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Silence on Climate Change: A Global Crime?

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Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif recently spoke at the UN General Assembly on global issues, along with other world leaders. Some critical happenings prior to the UN gathering and their concurring political impacts which both Pakistan and the U.S. felt had significantly shaped the speech of Mr. Sharif at the UN desk. The incident of terror in the Pakistani church, drone attacks, on-going Syria crisis and a few other circumstances were the drivers for Sharif speech. No doubt, many of those words the world and the U.S. were desperate to hear from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, particularly on his stance on fight against terror. However, a recent development that has been taking place in the U.S. with the backup support of President Obama didn't attract or influence the thoughts of Mr. Sharif. And that is climate change...

Climate campaigners across the world, including from Pakistan, are counting the growing interest of the U.S. on climate change quite positively. Obama's reaction to climate change and his concern for quick action has also been heard in Pakistan. However, the newly elected Pakistani cabinet showed rather a disappointing reaction to tackle this issue. While both the countries embrace the consequences of climate change, Pakistan suffers more due to its small resilience and resources to adapt to climate variability. If it is a point of concern for the U.S. on climate crisis, for Pakistan, it is rather a much worrying context.

World renowned climate activist Al Gore, in his recent interview, says, "The cumulative amount of energy trapped by manmade global warming pollution each day in the earth's atmosphere is now equal to the energy that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima bombs going off every 24 hours." That's something really big, however the difference in world leadership is their will to hear these words, understand it and act upon it.

Climate science in Pakistan has always found little space, mainly due to mass unawareness, within the political culture of the country. Some good developments could show off in recent past, however traditionally, each successive government in Pakistan overruled initiatives of previous government, no matter if they actually worked in the right way for mass benefits. Same is the case with the Climate Change Ministry which the present government has demoted to the status of Division.

With the motive to reduce unnecessary financial burden on country economy, the present cabinet has cut down almost 62 percent of the annual budget, the previous government had allocated for government initiatives on climate change and environment protection. This limited role of government on climate change has put us in a state of isolation in international community.

What is the understanding of this government on "unnecessary burden on economy"? Today's science is very clear that any inaction on climate change will cost human beings unbearable financial and physical consequences. How much our politicians know this science, will of course be an interesting question!

Pakistan is among few countries in the world highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. World quotes countries like Pakistan, Russia and Bangladesh as examples of climate change. The 2010 flood had put one-fifth of the country land under water and affected more than 20 million people. This reality had provoked world leadership to act on climate change. Our governments however couldn't capitalize on this opportunity to gain wider awareness and interest to strengthen their ability face climate crisis.

Assuming work on climate change as financial burden, our government overlooks the reality that climate change costs 6 percent of the country GDP every year. We are becoming a water-stressed and food-stressed country. Only in Karachi City, more than 20,000 people die due to polluted water, making climate change a serious issue like energy crisis and terrorism.

Only this year monsoon, which started earlier and continued late, affected more than 100,000 people across Pakistan. This is an unusual scenario, where annual precipitation although remains the same but a sudden shift in weather pattern like monsoon can make the government ineffective to protect its people from weather related disasters.

Experts say Pakistan losses 5.2 billion dollars every year due to climate change. In such circumstances, demoting Climate Change Ministry is questionable. Quoting the Ministry as burden on economy reflects the level of unawareness among our politicians. Maybe our government learns from other countries like in the Pacific and South Asian region, where economic challenges don't stop their work on climate change.

As the U.S. feel a fear of more Sandy-like incidents, we in Pakistan can also face more floods as we did in 2010. Climate scientists have already predicted it. Only a few minutes of extreme weather can easily destroy years-long development if our world continues to pollute the environment with their dirty fossil fuel. This is the time that world leadership remains as keen on this issue as they feel concern over terrorism or other global issues. A natural pressure should come into the minds of politicians when their governments are violating environmental rights and then they are supposed to talk at such international forums! This world should count inaction on climate change as a global crime.