Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish student, has been lodging protests every Friday since August last year calling for drastic action against climate change. She mounted her environmental campaign under the slogan "Fridays for Future". Her struggle aspired thousands of students all over the world who choose to skip their classes every week for the sake of their future survival; while coming on the streets they urge their governments to take appropriate measures for stopping global warming. Placards with catchy slogans like "Schools have to be parliament when parliament is a school yard", "Make Earth Great Again", and "I'm missing my science class for this" have been highlighted by the media. Exactly as Greta Thunberg laments, the world intelligentsia, media, and leadership have been focusing on the age, motto, and behaviour of these demonstrators instead of being galvanized into action.
The president of the United States is an explicit threat to the World's peace for many reasons, one of which is his stance on climate change. He has already announced the US withdrawal from Paris Climate Change Agreement - an accord that has been endorsed by all nations of the world. One hopes this global pact does not meet the same fate as the League of Nations.
It seems the global leadership know the significance of gradual increase in the world temperature, but prefers to turn a blind eye to it just like a little kid who shut or avert his eyes from a scary animal believing that he is out of sight. For the same reason some call it a myth by producing abstract and conflicting theories.
According to a report produced by International Center for Integrated Mountain Development, Hindu Kush Himalaya region will lose 2/3rd of its glaciers within a century if the emissions of greenhouse gases continued with the current rate. Meanwhile, the region will lose 36% of its ice mass even if COP21's goal (limiting temperature rise below 2 degree Celsius) is achieved.
Pakistan is one of those countries which are most vulnerable to catastrophic impacts of changing climate. Warning have been issued by some officials regarding major floods which could hit the country in the coming monsoon season. In this connection the disaster management authorities have been put on high alert.
Besides, Pakistan is an agricultural country; which makes for almost 24% of its total GDP, accommodates half of the employed labour, and is the major source of foreign exchange earnings. Livelihood of about 60% population rely on agriculture which is at the mercy of climate change. The handwriting on the wall bodes poorly for this sector of the economy and so for the bread and butter of millions of people.
We contribute very little to the global emission of greenhouse gases, but suffer its disproportionate consequences. Still, we need to do our part.
The initiative by the Prime Minister Imran Khan to plant 10 billion trees within a span of five years and his vision of green and clean Pakistan is highly praiseworthy. Not only will it help in combating climate change but will also promote tourism, help create jobs, and reduce pollution which kills hundreds of thousands of people each year.
But there is still much to be done. The huge cost of solar panels is beyond the reach of an average Pakistani. The state needs to grant subsidies on these panels as well as on all types of appliances which run on solar energy. Our transport system is in a pitiful state. People prefer to travel in their private vehicles when it comes to long journeys as no one likes to reach their intended destination with numb feet. The metro bus projects should be extended to other major cities while efficient transport system may be developed for long journeys to lessen the use of private vehicles. It will help in minimizing the emission of greenhouse gases as well as in tackling of traffic problems.
Pakistan should also strongly support those world leaders who openly insist for a binding mechanism to harmonize policies and operations of nations which fuel climate change. The present situation of the world at large can be compared to a person who knows and has access to the cure of a heavy infection he has contracted, but to save some money he waits until it proves fatal. This is the dismal case of being penny wise and pound fool particularly on the part of developed and most industrialized countries.
Before the point of no return is reached which seems quite close, global consensus must be achieved. People should be mobilized in countries which have a dominant say in global affairs and are run by anti-environmental politicians.
Paris Agreement on Climate Change has its own flaws. It is vague and indirect, and may not turn out to be as rewarding as many expect. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction and must be taken forward forthwith. The world needs to act now.