Global warming and its impacts in Pakistan
The term global warming means increase in greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a natural process by which the earth holds some of the energy of sunrays, and utilizes it to warm it enough to sustain life on it. The human activities like burning of fossil fuels, excessive smoke discharges from factories and the depletion of forests have led to an increase in the concentration of the greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, in the earth’s outer atmosphere which are responsible for trapping excessive heat inside the environment and thus increasing the overall temperature of the earth, leading to the phenomenon of global warming. Global warming has emerged as one of the major threats to our planet in this century. It has been proved that due to the increase of the greenhouse gases in our outer atmosphere, the earth’s temperature has warmed by 0.74°C over the last 100 years, leading to floods, famines, droughts and cyclones among other natural disasters. The major part of the Pakistani land is dry and barren, mainly because of the great variability in the climatic parameters. The major water resource of Pakistan is the melting snow from the Himalayan glaciers, as well as the heavy monsoon rainfalls.
Although Pakistan itself contributes very little to the overall emissions of the greenhouse gases, yet it remains one of the most severely hit countries of the world by the process of global warming. Global warming has affected the climate of Pakistan in the form of melting of glaciers, recurrent flooding, and droughts.
Pakistan’s economy has been crippled heavily by devastating and repetitive floods during the last decade. In the past 10 years, Pakistan has been hit by floods almost every year. The flood of 2010 remains as one of the biggest tragedies in the world’s history, with 20 million people affected by it. The floods resulted in approximately 1,781 deaths, injured 2,966 people and destroyed more than 1.89 million homes. Although nowhere near the 2010 flood, the 2011 flood also wreaked havoc, and affected 5.3 million people and 1.2 million homes in Sindh, as well as inundating 1.7 million acres of arable land.
A drought is a period of abnormally dry weather due to lack of rainfall. The chief characteristic of a drought is a decrease of water availability in a particular period and over a particular area. Pakistan’s economy has been punched heavily by the continuous spell of droughts for many years, particularly in the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh. The droughts in these areas have reduced the river flows, resulting in drying up of the irrigation canals, leading to a severe agricultural deprivation. It has also been responsible for causing immense losses to poultry and other animals, causing a general deficiency of food and water for people. The increased temperatures because of the increased greenhouse gases as well as a mismanagement of the water reservoirs need to be blamed for the condition.
As an ill effect of global warming, the annual mean surface temperatures in Pakistan have been steadily increasing during the past century. A rise in mean temperature of 0.6-10c in the coastal areas along with a 0.5 to 0.7% increase in solar radiation over southern half of country has been observed. In central Pakistan, a 3-5% decrease in cloud cover with increasing hours of sunshine has also been responsible for increasing the temperatures. The year 2010 broke all records as Mohenjo-Daro; a city in Sindh, faced the temperature of 53.50c, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Asia and the fourth highest temperature ever recorded in the world. The summer of 2010 caused a temperature of above 500c in twelve cities of Pakistan.
The erroneous activities of the humans have finally started to take a toll on the earth’s environment, leading to the formation of a volatile atmosphere, which is liable to be detrimental for the humanity itself in the form of unpredictable catalytic climatic events. The example of such recent events includes the ravaging droughts of 2006 in Australia and China and of 2011 in Texas, the floods of 2010 and 2011 in Pakistan and of 2012 in Spain, and the 2010 Northern Hemisphere summer which killed over 2000 people.
Pakistan, which is an already resource stressed country, has been crippled by the process of global warming, as the blatant floods and droughts continue to wreck the country’s economy. More than 10 million people have been displaced over the last two years, the agricultural land lies barren and financial losses have been estimated at $2 billion. Therefore, there is a growing consensus that steps will have to be taken to uproot the cause of these events. In addition to the formation of well thought flood and drought prevention policies, steps to reduce the overall emission of greenhouse gases have to be taken so that the planet Earth and its inhabitants can survive.