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  • Writer's pictureDr. Farrukh Chishtie

Climate Change – A Greater Threat than Terrorism


Dr. Farrukh A. Chishtie

Sultan Kiani

The latest climate change report by the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) released in March 2023 warns us yet again to act swiftly and effectively against an existential, global threat facing all life on the planet.

"It was a late night, but I couldn’t sleep as it had continuously been raining for several hours. I was dreading something worse might happen”, Altaf Hussain, a Pakistani villager, told Turk news agency recalling that fateful rainy night. His nightmare came true soon when disaster struck; the floodwaters gushed through their small village near Ranipur located in Sindh province destroying everything! Within the following 4 hours, that small village was completely submerged under water. He should still consider being 'lucky’ as his family was saved by rescuers minutes before their house collapsed while more than 1700 ill-fated victims lost their lives during the last year’s monsoon floods. Altaf Hussain knows nothing about Climate Change; he probably doesn’t even know how it is threatening our planet. Nevertheless, he is one of the hundreds of thousands of 2022-Pakistan Floods victims facing homelessness. Overall, a shocking 35 million people were affected, and one-third of Pakistan was inundated!

Besides, Pakistan, Global Climate Change and Environmental Degradation are adversely affecting the entire world. We are experiencing severe heatwaves, more devastating floods in South Asia, terrifying tornados in Central America, deadly blizzards in Europe and North America, horrible hurricanes in coastal regions and drastic droughts in Africa. All these seemingly natural disasters are somehow linked with man-made climate change. Apart from this, environmental pollution; SMOG, water contamination and soil degradation are also worsening in poor and developing countries.

Climate Change is more damaging than Terrorism!

Considering the level of damage done by environmental pollution and greenhouse emissions-related disasters, it is safe and clear to say that climate change is even more threatening to humanity than terrorism!

However, it remains an underrated and overlooked issue. This is because when a terrorist attack happens anywhere in the world, it’d make global headlines freaking out people but thousands of premature deaths and debilitating illnesses silently happening every day and everywhere remain unnoticed. People losing their homes, animals, source of livelihood and property due to these disasters also remain hidden because these kinds of incidents don't make sensational and terrifying news headlines.

Unless we take immediate action, things are only going to get worse. Climate change is rapidly raising global sea levels due to massive glacial meltdowns. This would not only be devastating for those living in coastal regions, but it will also cause more damage to biodiversity, and intensify food and water insecurity. All these could exacerbate social inequality and injustice which could even lead to international wars.

Conversely, terrorism is a security problem that could be resolved with targeted measures, i.e. by improving intelligence networks, better law enforcement, and through dialogue. Terrorism in fact is a serious issue but climate change equally requires collective global efforts. We need to address the root causes and take long-term measures for a sustainable tomorrow.

Sweeping Environmental Issues under the Rug:

A key reason why some people, business owners, and governments do not take environmental issues seriously is that they fear potential negative financial and economic impacts. ‘Going Green’ sounds good but it might be expensive. For example, manufacturing industries in developing countries are the main point sources of pollution responsible for causing smog and poor air quality. They must be equipped with modern pollution control technology but the owners of many small-scale industries like brick kilns can’t afford the expensive equipment necessary for pollution control. The governments are also reluctant to enforce laws and provide financial and technical assistance to polluters for the same reason. Similarly, coal-fired plants could be a cheaper source of power generation where coal is easily available. So, the industrialists and authorities would agree to keep the polluting plants running despite knowing the fact that coal burning is bad for the environment and is only cheaper in the short term. Moreover, political issues and corruption also put this important issue on the back burner.

Nonetheless, sweeping environmental problems under the rug proves deadly in the long run. We need to create a balance between People, Planet and Profit; entirely ignoring the planet is causing irreversible damage which is also affecting public health and turning the profit we people make into a big loss!

Ignoring the social and environmental costs of development is not just bad for the environment and wildlife but it is just as detrimental for all of us.

Climate Change is real, and it affects us in so many ways: The amount of authentic and undeniable scientific research is enough to prove that human-induced climate change is a fact.

