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'Pakistan worst affected by climate change'

26 January, 2014

KARACHI: Agriculture is extremely vulnerable to climate change globally and in Pakistan, which is the one of the worst hit countries of climate change, agriculture is badly affected, said climate change experts and nature conservationists on Saturday.

Addressing a conference on climate change organised by the Habib University, experts said water availability, food security and human healthcare were most likely to be negatively affected by climate change, ie, erratic weather patterns, changing rainfall trends and extreme weather events including floods which have been plaguing the countryside for the past few years.

Experts also said that beside Pakistan, other developing countries, several of them in the Asia Pacific region, are also likely to face the brunt of the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change. There are assertions that greenhouse gas emissions were a major factor in climate change; however, developing countries contribute only 10 percent of the annual global carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world, ranks 135th in carbon dioxide emissions.

Quoting recent report from the World Bank, climate change experts warned Pakistan of the existence of five major risks related to climate change. Those include rise in sea level, glacial retreats, floods, higher average temperature and higher frequency of droughts.

These raise major challenges for current and future decision-making and have multifaceted impact on the economy, agriculture, water resources and urban management.

Experts estimate the country incurs financial losses of $5.2 billion annually as a result of environmental degradation.

The speakers added that Pakistan had witnessed devastating floods and droughts. The seesaw weather patterns are a new phenomenon but the term 'climate change' was neither widely recognised nor completely understood in the country. In fact, global warming and climate change is still seen as a global issue and policy makers and stakeholders in Pakistan have been unable to root it in the indigenous context. This hampers discussions and consensus building on the subject and exacerbates the problem.

Dr Bruce A McCarl, Regents Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University, while delivering the presentation, "Climate Change and Decision Making: An Economic and Agricultural Perspective" said as a result of climate change, there had been increases in rainfall intensity and dry periods between events and Pakistan suffered more than any place in the world. "Due to the impacts of the climate change, crop yield will reduce drastically by 2030 in many regions of the world," he said.

He added that the number of the warmest years was increasing, which in turn accelerated evaporation from the ocean, increasing the annual rainfall. "But Pakistan has seen a decline in recent years," he said.

"All 12 years since 2000 are among the 14 warmest years since 1879 and only one year during 20th century-1998-was warmer than 2012," he said, adding that the year 2012 was the 36th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average.

Dr Muhammad Mohsin Iqbal, Head of Agriculture Section at Global Change Impact Studies Center, Islamabad Pakistan in his address, "Climate Change: Vulnerability of Pakistan and Impacts on Agriculture," said the growing season length of wheat and rice in Pakistan will be reduced as a result of climate change with negative effects on yield. He said the reduction was greatest in the semi-arid areas and rice seemed to be more sensitive to climate changes than wheat, as evidenced by greater yield reduction of rice under the same scenarios.

Quoting data, he said Pakistan had continuously witnessed history's worst disasters since 2001. "Both irrigated and rain-fed agriculture were vulnerable to climate extreme events. "In 1949-50, the agriculture sector was contributing 53 percent in the country's GDP, which dropped to 31 percent during 1980-81, and during 2012-13 it has dropped drastically to only 21.4 percent."

Dr Shoaib Zaidi, Dean of School of Science & Engineering, Habib University, Professor Ilan Chabay, Dr Balgis Osman-Elasha and Dr Heinz Gutscher of the University of Zurich also spoke.

End.

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