No More If And But

With the speed with which global warming is increasing, there are quite a few predictions regarding climate change that may change the global scenario.

By Abdullah G Arijo

After watching the film “Day After Tomorrow”, I read a comment, “While most of The Day After Tomorrow is safely in the realm of science fiction, there is some real science to back up concerns about potentially irreversible changes in our climate within a couple of decades that would affect our communities, health, infrastructure, and ecosystems

This comment was surprising and mind-shaking. The movie The Day After Tomorrow is loosely based on the theory of “abrupt climate change.” The plot of the movie is that, because of global warming, ocean currents that circulate water around the world shut down, heating up the tropics and cooling the North Atlantic. The result is a catastrophic storm and a dramatic change in the global climate.

In the movies, abrupt climate change can happen practically overnight. But when scientists talk about abrupt climate change, they mean climate change that occurs over decades, rather than the usual centuries. And it seems as if that decade has started. Pakistan experienced un-precedence rain and flood in 2022 and predictions are that the situation will be worst in days to come.

Today’s daily Dawn has published a concern saying “even as the government prepares to make a case for climate justice at the UN climate conference (COP27) that starts today (Sunday), an alarming new United Nations report predicts that Pakistan’s average annual temperature will increase to 22.4 degrees Celsius within the next decade and a half and would cross the 26oC threshold by the end of the century. The report also warns that on average, the number of hot days in a year, i.e. when the temperature remains above 35 Celsius, will be 124 by the end of 2030, and this number will rise to 179 by the year 2099.

At 35 Celsius, the human body struggles to cool down through perspiration alone, hence raising the risk of death from overheating cannot be ignored.

The report further says “the Human Climate Horizons platform, a collaboration between the United Nations Development Progra­mme (UNDP) and the Climate Impact Lab, provides insights into the direction and magnitude of changes in the climate, like the number of extremely hot days each year and the impact of those changes on human welfare.

According to a UNDP press release, the new data shows the need to act qui­ckly, not only to mitigate climate cha­nge but also to adapt to its consequences.

“For instance, in Faisalabad, Pakistan, even with moderate mitigation, additional deaths due to climate change would average 36 per 100,000 people each year between 2020-2039. Without substantially expanding adaptation efforts, Faisalabad could expect annual climate change-related death rates to nearly double, reaching 67 deaths per 100,000 by mid-century. An increment almost as deadly as strokes, currently Pakistan’s third leading cause of death,” the statement says.

 

The latest warnings corroborate findings and concerns that have been raised by local experts over the past several years, who have long been insisting that climate change is no longer an approaching challenge, rather it is “happening right now”.

“In the very recent past, the Pakistan Meteorological Depart­ment (PMD) conducted thorough research for an international organization, which should also have set alarms bell ringing,” says a former director of the Climate Data Processing Centre. There is also mention of the findings of a previous study, which suggested that Pakistan has warmed considerably since the early 1960s, with more warming witnessed in daytime maximum temperatures than in night-time minimum temperatures.

There are reports revealing that the annual mean temperature has risen for the country by 0.74°C over the last 58 years by 2019, which is quite alarming. The change in the mean temperature has been accompanied by a large increase in extreme temperatures. Since 2011, the number of extreme heat records being set in Pakistan has increased significantly. The frequency of very warm months (May-August) has also increased manifold over the recent decade.

While high-temperature extremes have increased significantly, low-temperature extremes are less frequent, the report says. The observation supplements a warning in the latest UN reports, which predict that Hyderabad in Sindh is likely to become the hottest city in the world by the year 2100, with its highest average temperature reaching 29.9°C to 32°C. It is expected to outrank Jacobabad, Bahawal­nagar, and Bahawalpur by that time.

Although it was the disastrous monsoon that put the climate challenges facing Pakistan in the spotlight this year, meteorologists believe there are several other elements that complicate the situation, not all of which can be blamed on large polluters in the technologically advanced countries, what we call West.

The report further mentions that the former PMD director-general said that “the climatic phenomenon we are currently witnessing is part of a series of events that began some time ago. For instance, he said, spring in Pakistan has almost been eliminated. “We didn’t see spring this year. After a very harsh winter, we jumped straight into a very severe summer, with one heat wave after the other hitting even rural areas.”

What exacerbates the situation is the growing population and fast-shrinking space for a better and environment-friendly ecosystem. “The population is growing so fast that our agricultural land is being used for urban settlement and construction. You can gauge the severity of the issue from the fact that in the year 1951, 5,500 cubic meters of water were available in Pakistan for one person. That has now shrunk to 850 cubic meters,” he said. (Courtesy Daily Dawn)

There are a number of potential “tipping points” in the Earth’s climate system – when a threshold could be crossed, resulting in a substantial change. The National Research Council report Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises identifies potential abrupt changes in the ocean (which could result in rising sea levels and influence ocean circulation), the atmosphere (which could increase the frequency and intensity of extreme events), at high latitudes (including loss of Arctic sea ice), and ecosystems (species shifts, extinctions, and rapid state changes as reports  “The Centre for Climate and Energy”.

If this is not given due concentration, and long-term planning policies are not prepared to address the issue, we may not have enough time to struggle for its existence.