Umair Jalali describes the
Higher Temperatures – Pakistan had experienced abnormally high temperatures in recent years that made life a living hell. It was unceasing heat wave that made life miserable that was further aggravated by consistent power failures. High-rising temperatures have broken records in many part of Pakistan and people have suffered from excessive heat. On the other hand last winters in Pakistan also witnessed temperatures falling to record low levels causing widespread difficulties to the people particularly people suffering from breathing-related issues. All around the world, people are experiencing more intense heat-waves and scorching temperatures every year. The rapidity of climate-related disasters has become acutely worrying compelling scientists to reiterate that there is a clear link between these periods of abnormally hot weather and rising greenhouse gas emissions. It is more than evident that heat-waves from Japan to Europe to Australia have become more likely, intense and longer because of human-caused climate change and the pressure is now exerted on both the governments and corporate sectors to immediately take remedial measures.
Even more worrisome is the fact that the increase in temperatures is irreversible and many areas of Pakistan are at serious risk unless a series of interventions are strategised and systematic investments in local resilience are made. The spiraling temperatures is estimated to negatively affect crops, yields, local trade, jobs, health, migration, construction designs, school enrolments and drop-outs and changing electricity demand. Prolonged high temperatures are like living permanently in a warmer region, instead of just experiencing the occasional peaks during summer and the impact of such existence depresses human spirit putting it frequent and serious depression. The heat is also harmful for human health and results in myriad illnesses with some of the them incurable. This is an extremely dangerous prospect and may prove disastrous for the future of the country.
There is hardly any doubt that the current increase in temperatures in Pakistan is just unprecedented and has created plenty of issues for the people of the country. The high levels of heat experienced in the length and breadth of the country that has fundamentally altered the climatic scenario in the country. The scorching heat has affected not only the people but also the environment in the country particularly the agricultural sector. This is an extremely worrying scenario and requires immediate amelioratory measures to ward-off the dangers inherent in this increase. This summer has proved atrocious across the country and temperatures are expected to rise throughout the coming months and reportedly may go up as high as 46°C in some Sindh districts with the forecasts predicting hot and dry weather. As the mercury rises, there are fears that, aside from the suffering that is unleashed on those battling the heat, the country’s water reservoirs too will be under stress, and that crop, vegetable and fruit produce could be affected as a consequence. Demand for energy and water will increase and the warnings are that they should be used judiciously. Sadly, this is all a part of climate change that Pakistan cannot wish away and the only way out is for the country to learn ways of coping with heatwaves as they are becoming more intense and arriving earlier than expected.
Despite not contributing to the hazards, Pakistan has borne the brunt of the extreme impact of a changing climate and heating world. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s pleas for help and financial compensation have fallen on deaf ears but the Pakistani policy makers have also shown a painful neglect about the increasing pollution that remains unchecked. The government continues to pursue energy from dirty fuels and cities keep growing. This must cease if we want to imagine a future where Pakistan can be a livable place. Our policymakers must factor in extreme scenarios when making decisions about construction, energy and water. It is also important that urban planners of the country should rely more on resources that are resilient, have a low carbon footprint and also add a cooling effect to the surroundings.
The climate conditions are reaching high level of dangers and there is widespread worries shown by influential circles. Now the Amnesty International has thrown its weight in the issue and has come out with a report urging the need for global action to be taken in light of a series of extreme heat waves wreaking havoc on human rights in Pakistan. The reports have pointed out that Pakistan is on the frontline of the climate crisis. Climate injustice is starkly visible with its people facing disproportionately severe consequences that are often life-threatening. The report adds that tackling a climate crisis of this scale requires global attention and action. Wealthier countries must make no mistake about the important role they play and should come forward to ameliorate the situation. It has exhorted that without further delay, wealthier countries must demonstrate a decisive commitment to reduce emissions, rapidly phase out fossil fuels and provide funds to support people to adapt and quickly operationalise the Loss and Damage fund established at COP27.
The report also asked the Pakistani government to develop comprehensive heat action plans consistent with human rights law and standards and to ensure that the rights of groups that are especially vulnerable to the health impacts of extreme heat are protected. The report mentions people suffering from heatstroke, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, burning sensations in the stomach, dizziness, fever, body pain, eye infections and headaches during periods of extreme heat. Day-wage workers have no choice but to continue working even if they feel hot despite the health guidelines to stay indoors during periods of extreme heat. People such as those living in poverty and working in the informal sector with precarious work, lower incomes, and fewer opportunities for rest and shade, with limited or no access to support, are severely impacted by the extreme temperatures. In Pakistan, more than 40 million people do not have access to electricity and others have erratic and irregular supplies. People living in poverty do not have access to or are unable to afford electricity for fans or air conditioning units and neither can they afford to buy solar panels.
Amnesty International’s report sets out a comprehensive list of recommendations for the Pakistani government and the international community including calling for the Pakistan authorities to conduct a needs assessment in the context of heat waves, focusing on — and with the participation of — the most marginalised people, preparing and implementing human rights-compliant heat action plans, and providing effective social protection in order to support people in coping with heat waves. These actions all require significant financial resources, and the international community must come together to ensure that these are available. Debt relief from payments currently occupying significant amounts of government revenues and expenditures can be one avenue of financing. Wealthier countries need to step up action to reduce emissions and phase out fossil fuels in accordance with their human rights obligations and provide the financing and support needed for Pakistan to put in place adequate adaptation measures provide effective remedies for loss and damage among other measures needed to protect human rights. They should significantly increase climate funding while ensuring a better balance between climate mitigation and adaptation funding including assistance to carry out human rights-consistent loss and damage needs assessments. The Weekender