Strong proponents of sustainability, conservation, and green technology should be extremely concerned about a noticeable rise in global temperatures. As the globe experiences heatwaves and record-breaking temperatures, South Asia, and particularly Pakistan, must learn encouraging lessons to get ready for the future. The UN’s meteorological agency’s secretary-general, Petteri Taalas, issued a dire warning last week: “The negative trend in the climate will continue at least until the 2060s, independent of our success in climate mitigation.”
These sobering warnings should cause us to reconsider what will be at risk in the ensuing years. Acute instances of renal damage, diarrhoea, and gastroenteritis have increased in Pakistan as a result of the scorching heat, and heatstroke fatalities may also rise. The creation of a task group by the current administration to develop the appropriate mitigation plans for the negative effects of climate change, highlighted by the country’s severe heat-related issues, is a significant move.
In terms of an action plan, Pakistan is fortunate to have a neighbour who has successfully reconciled climate change objectives with cutting-edge technology solutions, necessitating the need to draw lessons and foster incremental expertise. You only need to look at the environmentally friendly measures taken during China’s international Olympic games to see how effective they were: hundreds of hydrogen-powered cars served as encouraging signs of a broader decarbonization pivot in important Chinese industries, opening doors for change in Pakistan and other parts of the world. The Olympic venues that use renewable energy, technology-driven improvements in air quality, and artificial snowmaking that uses sustainable materials are all examples of the many benefits of making climate-friendly interventions a multi-year process. Through increased information exchange with its partners, this approach may help Pakistan advance the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which Islamabad has indicated is a top goal on the international scene. The Olympic venues that use renewable energy, technology-driven improvements in air quality, and artificial snowmaking that uses sustainable materials are all examples of the many benefits of making climate-friendly interventions a multi-year process. Through increased information exchange with its partners, this approach may help Pakistan advance the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which Islamabad has indicated is a top goal on the international scene.
In addition, Pakistan should use these extreme heatwave warnings and the country’s record-breaking temperatures to lay the groundwork for a longer-term “carbon-neutral” approach. Environmentalists have praised Islamabad’s non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government-backed collaborations on green transitions, but we need a strategy to localise that carbon-neutral transition across several administrations. The urgent requirement is to guarantee that all public hospitals have an appropriate supply of supplies to combat the hazards of extreme heat and related diseases, while also taking into account the provincial governments’ modest capacity building.
The long-term goal should be to reduce Pakistan’s exposure to these severe temperatures. The projections are so dire that complacency is not an option. Consider the sobering report issued by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP), which warned that Pakistan’s demographics must be given top priority because climate change will affect the lives and livelihoods of population segments dependent on dryland agriculture in South and Southwest Asia.
Starting with certain economic sectors that can switch from high-carbon energy sources to more environmentally friendly ones might be a good place to start, as some countries in greater Asia demonstrate. It is also past time to disprove the notion that launching carbon-neutral actions in Pakistan would be extremely expensive. A beginning point for this transition will, if anything, reduce future costs for enterprises, the energy industry, and everyday consumers when sustainable energy is expected to become more expensive and challenging to adapt to (once challenges multiply).
Recent months have demonstrated that Pakistan has avoided the dangers of mass fatalities from sweltering heatwaves despite being a country with a susceptible climate. An early estimate of the death toll in Pakistan and neighbouring India was just 90, as best-selling science author David Wallace-Wells correctly notes in the New York Times. This is “a small percentage of the more than 1,000 killed by the heat dome that rocked the Pacific Northwest (including western Canada) last summer, where lower temperatures touched millions for a considerably shorter length of time.”
Investigating the changing link between severe temperatures and mortality rates in Pakistan can fulfil a critical need by assisting the government in deciding which areas and communities to prioritise based on exposure if devastating heatwaves become the new normal in the coming decades. Through such an incremental strategy, nations have achieved a lot. Going back to the Chinese example, Beijing started a whole procedure based on its core competency in technology to make sure that locations with worldwide attention were powered entirely by renewable energy.
This did not happen overnight, and Pakistan should find solace in the fact that its administrative capabilities outweigh its technological ones. This is a positive development because, in the future, climate-friendly initiatives should be tailored to the areas most at risk from heat waves. Pakistan may use this as a test case to implement heatwave buffers similar to how it did with the COVID-19 pandemic. To unify in this national endeavour and meet the issue of the sweltering heat, securing buy-in from all major political parties in the nation on this crucial task should be the overarching objective.
In the end, Pakistan’s remarkable progress in lowering its carbon footprint serves as persuasive evidence that the nation may endeavour to reduce vulnerabilities to heatwaves before resources and outside assistance become even more scarce. Given the increasing intensity throughout the world, breaking the grip of heatwaves would be optimistic thinking. The wisest course of action, however, remains to be extremely ambitious in addressing the causes of global warming, as the United Nations itself makes clear.
In light of real limitations, Pakistan can achieve its best potential. The important thing is to at least partially prepare the ground and to do it well in advance.