers reinforce each other.

The floods in 2010 were among the worst natural disasters in the history of Pakistan. They began in late July, emanating from areas in KP. Thousands of lives were lost and millions were left without food or water. $16.8 billion from the national exchequer were utilised to restore the damage caused by the floods.

The water then came cascading down and sank Punjab. But when it entered the plains, the flood water lost much of its vigour, mainly because it had more width to spread out on. More than 10 million tonnes of food was lost as thousands of acres submerged in water. Despite this, the great threat that climate change poses to Punjab is not the havoc that floods may wreck. Fed by five rivers, the province which is considered the breadbasket of the country will fare worse with the drying up of these rivers.

This drying is directly linked to the retreat of glaciers, something that is already happening. The PMD recently constituted a team to examine the effect of global warming on the glaciers of Pakistan. Focusing mainly on the Karakoram Range, the team concluded that the glaciers had already melted more than they were expected to.

It is important to note that 75 per cent of the water in the Indus River comes from glacial ice; the rest comes from rain. With the frightening predictions of various science bodies, in light of the abnormal rise in temperature, it seems as if the great Indus is taking its final breaths. But considering the significance of Indus for Pakistan, a mainly agrarian economy, it could be said that with the Indus, Pakistan too could be taking its final breaths. But death in such morbid circumstances is seldom peaceful. As the glaciers wither away, catastrophe will be prolonged and tormenting. First, the ice will melt and cause massive flooding throughout the year. This would destroy crops and leave the entire country food insecure. After floods subside and water is flushed away into the Arabian Sea, droughts will follow. With climate change, hunger and disease will ultimately be succeeded by the inevitable: death. Could there be a worse way to go?

Source: https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk