Climate change is already a reality, and Pakistan is a witness to its adverse impacts. Pakistan is consistently among the top ten countries most affected by climate change. In the past 20 years, the country has been hit by recurrent and devastating floods, recurrent heat waves, a prolonged drought, erratic weather patterns leading to lowered agricultural productivity, emergence of new diseases, and the looming threat of desertification due to the recession of the Himalayan glaciers (rather, to be precise, the Himalaya-Karakorum-Hindukush glacier system).
The Indus River System (IRS), which is the lifeline of Pakistan's society and economy, depends critically on glacial and snowmelt from the HKH system. Climate change has already led to a recession of some of the HKH glaciers, and although some others are stable or even appear to have increased in mass, future projections present a rather bleak picture. Without the glacier and snow melt, water availability in Pakistan may drop by as much as 60 per cent, affecting food security, human health, civic services, water-related (and other) infrastructure, and hydropower generation& energy security.
Besides glaciers, water availability is also threatened by the increasingly erratic weather patterns. Between 1999 and 2002, water flow in the Indus and its tributaries declined dramatically resulting in severe droughts. But from 2010 to 2012 a series of intense monsoons caused devastating floods killing and displacing millions with massive economic and environmental costs.
Given that the country is already water-scarce, the result mainly of uncontrolled population growth, any decline in net water availability is likely to produce a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods. Climate change threatens food security through its impact on the quantum as well as the variability of water flows, temperature increases, and changes in pest vectors. Likewise, it affects human health and life expectancy through food security, availability of drinking water and water for sanitation purposes, changes in disease vectors, impact of extreme events (floods, droughts, and cyclones), and temperature extremes.
Addressing climate change is one of the foremost challenges of our time. It is a global challenge, and the countries of the world (with only two or three exceptions) are united in the effort to find common solutions. This means that the future development prospects of developing countries will depend critically on their ability to benefit from the global efforts to combat climate change. In the past, the most successful developing countries were those that were able to benefit from previous global agendas and growth waves: international trade and the relocation of global manufacturing in the 1970s and 1980s, and information technology and the relocation of global services in the 1990s and 2000s.
Countries who fail to recognize or benefit from the global climate agenda will be left behind, just like the ones that failed to recognize the earlier growth waves.
This presents Pakistan with a complex set of problems. First, there is a need to broaden the understanding and awareness of future trends so that a common national agenda could be designed. Second, this understanding needs to be applied to a better prediction of future climate threats so that appropriate measures could be put in place for coping, adaptation, and risk reduction, and that global support can be mobilized. Third, it is equally important to review the national growth strategy so that it places the country in the best position to benefit from emerging trends, rather than trying (and failing) to go it alone.
To put it in more conventional terms, there is a need to improve and broaden the national understanding of all three traditional areas of climate change, namely climate science, climate adaptation, and climate mitigation.
While global climate change is a pervasive reality, the regional response of climate variables in Pakistan remains complex and poorly understood. Complex topography, coupled with challenges of field study in the Karakoram Mountains, has led to considerable uncertainty in assessing glacial mass balance and even meteorological trends. Research regarding changes to precipitation patterns under various future climate scenarios has not been very conclusive. There is no quantitative assessment of how expected climate change scenarios will affect the water availability in Pakistan and its subsequent impacts on environment, economy and society. Because of these gaps, policies formulated to address climaterelated concerns remained ineffective.
The conference presents an opportunity for stakeholders to deliberate on Pakistan's development in the context of climate change. The event will provide: (a) an initial mapping of efforts being undertaken to alleviate the impacts of climate change, (b) an assessment of knowledge and capacity needs and priorities that better reflect the Pakistani development context, and (c) a stimulating environment with the intention to yield innovative ideas and grounds for implementation. Concretely, the conference program seeks to highlight the need for improved climate-related research and information for Pakistan, as well as to strengthen the science-policy interface.
- Improving scientific understanding of changing climate and associated impacts on socio-economic sectors.
- Developing policy recommendations to address climate change challenges affecting Pakistan's development.
- Promoting coordination among researchers and institutions working on different aspects of climate change in Pakistan and facilitating their collaboration with international scientists and experts engaged in similar research activities.
- Sharing of knowledge and best practices on adaptation strategies, including capacity building of national institutions and experts.?
Elements of the SP3C
The Science-Policy Conference on Climate Change is designed as a multi-dimensional event for knowledge sharing. Besides the research workshops (5 parallel workshops on the 5 conference themes), it will host a (1) Solutions Exhibition (innovative ideas for addressing climate change), (2) Thematic Roundtables for building the future research agenda and partnerships, (3) Peoples' Voices, a space for climate affected communities to share their experiences, (4) Stakeholder Meetings, (5) a South-South cooperation platform, (6) and a Climate Teach-In, using the presence of international experts to engage youth from colleges and universities.
The SPCCC 2017 is being organized jointly by the Global Change Impact Studies Center (GCISC), Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS), Higher Education Commission (HEC), University of Utah and the US-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Water (US-PCASW) at Mehran UET, Jamshoro.
The SP3C-2017 will be structured in the following manner: