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Climate Change: The future is not like the past…

By Huzefa Muhammad

At a recently held conference at a local hotel in Karachi, entitled ‘Conference on Climate Change’ the impact of a changing climate for Pakistan can no longer be ignored. Experts, environmentalists and other key stakeholders present at the conference highlighted the need for Pakistan to develop a fully sustainable climate policy to ensure among other things: food security. The warning signs are being felt worldwide as more and more people realize the risks involved are systemic.

Dr Bruce McCarl, an eminent professor of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University, cautioned during his keynote address that the government of Pakistan should put more importance on protecting its agricultural sector, due to Pakistan’s sensitivity to climate change. The conference, which was organized by Habib University, stressed the critical need to integrate climate change adaptation into the national climate policy. Dr. Mc Carl said, “…Impacts on regional food supplies in low latitude regions could amount to large changes in productive capacity and significant economic hardship”, he pointed that, “…climate change influences prices, acreage and market signals. Market-level supply increases or decreases induce behavioral responses that mitigate impacts projected by biophysical changes alone.” Dr. Bruce McCarl is a Nobel Peace Prize participant through the award presented to the United

Nations Intergovernmental Panel (IPCC). He shared the Nobel Peace Prize for climate change in 2007 with a team of scientists for their efforts to "build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.

Reports prepared by the World Bank were also highlighted at the conference and climate change experts warned Pakistan of the existence of five serious risks that are directly related to climate change. Those include rise in sea level, glacial retreats, floods, higher average temperature and higher frequency of droughts. These raise major challenges for current and future decision-making and have a significant impact on the economy, agriculture, water resources and urban management. Experts warned that the country incurs financial losses of $5.2 billion annually as a result of environmental degradation.

The speakers also pointed out that Pakistan had already experienced devastating floods and droughts. The erratic weather patterns are a relatively new phenomenon but the term 'climate change' was neither widely acknowledged nor completely understood in Pakistan. In fact, the idea of global warming and climate change is still seen as a global issue and policy makers and stakeholders in Pakistan have been unable to communicate the severity of its impact to the masses.

Global Changes Impacts Studies Agriculture section head Dr Muhammad Mohsin Iqbal said that, “…climate change is a big threat to the country’s various socio-economic sectors, including agriculture where the projected impacts of climate change on agriculture include a decrease in harvest quantity as well as quality.” Dr. Iqbal was of the opinion that the livestock sector was also negatively impacted by these changes. Professor at the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany Dr Ilan Chapay said that the changes in the climate and ecology are a serious challenge on many levels including geographic and governance levels. “These challenges cannot be solved by natural science or technology alone,” he said. “We need the full depth of traditional disciplinary expertise coupled with new modes and technologies.”

Addressing the topic of ‘Role of Academy in Climate Change’, Dr Shoaib Zaidi of Habib University said that it is crucial for all concerned to accurately understand ‘climate change’ its root causes and impacts. “It is indisputable that studying climate changes should be an important priority,” he added. “To advance our knowledge and awareness of these critical issues requires scientific rigor as well as the appreciation that the world is interconnected.”

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