Climate change: ‘Average global temperature has increased by 0.7oC’
KARACHI: The average temperature of the world has increased by 0.7 degree Celsius since the beginning of the 20th century and it may rise by 1.6 to 4.3 degrees by the end of the 21st century, said Karachi University (KU) vice-chancellor (VC) Professor Dr Muhammad Qaiser.
Dr Qaiser was addressing the local and international delegates gathered at the Sheikh Zayed Islamic Centre at KU for the inaugural ceremony of the four-day 14th national and 5th international conference of the Pakistan Botanical Society (PBS), which is hosting botanists from more than 10 countries. The theme of the conference is, ‘Climate Change and Phytodiversity: Challenges and Ppportunities’.
Explaining the topic, Dr Qaiser, who is also a president of PBS, explained that this year’s topic is very pertinent as the climate is changing due to unlimited burning of fossil fuel and greenhouse emissions, which results in global warming. “A changing climate means changing of habitat, threatening vulnerable species consequently, which leads to their extinction,” he added. He said that humans and biodiversity face new challenges for survival due to climatic changes in the world.
“We are facing more increased heatwaves, intense drought, storms, floods, melting of glaciers and warming of oceans,” he said, citing some recent examples. All these changes are harming animals, plants and wreak havoc on livelihoods and communities due to decrease in agricultural yield, diseases and decrease in water supply. “There will be acute shortage of fresh water in the years to come,” he predicted, according to some studies.
Addressing the young delegates of the conference who were mostly students of botany, Dr Qaiser said that Pakistan is among the 12 countries that are directly affected by climate change issues. “Pakistan has witnessed devastating floods and unprecedented heatwave last year, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 people,” he said.
Pakistan is a land of variation and contrast and no other country in the world of its size has this much variation in topography, he said. “We have some of the highest peaks of the world and our altitude varies from zero to 8,611 metres,” said Dr Qaiser. “At present, 6,500 vascular plant species are recorded from Pakistan and about seven to eight per cent of our flora is endemic.” He explained why a joint effort is needed to save these natural treasures for our future generations. “Our survival depends on biodiversity and balanced ecosystems,” he added.
Encouraging the students to work in the field of botany, Dr Qaiser said, “Such conferences provide an excellent platform for exchanging ideas, sharing knowledge with each other. Particularly, our young scientists will be greatly benefited by the experience and knowledge of their seniors and the scientists coming from abroad.”
Unesco senior programme officer Dr Miguel Clusener-Godt was thankful for the hospitality by the Pakistani people as it was his first visit to the country. “Pakistan is one of the founding members of Unesco and one of the most active members to date,” he said. “There are 651 biosphere reserves in 120 countries.” In his PowerPoint presentation, he emphasised on the immediate actions that needed to be taken, considering the environmental issues like floods and increasing temperatures.
National and international scientists were also present on the occasion, including former KU VC and senior botanist Professor Dr Syed Irtifaq Ali, Pakistan Science Foundation chairperson Professor Dr Muhammad Ashraf and ecological science advisor of Unesco, Dr Benno Boer.