Impacts of climate change on food security

THE ISSUE of climate change is the priority in current global debate. The scientific evidence is enormous, however, the social impacts of climate change and how peoples lives will change is still in its early stages. The fact remains that our climate has already changed, and thus countries have to deal with the consequences.

Climate-related events do not automatically translate into disasters. It is the overall level of vulnerability and capacity that will determine if societies can adapt to climatic changes and therefore suffer fewer losses associated with extreme weather events. Thus it is very important to understand how peoples lives and livelihoods will change as a result of climate change, do people have the capacities to adapt to changing weather conditions and what will be the impact of this additional risk on those who already are confronted with natural disasters. Risks associated with climate change increase communities exposure to poverty, hunger, disease, mortality and displacement.

These risks are more disastrous for the communities that are already at risk to frequent natural hazards and have vulnerabilities that will expose them more to the impacts of climate change. In contrast to well-known single hazard events (e.g. floods, earthquakes), climate change is a multi-hazard phenomenon. Addressing climate change and its consequences therefore requires a multi-hazard approach, which implies focusing on different hazards and on different vulnerabilities simultaneously. The likelihood that there would be extreme weather events in the future, areas that are prone to droughts might experience flash floods is a new quality of risks posed by climate change. Pakistan is a disaster prone country and is frequently exposed to natural hazards like floods, drought and cyclones.

These hazards when combined with the vulnerabilities in the shape of poverty, exclusion, inequality, inappropriate political decisions and actions make people more susceptible to the impacts of hazards. The agricultural sector is most vulnerable to climate change and variations in cropping and productivity as a result of weather changes can affect the poor rural communities of the country.

Thus, any decline in the sector in terms of shifts in production and price patterns will add to the vulnerabilities of the people. Government of Pakistans reaction to climate change debate needs to be more focused although the government has made international commitments to climate change by ratifying the Framework convention and the Kyoto Protocol. Additionally, the Ministry of Environment has taken the lead by forming a climate change cell, clean development mechanism strategy and a national committee (TAP), which is chaired by the prime minister. But the actual outcome from this newly created structure is yet to be seen. However, being one of the 16 member countries of the “Adaptation Fund Board” represents a unique opportunity to Government of Pakistan to play an active role in the global debate and negotiations on climate change.

This paper proposes to apply a disaster risk management framework with special emphasis on social vulnerabilities to help design adaptation strategies. The framework will identify measures that can be taken at the household, local, national and regional levels to cope with climate change impacts. The paper will undertake a research-based approach to analyze vulnerabilities of communities to climate change and their ability to cope and adapt. It is expected that the analysis and the research will lead to the following broad findings: The inclusion of climatic risks in the design and implementation of development initiatives is vital to reduce vulnerability and enhance sustainability.

Adaptation strategies must be developed locally, in tune with the needs and vulnerabilities of communities. Appropriate risk reduction measures like infrastructure and diverse livelihoods options reduce vulnerability of the people. The preparation of a NAPA (National Adaptation Plan for Action) for Pakistan is pertinent and can be used as a tool to highlight the issue of vulnerabilities and actions that can be taken to reduce peoples exposure to risks.

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