Recent research on Climate Change by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reveals that 2022 was the 5th warmest year. The Earth's average surface temperatures recorded last year were 0.89°C higher than the average for NASA's baseline period 1951-1980. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is seriously concerned. “Our warming climate is already making a mark: Forest fires are intensifying; hurricanes are getting stronger; droughts are wreaking havoc and sea levels are rising”, he said. Dr. Gavin Schmidt, director of GISS, NASA's leading center for climate modeling, also strongly believes that the reason for the warming trend is unchecked human activities emitting enormous amounts of greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere.

A 2022 Report on Global Climate by World Meteorological Organization confirms that the past 8 years are the 8 warmest on record. The report also uncovers that the rate of sea-level rise has doubled since 1993. A shocking increase of 10mm rise in sea-level has been observed since January 2020 which is a new record. This research is conducted by using advanced satellite imageries and data analyzed by scientists from over 60 countries across the globe.

AR5 Synthesis Report on Climate Change (2014) warned that continued GHG emissions at the current rate would cause severe natural disasters and called for limiting global warming by taking solid preventive measures. The latest AR6 Synthesis report released in March 2023 warns us that we only have a decade to act before climate change leads to irreversible damage to out ecosystems and ourselves!

Several research studies conducted by Japanese Environmental experts also verify the authenticity of global climate change and hence Japan has decided to become a ‘Carbon Neutral’ country by 2050!

Global Tension and Economic Crisis are adding Fuel to the Fire: The world is facing a crisis following Russia – Ukraine conflict. The impact of this war is not just confined to Eastern Europe but badly affects the entire world. European Union defense budget has surpassed €200 billion which is a new record. Military tension between Pakistan and India on the Siachen Glacier is another big example of how wars can destroy the environment. All this is making the bad situation worse. The use of weapons and energy in warfare and military drills is a big source of greenhouse gases. More funds for defense could mean lesser funding would be available for eco-friendly projects and public welfare. Additionally, rising food and fuel prices amid economic crises are not just affecting poor countries but also proving more damaging to the environment. Underprivileged people in developing countries are forced to use wood and coal for cooking and heating because of skyrocketing gas prices. All this leads to more deforestation, worse air quality and public health issues.

Sweeping our Own Door is Need of the Hour: Developing countries, like Pakistan, should also need to review their neglected roles. We cannot keep blaming global giants for causing climate change without addressing some of the basic environmental issues at home. Poor garbage disposal including hazardous waste management, unchecked water drilling and lax law enforcement are causing massive damage to the environment, public health, and local economy of low-income countries. Smog alone is responsible for numerous respiratory illnesses and premature deaths, road accidents and resultant economic loss. Pakistan is one of the lowest greenhouse emitters, but our metropolises still end up ranking as the top cities with the worst air quality index because of all these above-mentioned reasons. We seriously need to make and implement an effective and practical policy on environmental issues now like we formed a National Action Plan against Terrorism following Peshawar School Massacre in 2015.

We are moving backward: Unfortunately, the situation of several basic facilities like municipal garbage disposal in Pakistan has been regressed amid political and economic instability. Local Waste Management companies have reduced their service area and now the domestic trash is openly dumped and burned causing severe environmental and public health hazards. Law enforcement has become more pathetic, there are more unfit polluting vehicles emitting toxic smoke on the roads than ever before. All this happening because the authorities incompetent and they are understaffed lacking funds. Political unrest also is somehow responsible for these problems. More frequent power cuts are forcing people to use portable generators. Public transportation remains a neglected issue to date. Many cities do not even have a proper mass transit system. Other metropolises have an insufficient number of city buses with aging and overburdened fleet forcing citizens to use their vehicles causing more traffic jams and air pollution. Islamabad Bus Service is still facing delays. The long-awaited urban bus project for the Capital was supposed to be functional by March 2023 but CDA has failed to procure a single bus till now. Punjab Transport Company is also proving to be incompetent as they are still unable to revive bus service in Lahore, let alone in other cities of the province. Although Sindh Government has inducted some eco-friendly hybrid buses in Karachi and other cities, their coverage is very limited. Another issue with Sindh Government is the controversial Redline Bus Rapid Transit project. Over 20,000 trees may need to be slayed to complete this BRT line. And the project promising to provide eco-friendly commuting options to the citizens is facing long delays. It may take another 3 years before it becomes functional. Civil society and environmental activists are demanding a transparent Environmental Impact Assessment of the project to minimize deforestation and other damages.

Urgent Actions are Needed!

