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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Jan 22, 2013

Climate Change Regional approach, peace urged to meet challenges

Politicians
and experts called for regional approach and peace initiatives to meet the
growing threats to national security from climate change.

“Around
500 million people in South Asia live on the coastal belt and their livelihoods
will be destroyed if the sea levels rise,” Senator Mushahid Hussain said while
moderating a seminar.

He
said water has already emerged as a major source of tension between India and
Pakistan, and it is also a cause of strife between Pakistan’s provinces.

A
regional approach is needed to deal with the impact of climate change in South
Asia.

He
said environmental concerns have never received political ownership in
Pakistan, but promised he would try to make climate change a part of the
National Security Strategy and spur a debate on it in Parliament.

“If
water scarcity increases due to climate change, interprovincial harmony would
be further affected.”

Climate
change could pose a serious threat to national security because of its adverse
impact on socioeconomic conditions, said Shakeel Ahmad Ramay, a researcher at
the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) Climate Change Study
Centre.

He
was giving a lecture on climate change an national security at SDPI on Monday.
“Climate change is happening and it will put more pressure on the already
scarce resources in the country,” said Ramay. “People will be fighting over
water in the future.”

Climate
change has led to an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather
conditions, especially natural disasters, which would affect people’s
livelihoods and multiply existing threats such as food, water and energy.

Ramay
said that according to the Food Security report for 2009, prepared by SDPI,
48.7% of the population was food insecure. He said the number is estimated to
have grown by 10% immediately after the 2010 floods.

“Climate
change will further affect productivity, with an estimated 2.5 to 5% reduction
in food production by 2030,” Ramay said.

The
degrading conditions could create national security problems, he said.

 

Ramay
said the most food insecure districts in Pakistan — including Dera Bugti 
and Upper Dir — are also the most “troubled” districts in terms of violence and
conflict. But correlation does not prove causation, and Ramay acknowledged that
the conflicts in these areas may be the cause of food insecurity, rather than
the effect.

Ramay
gave the example of the Siachen glacier to show that security intervention may
also result in climate change. The glacial melt has been exacerbated by black
carbon emissions from trucks, helicopters and cooking done for military
outposts on Siachen.

The
Gyari avalanche in 2012, which took the lives of 139 Pakistani soldiers, is a
painful reminder of the impact of climate change.

Shafqat
Kakakhel, an SDPI board member and former deputy executive director of the UN
Environment Programme, gave a supplementary note to Ramay’s presentation. He
said Pakistan needs a governance revolution to deal with water scarcity and
climate change.

Kakakhel
said Pakistan has always maintained a high profile in the international
community regarding climate change, but has little to show on this front at
home.

He
said the government has recently come up with a policy framework with 120
recommendations, but “the biggest challenge is to translate it into action
plans.” He urged the need for top government officials to intervene and involve
the private sector for financial assistance in dealing with climate change.