The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted lifestyles of people from all walks of life while the global economy has been left on a ventilator. With all of this – an inequality virus has manifested and created a livelihood crisis like never before. However – mankind will soon defeat the COVID-19 pandemic but another planetary issue is adding fuel to fire. Accelerated climate change is causing disruption of unprecedented scale and nature. The livelihood crisis is here to stay and we must formulate a comprehensive plan to tackle the perils of climate change now.
Recently, Oxfam international released a damning report on the alarming inequality virus. Globally, billionaires have now more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up to 60% of world’s population while shockingly, more than 735 million people are still living under extreme poverty. There is no doubt that the growing gap between rich and poor is undermining the battle against extreme poverty, damaging our fragile economies and tearing our communities apart. With the climate crisis gaining more momentum which is effecting our economies adversely in light of COVID-19 pandemic livelihood crisis will only become more destructive than ever before. In Pakistan – where political instability is exacerbating our already deteriorating economy – the livelihood crisis is giving life to extreme inflation. In today’s Pakistan – most people have lost the ability to have even two meals a day. We have had no shortage of crisis; wheat, sugar and oil. Now as climate change disrupts our agriculture sector through floods, droughts and extreme weather conditions many climate experts now argue that formulating disaster risk management is key before it is too late.
Instead of investing into tackling the livelihood crisis created by climate change – the federal government has injected 98% of the climate change budget to the politicized billion tree tsunami project. We must also realise that accelerated climate change exacerbates other key focal areas such as food insecurity, livelihood crisis, and water woes.
Pakistan’s looming water crisis which again is heavily inter-linked with climate change will make the whole country water-scarce if we do not take action. Our glaciers are melting, deltas are disappearing, rivers are contaminated while ground water availability is shrinking as well. With no water – the livelihood crisis will inevitably worsen. Pakistan’s per capita water availability has come down from 5060 cubic meters per annum in 1951 to 908 cubic meters now. Climate stress is now adding fuel to fire.
In a country where our economy is already in a shambles and on the path of further deterioration, accelerated climate change could lead to record-breaking losses for our economy. It is crucial to highlight that the floods of 2010 cost the economy a staggering $16 billion and all of this is expected to worsen. But unfortunately, nowhere have we seen policy makers and the federal government working to prevent horrendous implications. It is important to point out that our country runs on an agrarian economy. In the 1960s, agriculture sector was responsible for 53% of the total GDP. By 1980 to 1981, this number had dropped to 31%. But alarmingly in recent years, it has fallen even further to shocking 21.4%. The harsh climatic conditions from Sindh to K-P are already a story of despair. With the downward economic trajectory, climate change will make life more miserable for every citizen of Pakistan.
No country can solve a planetary crisis on its own. Pakistan must start climate diplomacy in South Asia to fight the rising livelihood crisis which is once again a regional problem. Last year, the city of Karachi faced torrential rains, resulting in flashfloods at every corner of the city where the poor and vulnerable suffered the most. The same story was also visible in Bangladesh. Last year, about a third of Bangladesh was inundated by floods, with at least 161 people killed and an estimated 1.5 million displaced. Climate change could push more than 100 million additional people into poverty by 2030 in South Asia. The region is home to 22% of the world’s population and has only 1.3% of global income and houses 60% of the poor.
Let’s not also forget how the locust invasion of last year had also a deep affiliation with global warming and accelerated climate change. Warming seas that feed cyclones have also bred record-breaking swarms of desert locusts in Africa and Asia. Such plagues could grow bigger and more widespread with climate change in full action.
Ecological disruption disproportionately affects those who suffer from socioeconomic inequalities in our world today. The COVID-19 crisis came at a time when global food security was already strained. Food systems are a driver of the climate change crisis. Livelihood crisis will give birth to political instability which would shake entire government institutions when uncertainty is already looming large. We must understand that tackling climate change is the urgent need of the hour because it effects literally everything around us.