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Climate Change: A need to Introspect

Climate Change
Image Source: Dawn

Article by: Mishaal Ashraf

Climate change has rapidly affected the whole world, particularly South Asian countries because common residents in this region are considered highly vulnerable to climate change impacts whereas their common awareness to adapt and mitigate these impacts is very low. Among South Asian countries, Pakistan is among the most affected and as a result experiencing several impacts namely; temperature rise, drought, pest-diseases, health issues, seasonal and lifestyle, reveals a study conducted by prominent experts from Pakistan and published by Journal of In Pakistan, climate change is essentially caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the foremost sources of rising in the GHG emissions are human activities, such as deforestation and emissions from various sectors; transportation, industrialization, urbanization, waste, agriculture livestock & forestry and energy usage. All of these have a significant impact on climate change in all areas and provinces. The study determines that all the areas in Pakistan played an increased role in climate change, but rural, peri-urban, and small cities turned out to be in the worst situation due to lack of attention and ignorance.

Pakistan formulated the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) in 2012, which was operationalized a year later. The policy provides a proper mechanism of monitoring the implementation activities in the country. But like all other sectors, implementation has been a problem in climate change sector. If the government fails to take this up actively and implement it effectively, Pakistan’s natural treasure (glacier) will melt down in the coming years. This is likely to cause water crisis, which ultimately will negatively affect economy specially agriculture.

When it comes to solving the problem of climate change from an economic point of view, different economists have different approaches towards it. Tol and Bosello et al. use an intuitive approach as they compare the aggregate cost of climate with global benefits, which takes the form of avoided climate damages. Having said this, most of the economists support the argument that the issue of climate change is too large and too complex to be dealt with by a single formula or an approach; factors like inter/intragenerational equity, social systems, natural systems all contribute towards making it quite a complication. Some economists like Stern and Weitzman believe that the issue of climate change has its roots in the issue of risk management, as the persistent climate change would uncover the world to such climate systems that are/will not be experienced for millions of years.

For an issue to reach the masses, and come up with a solution, it is crucial to ensure how the issue is framed and communicated. Frames have the power to make ideas and messages more noticeable and can change the point of view of the audience. Similarly, it is important how the message for climate change is framed to educate the public. When it comes to climate change, we have noted that most adults learn about this issue from the media. Therefore, by studying the media frames, environmentalists can see how the public reacts to it and come up with climate change policies accordingly.

The need is not only to understand the impact of human development/destruction but also to use efficient energy sources to minimize the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and replace non-renewable energy with renewable energy. Climate change and energy problems also give rise to other environmental issues like acid rain, air pollution, floods, droughts, and the list can go on. It is important to understand that the significance of this issue not only lies in environmental problems, but heavily influences political, economic, and social factors as well.

To prevent climate change, the first thing that governments can do is to help societies adapt. By adaptation, it is meant that societies need to be educated about risks that climate change can pose to social systems, and then improve the impacts to decrease the negative effects on society. At this point, it is important to note that until and unless governments step into this matter and take the solutions to a national and ultimately the global level, the individual efforts made by the communities will keep on failing. Moreover, this will also become a hindrance for governments to follow through with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as economic activities that were previously sustainable under the contemporary climatic conditions may no longer be tenable as climate change affects ecosystems that sustain human life at a large scale.

Due to the complexity of the nature of this issue, governments need to put in place strong monitoring, evaluating, and learning (MEL) systems. This process should be taking place at a sub-national, national, and international level for it to be effective throughout. In short, governments need to invest in integrated monitoring and evaluation systems. The impacts of these systems can be studied to help the governments get a stronger grip on understanding how their country is benefiting from the system and what can be done to maximize the effects.

Secondly, there is a need to address climate change is the concept of climate financing. Climate finance refers to the financial amount that specifically must be used for combating climate change issues like reduction of greenhouse gases, using efficient energy sources, maintaining human resilience to negative climate change impacts, etc. Post-2015, many countries have now started incorporating climate financing into their national annual budgets and are making way to the planning stage. If this practice is continued and adopted by all counties, a major contribution will be made not only towards climate change adaptation and carbon development but also to the universal economic resilience and development in developing countries.

Thirdly, the energy-economy model is discussed which suggests that if the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gas emissions is limited to 450ppm, it will be equivalent to the cost of one and three percent of GDP over the next forty years, provided there is a near-perfect policy in place. This proposes that our policymakers need to play an active role in forming environmental policies so that in the long run, citizens do not have to face the adverse effects of climate change. The abovementioned limit is a rational figure, and the cost is reasonable to pay, in comparison to climatic catastrophes. Again, it is crucial to note that in this, the policymakers have the most significant role to play.

Fourthly, while we have discussed the roles that governments have to play to solve the climate change issues, it should be noted that this burden can also be shared by the private sector in countries. To contribute towards coming to a solution for climate change, the private sector needs to cut down its transactional costs. The private sector needs to work hand in hand with the government to come up with innovative ideas to reduce consumption, pollution and decrease their carbon footprint. In most countries, private sectors are able to influence the government decisions to a great extent, hence it is important that the sector which is one of the biggest drivers of any economy, plays its part in conserving the environment.

Last but not the least, where we have talked about the steps that the government and private sector can take, it goes without saying that international institutions must also play a major role in addressing the issue of climate change at a global level. Interna- tional institutions can help in the implementation of mitigation and adaptation efforts, that have been previously discussed in the paper, on the ground. Technical training, capacity building, funding, and other support to governments to strengthen them and their policies can be provided by international bodies like the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The World Bank can help with funding and financing to countries which are having trouble with monetary issues to overcome environmental issues. Institutions like World Health Organization (WHO) can help countries steer in the right direction and offer them guidance, rather than acting themselves.

In conclusion, the threat of climate change is real and must be addressed at an international level. Moreover, governments need to ensure that they are not only making relevant policies but also implementing them at the grassroots level. The danger of climate change is an international problem, which means there is added responsibility on international bodies to take appropriate steps and take the lead in providing guidance and support to countries in any way possible.

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