Last year, Paris made headlines around the world for two reasons: the devastating terror attack on its civilians, which claimed 130 lives and left hundreds wounded; and the success of its climate conference in draughting a first-ever universal agreement on climate change. Both terrorism, as well as climatic changes, are increasingly establishing themselves as mighty threats to the existence of many countries including Pakistan. Nevertheless, neither Pakistani society nor its administration appears serious in its treatment of this conjecture on global warming. Climate change experts must have had this general oblivion towards the unchecked monster in mind, when they met the National Assembly Standing Committee on Climate Change. They briefed the parliamentary panel about the greater intensity of security threats posed to the Pakistani economical and societal futures by the ongoing environmental degradation when compared to the growing radicalism. These experts are not alone in prioritising the existential threat of climate change. Many strong voices, including the US President Barack Obama, were seen united in their resolve to pursue the Paris Agreement last week. Nevertheless, countries like Pakistan need to achieve much more than participate in such grandeur, if they aspire to get the climatic ball rolling. It is to the country’s misfortune, however, that its public opinion on climate issues remains strongly overshadowed by other security threats. According to a survey recently conducted by the Pew Research Center, only 25 percent of respondents in Pakistan seemed “very concerned” about global warming. Such widespread prevalence of ignorance is particularly detrimental for a country already struggling with a potential ticking time bomb of global climate change. The experts suggested the government bodies kick off mass awareness projects about global warming to counter the public nonchalance, in addition to designing special curricular units for school students.
Moreover, the rapid deforestation in Pakistan has already started taking its toll on the local environment. In lieu of supplementing the existing green spaces across the country with additional plantations, expansive urbanisation has further dropped off its forest share to a mere four percent. Consequently, the concrete jungle has now converted many major cities including Karachi into urban heat islands–man-made furnaces, which further intensify the heat wave conditions. The high deforestation rate is also considered responsible for the ongoing destructive pattern of massive floods in succession to severe droughts in Pakistan. However, a significant legislation on these critical crises still remains a distant dream. The committee applauded the eco-friendly initiatives taken by the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in its pursuit of becoming a “green” province. Not only has its administration designed a mega reforestation project, with an aim to plant one billion samplings, it also plans to soon table a legislation outlawing the production of plastic bags. The federal government should also pay heed to the impending environmental crises and implement its pledged targets on an immediate basis. A much-needed first step in this direction should be setting forth legislations that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to authorising concrete regulations to mitigate emissions by the industrial sector, the administration should also institute an extensive afforestation campaign across the country. The civic society can also supplement governmental afforestation efforts by following the example undertaken by a small community of Piplantri village in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Over the past few years, their unprecedented crusade of planting 111 trees every time a girl is born has increased the local green cover by over a quarter million trees. In order to effectively combat both environmental as well as power crises, Pakistan should also develop its hydel power units by installing a greater number of small dams all over the country. Yet again, no significant progress can be achieved by the government unless it revolutionises the mindset of its citizens. The environmental issues are constantly being sidelined in favour of other pressing grievances. However, if the giant of climate changes is still not dealt with, it will further exacerbate all existing administrative problems. It is hoped that both people and the leadership of Pakistan soon start valuing their environment more significantly so that they can jointly strive towards its preservation.