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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Climate Change: Existential Threat to Pakistan

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The state of Pakistan and the incumbent government are taking cognizance of the multiple traditional and non-traditional security threat to Pakistan.

From the traditional focus on military or state security, the concept of national security has changed and expanded over time to encompass both human and state security.

Indeed, the newly adopted and first-ever National Security Policy of Pakistan to reflects this expanded conceptualization of national security and a greater appreciation on the part of concerned state institutions about the need to take timely action to avert the adverse consequences of global warming and climate change and threat to Pakistan.

This is least surprising given that some scholars have gone so far as to claim that it’s neither India nor the threat from religious extremism or terrorism but climate change that poses an existential threat to the country.

Needless to say, the Pakistani civil-military leadership cannot dismiss such alarm bells and suggestions by scholars as part of anti-Pakistan campaigns without jeopardizing Pakistan’s human and economic security.

Indeed, the fact that Pakistan is ranked the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change provides no reason for complacency.

The sudden heat wave that has come to engulf the country even before it has witnessed the spring season bodes ill for the country and can cause havoc in terms of water scarcity, and the underutilization of cultivatable land, thus causing acute food insecurity.

This, in turn, will exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and inequalities in Pakistan, leading to societal fragmentation. Therefore, as a responsible state aspiring to play a leading role in climate diplomacy and a global drive for a clean and green environment, Pakistan needs to invest more in mitigation and adaptation strategies.

This involves addressing the social and political repercussions of rapid, large-scale ecological change and their interplay with drivers of insecurity including demographic dynamics, and tools for managing system risk.

It is reassuring that climate change is being increasingly treated as a human rights issue in more civilized and democratic contexts.

Yet the unprecedented primacy accorded to climate change in state policies and academic debates needs to be translated into tangible and concrete steps in terms of augmenting the reforestation drive, imposition of carbon taxes, incentivizing eco-friendly business ventures, etc.

This will go a long way in establishing a partnership based on shared trust and understanding between the state and citizenry thus providing the necessary wherewithal to combat the consequences of climate change efficiently.

On the other hand, a myopic understanding of the issue and lack of state capacity explains the general indifference in countries where human security is not generally a cardinal feature of state narrative.

Therefore, it becomes indispensable that concerted and sustainable efforts are made to sensitize the public and policy institutions if we are to achieve the objectives of national development and SDGs.

To this end, it is imperative that we develop and implement mitigation and adaptation strategies, especially in the ecologically vulnerable and politically disputed contexts like the Gilgit Baltistan region in Pakistan.

Cognizant of this growing threat, the government is taking measures at policy, management, and operational levels. But more needs to be done to honor our international commitments and national obligations in letter and spirit.

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