It appears as though war has been successfully thwarted and with it mutually assured destruction. And yet not many would feel that this is the most opportune time to talk about the other existential crisis that is engulfing the region – and indeed the world.
Last month, US President Donald Trump sent out a sceptical tweet – amidst a cold snap in the country –about global warming. Outrage naturally ensued, but what if somebody told the US president that 2019 might actually be the hottest year ever recorded in history?
Some countries face more of an existential crisis owing to climate change than others. Pakistan happens to be in the most vulnerable top 10, according to the 2018 Global Climate Index. It also happens to be among those countries that are contributing the least to global warming – while paying the highest cost.
Pakistan’s industry is not large enough to contribute significantly to global warming. Globally, Pakistan accounts for less than 1 percent of the total greenhouse emissions.
From 1950 to 2010, Pakistan, particularly southwest Pakistan, experienced annual average temperatures rise in the range of 1 degree Celsius to 3 degrees. These are regions with negligible greenhouse emissions.
Pakistan’s geography means global temperatures for the region rise faster than other parts of the world. While those in rural areas struggle to move to relatively cooler parts of the country, those in urban areas struggle with the precipitously rising utility bills.
In 2017, 1,800 people were displaced in Sindh alone due to the conditions that had arisen due to global warming. This overlapped with the hottest months, amidst skyrocketing costs of electricity along with its shortages. At least 65 people lost their lives during the heatwave in Karachi last year, counting only the reported cases.
According to Oxfam, between the years 1997 and 2016, Pakistan experienced 141 natural disasters occurring primarily due to climate change. This resulted in a cumulative economic loss of over $3,816.82 million. The loss of lives over the years averaged to over 500 a year. Again, all of this in a country that has been contributing less than 1% of global warming in the world.
In the year 2015, the US contributed at least 15.53 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. In comparison, Pakistan’s carbon dioxide emissions stood at 0.9 metric tonnes.
Even if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, by 2100, 36 percent of the glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region would disappear. At the current rate, however, this depletion will be much quicker and will dent a number of rivers in Asia.
If the EU manages to cut carbon emissions and gradually transition into a low carbon economy, it will reap significant benefits, a report by Cambridge Econometrics European Jobs Monitor says. By 2030, if the goals are met, the EU can experience a 1.1 percent increase in its GDP while unemployment is likely to fall by 0.5 percent.
At the same time, China too will experience similar results by cutting back on carbon emissions. It is likely to see a 4.7 percent increase in GDP and a 2.3 percent increase in employment.
The only country that is likely to lose from cutting back on carbon emissions is the US which is expected to see a 3.4 percent decrease in its GDP and a 1.6 percent increase in unemployment.
Currently, Pakistan is in dire need of intervention at an international level so that the economies responsible for the devastation that is happening in the country are held responsible for it. Since this is a matter completely out of the country’s own control, it cannot be resolved unless the world unites with the aim to do so. For that, the biggest contributors of greenhouse gasses need to be held accountable.
And so, this too happens to be a war that the region, and the world needs to fight collectively, with everyone on the same side. Because here too everyone loses, and everyone is under mortal threat.