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Denying change

Climate change – which has posed a major environmental threat to the people – now stands the risk of being viewed as a hoax. US President-elect Donald Trump has vehemently opposed climate change and wants to limit funding for research studies on the phenomenon.

Nasa has historically conducted useful research to understand changes in the earth, specifically regarding climate change. Trump has already questioned the value of Nasa’s earth science programme, which is responsible for studying the changing patterns of the earth. Under the new governance, funding for Nasa’s climate change research is likely to be scrapped and the agency might be advised to limit itself to space exploration programmes.

Future research and existing data on climate change is bound to be affected. If the already recorded information is lost, the current and future generations will remain unaware of the global warming challenges that they may face during their lifetime.

This is a human rights violation. Every individual has the right to clean water, air, land and food. He or she has the right to know how human activities can result in the scarcity of the earth’s resources, which everyone has the right to use. Global warming has already caused droughts in various countries. Pakistan is among the countries which have been affected – even though it is not a rigorous contributor to climate change.

We can only protect the earth through research and knowledge obtained through it. There are a number of international organisations working on global warming and climate change. Research prove that the threat is real – not a canard created by the scientific community. The issue will continue to worsen until everyone is willing to stand united and take mitigating measures to reverse the problem.

Research indicates that climate change is happening at a faster rate now than it did in the previous century. For the first time in 37 years, the Sahara Dessert experienced snowfall on December 19, 2016. Greenland has 400,000-year-old ice sheets with historic records of climate and one of the major freshwater reservoirs of the earth.

The ice sheets of Greenland once covered 80 percent of the island. But now, much of the white sheets have disappeared and the water in Greenland is now completely ice-free during summers. In the last few decades, the carbon dioxide emissions have doubled, trapping more heat waves within the earth.

Agriculture is one of the most vulnerable components of the environment due to climate change. Pakistan is an agricultural country and 50 percent of its economy depends on it. Due to these climatic variations, both the agriculture and economy of the country is at stake. The agricultural sector’s potential to contribute towards the country’s GDP growth has dwindled. Droughts and intense flooding have  affected crop production.

After the industrial development in Pakistan, the food and water needs of the country’s ever-increasing population have increased. Although Pakistan is contributing only 0.47 percent to the global GHG emissions, international and national scientists have reported that Pakistan is becoming a victim of climate change.

The government needs to take serious action in implementing and updating policies. There is an urgent need for public awareness so that people can take precautions and resolve the issue. Finding a solution always requires awareness about the problem and its intensity. But when there is no sufficient evidence or record available, awareness is not possible.

The concerned agencies, such as the PMD, which are responsible for obtaining in this regard, need to compile information and make it easily accessible. This will enable emerging scientists to understand how intense the issue is, what possible measures can be taken and how they can be incorporated into policies.

For the first time in history, efforts were made to develop a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change mitigation at the Paris Climate Conference (COP 21) 2015 held at Paris. The conference succeeded in attracting 50,000 participants – out of which 25,000 were official government delegates, UN agencies and inter-governmental organisations.

In the current scenario – with Trump poisoning the world against climate change for the next four years – research in the area would be eliminated and the world will have to live with the fact that global warming is manipulating the earth, creating food and water insecurity worldwide.

If the international community remains silent, nothing will be done to restore interest in climate change. People will need to understand the problem before generating a solution to it.

The writer is pursuing an MPhil in environmental sciences from PMAS Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi.

Hamna Faheem, "Denying change," The News. 2017-01-16.
Keywords: Environmental sciences , Environmental issues , Environmental law , Environmental protection , Environmental management , Environmental policy , Climate change , Global warming , International community , Agriculture , Governance , Crops , Donald Trump , Pakistan , GDP , PMD