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Climate Change and Environmental Security

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IPRI Review

Climate Change and Environmental Security


Muhammad Mustansar Billah Hussain


1. Introduction

Globally, climate change is a matter of concern as it is having tremendous bearing on environmental security. Climate change and environmental security’s scope is broader and it affects all aspects of life from development to defence and from poverty eradication to political stability within and among the states. Pakistan is facing the wrath of climatic imbalance that has been created so far and continues to grow further. It is therefore important to consider the challenges associated with climate change and the resultant threats to environmental security.

2. Aim

To identify new challenges arising from climate change and analyzing their impact on environmental security emanating from climate change.

3. Objective

To put forward policy recommendations to secure Pakistan’s interests with regard to threats to environmental security.

4. Narrative

Historically, climate changes have impacted the development of civilizations and cultures. For Pakistan, the sudden demise of Harappan Civilization is a stark example of how lethal changes in the climatic order could be. The civilization came to an abrupt end due to changes in precipitation patterns and extremely low flow in Indus water system.

The current changes in the climate system are unprecedented in recorded history. These are also distinct as the major driver of these changes is human activity. As a result of industrialization, greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere has increased drastically which is causing a rise in surface and ocean temperatures. This rise is visible on all continents and oceans. The Arctic and glaciers’ ice is melting and causing the rise in sea level. This rise in sea level and the ocean surface temperature is disturbing precipitation patterns around the globe. Moreover, besides primary effects, there are potential secondary effects of such changes as well, e.g. water shortages could trigger inter-regional tensions and migrations from one state to another. All aspects of life are intractably linked to the climate and environmental developments.

Though Pakistan is among the least contributors of the greenhouse gases, it is among the most climate-affected countries in the world. The country was the most affected according to the Global Climate Index 2010 due to the historical floods. Pakistan has suffered cloudbursts, droughts, floods, heat waves with increased frequency and intensity in the last decade.

5. Issues

a. Climate change has vastly affected precipitation patterns in Pakistan. The country has suffered floods and drought years. Floods have affected a vast proportion of population of the country. Floods vulnerable population is a large part of the total, and relocating them in the time of crisis is not possible.

b. Pakistan is an agricultural country and therefore highly vulnerable to the impact of global warming. Increasing soil temperature has started lowering crop yields. There is not enough water storage capacity in the country, therefore the supplies of water in the sowing season depends upon adequate precipitation. Moreover, in the flood years, increased moisture in the atmosphere is also impacting the plants’ resistance to several crop diseases.

c. Though Pakistan has been highly affected due to climate change, it is among the least contributors to the problem. Therefore, there is not much margin for improving its practices with regard to CO2 emissions. Even if all CO2 emissions from Pakistan are stopped, it would have negligible impact on global carbon emissions. However, Pakistan should be cognizant of the issue while planning its industrialization into the next phase. If per capita CO2 emissions of Pakistan come at par with that of Russia, Pakistan’s share in global carbon emissions would rise to over 7 %. Therefore climate change mitigation should guide future industrial and energy sector development in Pakistan.

d. Adaptability is the key to meet the challenge of climate change and environmental insecurity. UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change has assessed that climate change would continue. Many environmental indexes have also listed Pakistan as a high risk country. Therefore, the importance of adaptation cannot be over stated.

e. Non-linear and cascading impact of climate change and environmental degradation, such as inter-provincial friction over water availability, poverty, developmental failure, food insecurity due to low yields and inadequate storage, conflicts and migration pose serious danger for future of developmental projects in Pakistan.

6. Summary of Discussion

a. Good governance is very important to meet the challenges of environmental security. Good governance is an imperative to accomplish the policy goals for mitigation and adaptation.

b. Community level drives to check malpractices such as deforestation etc. is necessary.

c. Climate change and environmental security could be an area of cooperation among regional countries.

d. Because the climatic changes are affecting crops yield, Pakistan should look for improved and weather resistant crops.

e. Government should launch programs to assist farmers in switching from flood irrigation to modern irrigation patterns such as drip or sprinkle irrigation.

f. To gauge true impact of climatic changes on the development projects, scientific studies should be conducted.

g. Pakistan’s share in global CO2 emissions is estimated to be merely 0.55 %, which is also very low in terms of per capita emissions.

h. With regard to climate change debate, there are three approaches: hawkish, middle, and dovish. Policy makers in Pakistan should give importance to what the middle approach describes.

i. Climate change policy was adopted in September 2012, which presents comprehensive roadmap. There are limits to Pakistan’s capacity with regard to mitigation, and therefore we should not be over enthusiastic.

j. Pakistan should seek compensation from the Green Climate Fund that has been established with US$ 300 million to compensate affected countries.

k. Pakistan should conduct its own studies with regard to glaciers melting.

7. Recommendations

a. Pakistan being a climate vulnerable country needs to give high importance to the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation. In this regard, Pakistan’s National Climate Change Policy 2012 has been a good effort. It is required that the policy should be implemented in letter and spirit.

b. Upgrading of Climate Change Division into a full-fledged ministry was a commendable step. However after the 18th Amendment, the Ministry at the national level has been again converted into Climate Change Division. In fact climate change is a global scale problem and needs global coordination. In this context, it is necessary that the Climate Change Ministry should be restored at the national level.

c. Though under the Climate Change Division there are several bodies such as National Disaster Management Authority, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency, Pakistan Environmental Planning & Architectural Consultants Ltd., Pakistan Environmental Protection Council, and Zoological Survey Department, adequate R&D funding is very necessary for these bodies to produce results.

d. In the Public Sector Development Program for Fiscal year 2013-14, allocation for combating climate change should be increased because the cost of environmental degradation has been growing fast over the years.

e. Implementation of Climate Change Policy is very necessary. In this regard, actions on public awareness, establishment of forestation clubs, correcting energy fuel mix, adaptation in agriculture sector etc. that had been recommended by the National Climate Change Policy are not visible. Experts opine that not a single target of the Policy has been achieved. This inertia must be broken to effectively meet the challenge.

8. Conclusion

Pakistan needs fast tracking efforts in mitigation and adaptation. In this regard, climate conscious agriculture, preparation to fight climate related calamities, general public awareness, and forestation campaigns could play important role. Pakistan also needs to more actively seek global cooperation to benefit from Green Climate Fund and receive mitigation and adaptation technologies. A climate change and environmental ministry at the national level would help in the implementation of National Climate Change Policy.


DISCLAIMER: These are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of either IPRI or any other Government institution.

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IPRI is one of the oldest non-partisan think-tanks on all facets of National Security including international relations & law, strategic studies, governance & public policy and economic security in Pakistan. Established in 1999, IPRI is affiliated with the National Security Division (NSD), Government of Pakistan.


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