Climate Change hot topic of 21st century

By: Hassan Rizvi      Published: 07:01 PM, 2 Sep, 2021
Climate Change hot topic of 21st century

Climate change has become a hot topic of the 21st century. The rising mercury across the world has prompted criticism from many influential personalities. No syllabus on general science is even complete without the discussion of our precious environment. At the moment, the world is experiencing its highest temperature anomaly. This is reported by NASA.  

The grim revelations related to climate change remind us that not enough is being done to combat it. Therefore, there is a widespread alarm that calls out for more efficient environmental reforms. Hopefully, this will reduce the impact of climate change assuming they are followed. As a matter of fact, NASA’s models further predict global temperatures will rise between 2-6 degrees in the next century alone. While this may not seem much at a glance for the average Joe, NASA claims this acceleration in temperatures is 20 times faster than normal. Thus, making this a most unusual temperature rise.

Global warming is a term that defines the unusual rise in temperature across the world. The burning of fossil fuels, use of CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) and release of greenhouse gases are the main contributory factors to global warming. These activities thin the ozone layer which protects us from the ultraviolet (UV) radiation given off by the Sun. When the ozone layer depletes, temperatures rise as there is less ozone to protect us from the sun’s rays. Furthermore, lesser ozone also means that life on Earth is exposed to harmful UV radiation. UV rays are one of the leading causes of skin cancer. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, there has been a sharp rise in global warming.

Greenhouse gases are another factor that cause global warming. Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are examples of greenhouse gases. They are responsible for trapping heat and radiation in the atmosphere. The Environmental Protection Agency of USA (EPA) states that these gases can remain in the atmosphere for varying periods. These can be anywhere from a few years to even thousands of years. Furthermore, EPA states that these greenhouse gases do not release the sun’s radiation back into space. Therefore, it is a “thick blanket insulating the Earth.” Greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere in a variety of methods. The burning of fossil fuels and even raring of cattle releases carbon dioxide and methane into the air respectively. 

Global warming has far-reaching consequences. Melting of the polar ice caps is one popular example. The rise in temperatures causes the ice in the Polar Regions to melt. Furthermore, this process triggers a rise in sea levels. This spills into disaster elsewhere later on. It materializes into high tide along with an unpredictable climate. Unexpected torrential rainfall is another result of the melting ice floes. India Today reports that the disappearance of an ice-covered lake in 2019 is a major cause of concern. This entire event had poured an estimated 21-26 billion cubic feet of water into the ocean. By taking this shocking news into account, the flooding in Germany and China do not appear to be a coincidence. 

Most, unfortunately, matters have become far worse. A UN Framework Convention on Climate Change report has issued a ‘red alert’ warning for the planet. It urges that 2021 is a “make or break year” for the war against climate change. Therefore, this seems to be the last chance for planet Earth.

The report orders that global emissions must be cut down by forty-five percent from their 2010 levels. This is necessary to contain the global temperature rise to 1.5 Celsius. Furthermore, the stipulated deadline for the emissions reduction is 2030. This increase is inevitable at a minimum no matter the progress we make. Thus, if the goals of the report are not met, the world is headed for an even worse catastrophe.

The reports slam the governments of the world. It claims its objectives are insufficient to contain climate change. In simpler terms, the world powers are simply not doing enough for climate change. Therefore, it asks the top emitters to work even harder to reduce their global emissions by 2030.

On the other hand, the official press release of the United Nations hints that some hope is left. It recommends the global community to act now so it can make this hope last. Furthermore, it says decision-makers must “walk the talk”. Long term commitments ought to be met with the relevant actions. Moreover, it highlights that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will give us the chance to rebuild “cleaner and greener”. This could mean a pivotal opportunity in mitigating global warming.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has assured world leaders that Pakistan will opt out of any future coal power projects. Pakistan was previously hoping to exploit its local coal reserves. Therefore, this signals a complete 180-degree turn from the previous policy. 

While existing coal power projects are expected to continue, this policy shift barricades any hopes of new coal-based projects. Existing coal projects are guaranteed by the state. Likewise, rolling them back will carry heavy penalties. Also, rolling back on will frustrate the relations between concerned parties. Moreover, these projects also have a 30-year timeframe so they are definitely here to stay. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government has set a goal for renewable energy. This is to generate thirty percent of its energy from renewable resources. However, this goal will likely be changed when the government finishes its term.

Pakistan is one of the five countries which will be most heavily impacted by climate change. Sadly, Pakistan’s forest cover is one of the poorest in the world. It only covers about 5% of the land. These are the ugliest figures indeed. Additionally, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports these figures. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan states the previous governments “never cared for them” on a tree-planting ceremony. He is referring to Pakistan’s trees. He further criticized that Pakistani trees have been cut down instead of being added since the country’s independence.

Pakistan has taken an ambitious initiative to plant as many as 3.25 billion trees. This whole project is valued at 105 billion rupees (approx. US $650 million). On the brighter side, Malik Amin Aslam states that Imran Khan plans to extend that number to 10 billion trees. He expects this target to be accomplished by the end of his term in 2023. Malik Amin Aslam is the minister of climate change. As of now, Pakistan has already planted more than a billion trees. A stunning accomplishment.

Under the PTI government, nine new national parks have been added. This is the first-time addition since Pakistan’s independence. In the KPK province alone, the forest cover has risen to 27% in 2019. This is a wonderful increase from 20%. 

However, economic pressures loom over Pakistan’s climate change goals. A majority of the arable land is already being used to feed the country. Moreover, it should be kept in mind that Pakistan has the fifth largest population in the world. 

Of course, these goals are not without criticism. Many critics state the PTI government may struggle to undo the environmental damage in the country. Climate policy consultant Dawar Butt says the measures taken by the government are simply “not enough.” He further claims the current government has other agendas as well. Dawar also brings attention to the disregard of environmental laws. He says government bodies keep disobeying them. To support his claim, he adds that many energy and infrastructure projects continue to dodge public environmental impact hearings. 

Pakistan’s commitment to climate change has made a fair amount of progress. However, Pakistan is not alone in this fight. The whole world, and especially Pakistan, must remain committed to salvaging our precious planet. On an individual level, charity begins on at home. We can start by shunning plastic products, minimizing wastage and by carpooling. These are just a few techniques we can practice to make our environment safer and secure for starters.

Categories : Opinion