The UN secretary-general recently spoke on the tragedies of climate change at the UN headquarters, warning that the Earth is now past the age of global warming and that we are now facing the era of “global boiling”.
Around the world, scientists have raised much concern over the insanely high and record-breaking temperatures recorded in the first three weeks of July, declaring it as the hottest month to date. The weather conditions in the month of July have been termed as “rather remarkable and unprecedented” by scientists from both the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the European Commission (EU).
Indeed, these statements come as no surprise, especially to a Pakistani national who has experienced widely fluctuating temperatures and unprecedented weather conditions in recent years and even during the current year. A recent report by the WMO, titled ‘State of the Climate in Asia 2022’, pointed out Asia as the most disaster-prone region of the world with Pakistan mentioned in most of the extreme weather events that occurred in the region. These extreme weather events ranged from severe heatwaves experienced in cities like Jacobabad with temperatures soaring as high as 49 C in the pre-monsoon season (March-May) to the deadly flooding disasters experienced during the 2022 monsoon season from June to September.
The story of climate change has followed much the same plot in the current year too as the monsoon rains recently wreaked havoc in the metropolitan cities of Lahore and Karachi in the form of urban and flash floods. Disturbing images from the urban localities of Lahore have been making the rounds on social media with life coming to a halt for locals as they struggled to get to work or home or simply do their basic daily chores.
While last year’s devastating floods would have been enough to wake up the authorities, the current year’s population census showing a count of over 240 million people in the country should have been an eye-opener at the very least. While much has been said about the two events, a working plan to halt population growth is yet to be seen.
For starters, we need to understand that population and environment cannot be seen as two mutually exclusive areas of management and policymaking. If anything, population management is part and parcel of any climate induced calamity, and thus cannot be treated as an exogenous factor when dealing with climate disasters- be it in the form of severe heatwaves or urban and flash floods.
People have suffered invariably from these extreme weather conditions in the past year from sweltering in severe heatwaves to facing death or the nightmarish reality of getting displaced at the hands of flash floods. While these are the most immediate effects of what we now call ‘global boiling’, the long-term impact of such climate calamities was felt by the farmers and agriculturists and is perhaps more profoundly still being felt by the common man in the name of high inflation and food insecurity.
A joint report by the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) designated Pakistan amongst the “very high concern” areas of food insecurity with over 8.5 million people at the risk of facing acute food insecurity. At the same time, we still stand at the risk of facing more flooding during the ongoing monsoon season which could further exacerbate the staggering economy. This year’s census – albeit with a lot of questions – serves as an opportunity for us to consider a holistic view of development instead of finding escapes through narrow alleys by providing temporary aides and going back to our usual state of ignorance once the disaster ends.
It is high time we realize that population management serves as a common denominator in almost all our development related problems and for once we ought to give it its long overdue diligence. It is perhaps time to recall the basics of managing resources at the root of which is the problem of scarcity. Consequently, managing or removing the existing roadblocks becomes even more burdensome with the pressure of an ever-increasing population.
With the world now entering the age of ‘global boiling’ and Pakistan’s geographic location making it prone to extreme weather events, we need to prepare ourselves for the future. The age of global warming passed by, incurring heavy costs on our lives and livelihoods but left us with many lessons to learn from. Surviving the era of ‘global boiling’ will be no easy task, but with a holistic approach towards managing and protecting both our people and the environment together we can reduce the impacts of any future weather extremities.
The writer is a research assistant at the Lahore School of Economics and can be reached at: