How can Pakistan beat the heat and save the planet?

How can Pakistan beat the heat and save the planet?

The study predicts that by 2050, Pakistan could experience more than 30 days of extreme heat annually

The temperature in Turbat district of Balochistan reached 54 °C (129.2 °F) on May 28, 2023. This was not only the highest temperature ever recorded in Pakistan, but it was also the highest temperature ever reliably measured on the continent Asia The fourth temperature ever measured reliably on the continent of Asia. The highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.

As temperatures drop across the globe, Pakistan faces an imminent threat from extreme heat events that could pose serious risks to its people, economy and environment. Extreme heat events are periods when temperatures are abnormally high and exceed the normal range of variation for a particular location and time of year. It can cause heat exhaustion, dehydration, heat stroke, and death. Reducing crop yield. Increased energy demand. Air quality and water scarcity worsen. According to a recent study by the World Bank, Pakistan is among the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change, with an average annual temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius since 1900. The study also predicts that by 2050, Pakistan could see more than 30 degrees Celsius. percentage. Days of extreme heat annually, compared to less than 10 days in the past. This means we need to act now and prepare for the inevitable impacts of extreme heat events.

The impacts of extreme heat events on health, growth and poverty in Pakistan could be devastating if the country fails to act and prepare. Extreme heat events can increase mortality and morbidity, especially among the elderly, children, pregnant women, outdoor workers, and low-income groups. According to a study he conducted The scalpelPakistan saw more than 67,000 heat-related deaths in 2019, ranking fourth in the world. Extreme heat events can also reduce labor productivity and economic output, as workers have to deal with heat stress, dehydration, and exhaustion. A study by the Asian Development Bank estimates that Pakistan could lose up to 6.8% of its GDP by 2050 due to the impacts of climate change, including extreme heat events. Extreme heat events can also exacerbate poverty and inequality, with the poor and marginalized being more exposed and vulnerable to heat hazards and having less access to coping mechanisms, such as cooling, health care and social protection. A World Bank report warned that climate change could push an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030, with South Asia being one of the worst affected regions.

Pakistan urgently needs to shift from a reactive “disaster response” approach in the face of extreme heat to a proactive and strategic approach, as some countries are doing. For example, Miami was the first city to appoint a Chief Heat Officer in 2020. He leads and coordinates the city’s response to extreme temperatures, raising awareness, identifying vulnerable communities and implementing solutions. Other cities that have appointed top heat officials include Phoenix, Athens and Freetown. The city of Ahmedabad in India was the first city to issue a heat action plan, launching its action plan in 2013 after a deadly heat wave in 2010 that killed more than 1,300 people. The temperature action plan includes early warning systems, public awareness campaigns, heatstroke centres, water points and other measures to reduce the impact of extreme heat on residents. Ahmedabad’s action plan to combat rising temperatures has been hailed as a model for other cities in South Asia and beyond. Another example is Australia, which has invested in research and innovation to develop passive cooling solutions, such as low-cost evaporative coolers, phase change materials, and solar-reflective coatings that can reduce indoor temperature and energy consumption without relying on electricity or refrigerants.

Another key aspect of preparing for extreme heat events is protecting poor and vulnerable groups who are often the most affected by heat hazards. Some countries have adopted social protection policies and programs that can provide financial and non-financial assistance to heat victims, such as cash transfers, health insurance, food subsidies and livelihood support. For example, Mexico’s Temporary Employment Program or PET1 (Programa de Empleo Temporal) is an example of a social safety net program in a middle-income country that has integrated disaster risk management and climate change adaptation into its operations.

Strengthening urban planning and design, which can influence the urban heat island effect – the phenomenon of higher temperatures in urban areas compared to rural areas due to human activities and structures – is a third strategy for preparing for extreme heat events. Some countries have adopted green infrastructure strategies that can enhance the natural cooling capacity of the urban environment, such as planting trees and plants, creating parks and gardens and restoring wetlands and water bodies. For example, Singapore has a vision of becoming a “city in a garden”, which aims to integrate green spaces and biodiversity into the urban landscape. Singapore increased its green cover from 36% in 1986 to 47% in 2017, and implemented various initiatives to promote rooftop gardens, vertical green spaces and urban agriculture. These efforts have helped Singapore reduce urban heat island intensity by 4°C over the past three decades.

Pakistan has a window of opportunity to act now and prepare for extreme heat events, which could positively impact its people, economy and environment. Pakistan can save lives, boost productivity, and reduce poverty by investing in heat preparedness measures, such as early warning systems, passive cooling solutions, and social protection programs. By improving its urban planning and design, such as increasing green cover, creating green spaces, and restoring water bodies, Pakistan can reduce the temperature of urban areas, improve air quality and water security, and increase their livability and resilience. Pakistan may demonstrate leadership and commitment to the Paris Agreement by participating in international efforts to combat and adapt to climate change. However, if Pakistan fails to act and prepare for extreme heat events, it could face dire consequences for its health, growth and poverty, as well as its environment and security. The choice is clear: Pakistan must act now and prepare for extreme heat waves.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 21street2024.

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