Pakistan: A Case of Climate Change Disproportionately

Touching the northwest of the Himalayas and stretching alongside the long shore of the Arabian Sea, Pakistan’s diverse landscape balances its agricultural needs when glaciers fill the rivers in summer, and the monsoon rains provide water for lands that do not border river bodies. However, this interconnectedness of the upward and downward stream is also a problem. If the North receives a supply of water that it cannot contain, it flows downward and destroys the South’s fertile agricultural land. If there is infrequent rainfall, the extreme heat of the South from its dry environment affects crop and agricultural activity. Besides, Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable states to climate degradation.

Extreme heat waves, particularly in the southern and Thar desert regions of the country, water shortages, floods, droughts, and other weather-related disasters, are a few indicators of climate change acceleration. Due to the increase in temperature, the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent in the hydrological cycle. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, from 1998 to 2018, there have been 152 weather events in Pakistan, costing around $3.8 billion in loss.

Despite Pakistan’s low carbon emission level of around 0.8t globally, Pakistan is among the most susceptible countries to climate deterioration, consistently coming in the top 10 climate risk countries.

Internal Drivers of Climate Change

Though Pakistan’s industrial complex is very small because of its developing economy, few internal factors induce climate change. Pakistan is currently facing a population problem with over 220 million inhabitants. In the last two decades, Pakistan’s population has increased significantly by 57% and is expected to grow even more by 2030. Overpopulation is hazardous to environmental security. It contributes to urbanization that results in the loss of fertile land and the cutting down of forests that play a crucial role in filtering carbon dioxide from our environment. A larger population means there is a need for more energy which is acquired through the burning of fossil fuels. The combustion of fossil fuels is the main contributing factor to global climate deterioration.

Around 45% of Pakistan’s carbon dioxide emissions are caused by energy generation, 44% by the agriculture and livestock sectors, 3.9% by industrial, and 2.6% by changes in land use for forestry. Industrial processes only account for 4% of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The energy sector and agriculture contribute to a total of 90% of the GHG emissions in Pakistan. The patterns of internal causes of climate change may change in the coming years due to an increase in population and development in the energy sector. However, the total contribution by Pakistan will not increase to a significant number due to the slow pace of economic progress. This highlights the fact that Pakistan’s climate (in)security is owed to internal causes in only a small proportion. The big chunk of causal and contributing factors are external.

External Drivers of Climate Change

Pakistan’s two neighbors on each side are the two major economies in South Asia with developed economic and energy structures.

In fact, China overtook the United States (US) as the largest fuel energy importer in recent years due to its increasing need for energy production. Due to its energy production activity and burning of fossil fuels, China’s carbon emissions continued to grow by 1.5% each year since 2013. In 2020, it increased by 2.5% as compared to 1.5% in previous years. China’s total CO2 emission stands at 27% of total global carbon emissions. China’s economic progress is well tied to its large quantity of carbon emission print, and with the scale of its progress, it is only going to increase. In 2021, India’s carbon emissions reached 2.7 billion tons. This makes India the largest emitter of carbon and GHG, at 8%, which is slightly less than the European Union’s 7.7%.

The US makes 14% of total carbon emissions, second only to China. Likewise, even in the 1960s and 1970s, when India and China both were struggling economies, Europe was emitting 4000 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Thus, the climate deterioration that most developing countries face today is the result of carbon emissions by developed countries that still control the economic structure of the global trade while poverty-ridden countries are left to fend for themselves. This factor is further elucidated in UNFCCC commitments to global carbon reduction protocols when it was made mandatory and binding for developed countries to reduce their reliance on carbon combustion resources.

Climate change poses significant security risks in South Asia, including Pakistan, necessitating a comprehensive analytical overview. The region is particularly vulnerable due to its geographical location, high population density, and heavy reliance on agriculture. The impact of climate change in South Asia exacerbates existing socio-economic challenges and geopolitical tensions, making it a complex and multifaceted issue. Mitigating climate change is proving to be a difficult task for Pakistan because of its limited resources.

The Indus River system, which Pakistan primarily relies on for its water resources, is particularly vulnerable to the melting of Himalayan glaciers, endangering the availability of water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural usage. The country suffered an economic loss of $30 billion from the previous year’s flood, displacing more than 8 million people. That was the worst flood Pakistan has witnessed in the last five decades. This incident also demonstrates Pakistan’s susceptibility to climate-related catastrophes and its lack of capacity to counteract the risks.

Understanding the security implications of climate change in South Asia, particularly in Pakistan, is vital to promoting stability, sustainable development, and regional cooperation.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the South Asia Times.


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