This decade is the decade of climate action, and it should be on an urgent basis. As the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has highlighted the rapidly closing window of the effectiveness of adaptation measures. According to the latest flagship report “State of Global Climate 2022” of the World Meteorological Organization, global temperature has risen 1.15°C above pre-industrial levels. The age of the Anthropocene pushed natural earth systems into the danger zone, according to The Earth Commission seven out of eight Earth system boundaries (ESBs) are out of safe and resilience limits.
The sustainability of Earth’s system and human well-being are directly linked, and yet this developed fact is generally under-recognized and surprisingly treated as non-seriously when it comes to climate justice.
These rapid changes to Earth’s system undermine critical life support systems, fossil fuel infrastructures put enormous pressure on the life support systems and put them on a trajectory that is moving rapidly away from the stable Holocene state of the past 12,000 years.
These changes are mostly driven by the social and economic gains which run on the unstainable resource extraction and consumption of natural resources. For example, tropical forests play a critical role in the hydrological cycle of local and regional precipitation, research confirmed that deforestation increases the loss of precipitation at a scale greater than 50 km. Normally the cost of loss and damage is estimated in monetary terms but indeed it is an ethical issue because climate change has already put 600 million people outside to “human climate niche”. Despite humongous pledges in the form of NDCs and states’ current policies, the world is still on the course of 2.7°C, and the latest research shows that the 1.5°C threshold will cross within the next 5 years. To limit global warming in line with the Paris Agreement, rapid and very wide global participation in GHG emissions reduction is required, and most importantly financial sustainability for the implementation of policies in a localized manner.
We are approaching the Earth’s tipping point because we are witnessing more permanent damage on a global scale, the conditions are grave and challenging. It is important to note that it is impossible to stabilize the current catastrophic change without protecting ecosystems. Forest is crucial for people and nature, not only they provide clean and fresh air to the native homes but also to the animals and other species. They are regulators of climate and protect life-giving natural system and resources, but world forest is under threat because only in the last decade 2011-21 global tree cover has decreased by 11%. Just like oceans, forests are a sink of carbon emissions and the major driver is agriculture, mining, deployment of energy infrastructure, and development of transportation now the reason for concern is that they are also becoming sources of carbon rather than sink. If Power full nations (G7) ambitiously achieve all the set of targets by 2030 which include long-term pledges, 2°C is still expected later this century.
Climate change directly affects the human rights for the livelihood of homo sapiens, while the elite is moving towards disaster buyouts. Housing, food, sanitation, security, and development of people living in poverty, migrants, persons with disabilities, minorities, marginalized women, and indigenous people are directly impacted by extreme weather events like the biblical floods of 2022 in Pakistan.
It’s a developed fact that Pakistan is facing the compound impacts of the climate crisis.
Only in 2022, Pakistan faced a heavy snowstorm of 16.5-inch snow on 7-8 January at the hilly station Murree costing multiple deaths. Extreme strong winds caused 81 events of 30-60 Knots at different plain weather stations. Six heatwaves with above-average temperatures of 8°C to 12°C in the pre-monsoon period (annual national mean temperature 0.84°C above normal) making it 5th warmest year in the last 62 years. Record-breaking rain which triggers floods, impacted 33 million people and displaced 7.9 million with 1739 people dying with $15 billion in economic losses. Daytime temperature shots to 41°C-47°C during March in the south of Pakistan which includes Sindh, Balochistan, and south Punjab. During the peak of heatwaves maximum temperatures reached 50°C at Dera Ghazi Khan (south Punjab) and 51°C at Jacobabad (Sindh), it’s important to note that 60°C is the limit of life itself beyond this temperature no life can sustain. Heatwaves also impacted north Pakistan, in June Gilgit, Bunji, Chilas, and Chitral were exposed to 42°C-47°C. Pakistan MET department quoted 32 sites that broke the record of the highest maximum temperature, and 25 sites broke records only in March 2022.
In 2022 geographically Pakistan was exposed to record-breaking rainfall, according to MET total rainfall was 77% above the average for the last 50 years containing 526.9 mm (the 1961-2010 average was 297.6 mm). Provincially Sindh and Balochistan were predominantly impacted by above-average precipitation, Sindh with at +331%, Balochistan at +156%, Punjab at +45% then GB at +14%, and KP at -2%.
The country has experienced onset events and vibrant weather patterns which include increased frequency and intensity of tropical storms and coastal rains, loss of biodiversity, glacier retreats, and desertification. All of this has impacts on the vulnerable as mentioned above because they are directly dependent on agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and forests.
Just like Pakistan most developing countries are focusing on a bottom-up approach in which they are working on resilience, recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction framework (4RF). The priorities are implementation and monitoring but due to the economic and political unpredictability in the developing world, it’s difficult to achieve targeted goals. Critically long-term resilience needs transformational measures that would take multi-generational monitoring and evaluations. Most importantly it’s a test of governance and the capacity of state institutions to restore the lives and livelihoods of the affected people, specifically marginalized communities because climate refuges and migrations are in increasing trend.
Global problems need local solutions, for example, climate could be tackled through community-led, ecosystem-based adaptation in the long term while in the near-term developing countries are working on data-driven support systems such as strengthening meteorological monitoring, early warning systems, and increasing technical capacities of managemental agencies at federal and provincial levels.
Climate justice is a central part because planetary diagnosis by IPCC, WMO, and The Earth Commission is horrible but not yet beyond hope, debt cancellation with regular financial grants and technological transfer can save countries like Pakistan from conflicts and degradation.
So that it would be possible for them to sustain financial management for restoration of loss and damages.
The author is working as an “Assistant Research Officer – Climate change” desk in the “Strengthening regional climate resilience” program at the Institute of Regional Studies. He is an expert in Climate change and Renewable energy. He can be reached at Environmentalist.firstname.lastname@example.org.