‘We always underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten years. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.’ (Bill Gates)
It would be comical if it weren’t so tragic the way nature appears suddenly intent on conducting a one-sided tirade against people who claim that climate change does not exist. Foremost among those who make this incredible claim is the POTUS, who tweeted in 2012 that ‘the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese, in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.’
Three years later, he tweeted (there really should be another platform for Mr. Trump’s utterances, called ‘Grunter’ or ‘Squealer’): ‘It’s really cold outside, they’re calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming.’
Well, he got it, this man who squinted up at the sun during an eclipse, never mind that millions were watching, including children, for whom he should be setting an example. The spate of hurricanes in the US recently, were among the worst that country has seen in decades. There are still at least two other hurricanes said to be brewing out there. Although these hurricanes are not caused by climate change, rising sea levels and warmer oceans make them much worse than they would have been.
And Irma has not been the only natural disaster the world has seen this year.
An 8.1 magnitude (on the Richter scale) earthquake struck the Pacific coast of Mexico on the 7th of September, followed by a Tsunami warning for the area. Mexico was also hit by a tropical storm in August.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a landslide killed at least 150 people in August. In the same month heavy rains triggered floods and a massive landslide in Sierra Leone.
Cameroon experienced severe floods and mudslides. There were floods in Ghana, Myanmar and Guinea in July, and an earthquake in the Philippines, all in the same month, and drought in Africa. Both floods and drought are one as disastrous as the other.
That is only part of the list. It seems that far from being a Chinese conspiracy, climate change and global warming are a fact. What can be done to minimize these changes in the earth’s atmosphere?
The David Suzuki Foundation works to conserve the environment and provide solutions to climate change by means of research, education and policy. It recommends ways in which the public can help. 1: by choosing its leadership wisely 2: by using energy efficient appliances 3: by using renewable power where possible 4: by eating organic food, and less meat 5: by trimming down waste 6: by slapping a carbon tax on polluting concerns, and providing tax breaks to the energy efficient 7: travelling less by air and more by buses and trains, and walking or cycling wherever possible 8: keeping oneself informed about climate change and global warming and about how to make a difference.
Pakistan can help prevent global warming and minimize climate change. The first would be to convince those who do not believe in it that the issue is real, and neither a conspiracy nor a figment of someone’s imagination.
One of the more sensible things the PTI has done is to launch a campaign for planting a billion trees across the KP. Although it has been criticized by some people who say the trees are the wrong sort, it is a start, and a great effort to reverse the deforestation that is taking place in Pakistan at an alarming rate. Reuters reports that according to a 2015 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation report ‘years of tree felling have reduced Pakistan’s forests to under 2 percent of its land area, one of the lowest levels in the region.’ It seems about 40 percent of the country’s remaining forests are in the KP where the PTI’s tree planting effort is supposed to hit its goal of a billion trees by the end of this year. Trees hold on to soil, and prevent landslides. They absorb the carbon released by industry into the air, and give out oxygen instead.
Although Pakistan makes a less than 1% contribution to the total greenhouse gases produced in the world, this is no thanks to considered policies or any organised effort. With the glaciers in the north, the country is very vulnerable to climate change, with the potential of floods when those glaciers melt, which, given current trends is not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’.
Just as the construction industry in the country conforms to no safety standards, other industries such as transport and energy do not follow any guidelines or procedures to minimize waste or pollution, either of the waterways, the soil, or the atmosphere. Nor does the agricultural sector follow any guidelines at all, laying the country open to disaster.
Water is of crucial importance for Pakistan, a predominantly agricultural economy. A lack of water is just as much bad news as is a flood. And yet there is no attention to sustainable farming in this country. There is no reliable system of water storage and supply, and tube wells are overused, they play havoc with the water level of soil. Crops such as rice and sugar cane use a great deal of water, yet they are among Pakistan’s major crops. Most of the rich and powerful landowners in the country, many of them influential politicians from every political party, own sugar mills. What’s more, these men also possess Direct Outlets (DOs) from the waterways, which are extremely wasteful of water. These DOs are not allowed except by special permit, but are given to people who possess sufficient clout.
It is short sighted in the extreme not to concentrate on this issue. The next ten years may be ten years coming, but they will be upon us before very long. Even if the public is able to achieve something, it is likely to be washed away if a handful of people are able to flout the rules. This has always been Pakistan’s curse that this is allowed to happen.