Climate Change is a serious threat that requires immediate actions at every level; from making effective global agreements and national policies to individual acts to preserve nature.

Global leaders and organizations need to prioritize climate change and formulate mitigation measures for governments, businesses, and individuals for a healthy and sustainable future. International treaties on climate change signed in the past have proven to be mere eyewash. Countries in the global North should first of all stop their fossil fuel emissions that is leading to climate. They should provide financial aid and soft loans to low-income countries to fix their environmental issues. Developed countries should also invest in these countries in renewable energy and pollution control technology. As multiple nations agreed on a 'War on Terror', they need to be on the same page again for climate change which is even more dangerous!

Politicians need to understand that we all share the same Earth which is the only livable planet in the universe. We must preserve our habitat at all costs. Other than bringing industrial and transport emission reforms, the world must also make efforts for conflict resolution. Ukraine's war must end now as it is taking a heavy toll on humanity and the environment. The Siachen glacier, the coldest battlefield between India and Pakistan, is melting down due to global warming. Keeping forces in this sensitive region is not only expensive but also detrimental to nature. Both countries should resolve this issue through dialogue.

National and Local Governments should incentivize industries and common citizens to go green. Renewable energy such as solar power should be promoted by providing subsidized equipment and tax benefits. Subsidized gas and electricity for underprivileged citizens could prevent further deforestation. The government should also encourage citizens to use energy-efficient appliances to cut energy bills as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Electric Vehicle policy should be rationalized in a way to gradually replace all high-emission vehicles causing SMOG. Installing biogas plants in rural areas could turn nasty cattle waste into useful fuel (methane gas). Similarly, governments should also focus on making and implementing sustainable agriculture policies to limit persistent toxic pesticide usage and promote eco-friendly alternatives such as Ecological Pest Management where natural predators are introduced in fields to control the pest population.

Educating citizens about the risks of environmental degradation and the benefits of sustainable living can also make a positive change. Environmental Science should be made a compulsory part of the school curriculum. Organizing practical activities i.e. tree plantation, clean up drive and energy conservation week could make our young generation more conscious about environmentalism. "Cleanliness is half of faith", religious scholars also need to play their role in educating their community about the importance of a clean and green environment.

And lastly, we also need to play our roles to minimize Individual Carbon Footprint. We can make a difference by taking these little steps because every drop counts!

- Conserve water and energy - Minimize disposable plastic usage - Prefer cycling & public transportation - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle! - Invest in energy-efficient electronics - Plant (and maintain) trees - Install Rainwater Harvesting at home - Don’t waste food - Keep your vehicles well maintained - Educate others about the Environment and Sustainability.

Did you know?

Climate Change Facts

  • According to IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report, the 2010s was the hottest decade in the last 125,000 years!

  • A 2019 study revealed that ocean waters absorbed up to 90% of the planet's heat produced between 1971 and 2010.

  • The world is losing ice cover at a rate of 1.2 Trillion tons/year which is responsible for raising average sea levels

  • If Global Warming continues at the present rate, some parts of Africa and Saudi Arabia could become unlivable in summer by the year 2100.

  • If we manage to slow down Global Warming, it might be possible to partially reverse its impacts; Earth's average temperature is likely to fall but it may take up to 1000 years before risen sea level drops to the previous position.

(Source: Earth.Org)

Electrifying Vehicles – What’s happening in the world?

  • European Union Parliament has decided to BAN the sales of new Internal Combustion Engine vehicles from 2035 in the entire continent.

  • Chinese Auto Manufacturer BYD has completely switched to EV production. No more ICE vehicles!

  • Mumbai city got Ashok Leyland Double Decker Electric buses in 2022. The Indian port city is planning to switch to electric public transportation to alleviate SMOG.

  • Thailand is the leading South East Asian country having a 60% share of Electric Vehicles in the region

  • Emirates Government is determined to replace the Dubai taxi fleet with electric vehicles by 2027.

Ayisha Siddiqa – TIMES Women of the Year 2023

This young woman of Pakistani origin became one of the ‘TIMES Women of the Year’ personalities for her activism. She became a Human Rights activist and Climate Justice Advocate after losing her both grandparents to cancer. She believes that they prematurely died because of unchecked environmental pollution. Ayisha is worried about climate change. She is actively engaged in a climate justice campaign. Her efforts are acknowledged by renowned global organizations.

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