The heat this summer is not unique to Pakistan. People around the world are beginning to feel the effect of climate change in the form of a blazingly hot 2016. We already know that temperatures in a number of cities in Pakistan will soar above 50C. In Canada, extreme heat has contributed to a major forest fire. The heatwave in neighbouring Delhi shows little signs of respite. For now, we can turn to science for an answer. The last month was apparently the hottest April in recorded global history. The six months preceding it also broke temperature records. This temperature increase is at least 1C more than that recorded in 1951-80. The reality is that climate change is impacting our lives in the here and now – not the distant future. The damage to the earth’s environment caused by rapid industrialisation and the emissions of greenhouse gas are now beginning to show. Scientists say that this hardly a surprise. The rapid increase in global temperatures also puts into question whether the 1.5C temperature increase target set in the Paris climate change conference last year is actually achievable. Some say that even if emissions were stopped today, it would be difficult to reach the said target.
Data confirms that the last 150 years in global history have seen a constant increase in temperatures around the world. According to the World Bank, climate change puts 1.3 billion people and economic activity worth $158 trillion at risk. What is needed right now is action to counter the effects of climate change and to ensure we don’t contribute further to damaging the earth. And this action has to be now – not after the five-year period it is predicted for the Paris climate change deal to get into motion. The tragedy is that short-term policies continue to dominate our thinking. If the weather gets hotter, we turn on more air conditioners. More air conditioners require more power, which is usually generated via fossil fuels. On the flip side, climate change denial continues to get more supporters. US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has already said he would renegotiate the Paris climate change deal. This is hypocritical. Most of the effects of climate change are being borne by developing countries, whose carbon emissions remain far lower than the developed world. This is why richer countries will need to bear the brunt of the cost of fighting climate change. It is they who are responsible. However, at our own end, there is much that we can do. Re-forestation and bringing back green space into our cities and villages would be a much needed start as we attempt to mitigate climate change effects.