Essay: Environmental security

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  • Subject area(s): Environmental studies essays
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  • Published on: May 26, 2017
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  • Environmental security
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BACKDROP OF PHENOMENON
National security is a state-centric approach, and human security focused on securing its nationals is considered complimenting each other in some respect. By virtue of its characteristic, a nation is a large group of people with strong bonds of identity – an “imagined community,” a tribe on a grand scale. Thus, security of the nation cannot be confined merely from the invading states but from all the threats that a nation may confront, including environment hazards for this matter.
Environmental security emphasize that unsustainable human activities have resulted in environmental tribulations threatening life on Earth in various ways. These unsustainable activities have endangered availability of critical resources, renewable as well as nonrenewable. This concept is termed as “scarcity”. For the sake of argument, let us consider three different scenarios that scarcity could possibly culminate into. First, it could trigger war for the control of inadequate resources resulting in ‘resource capture’ by few at the expense of “ecological marginalization” of many. Secondly, it could provoke mass migration because of environmental suffering. Environmental refugees’ adaptation in their new favorable habitation becomes very challenging, particularly in case of resistance from the host communities culminating in identity and or ethnic crises. And lastly, it could deteriorate socio-political institutions resulting in crisis of authority or civil disobedience.
UUNDERSTANDING THE CAUSES
A long term change in average weather conditions including average temperature, rainfall, precipitation and wind is termed as ecological or climatic change.
According to the projections of United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), our climate is undergoing significant variations as the direct result of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activity. By definition, GHG’s are the atmospheric gases that surround the earth thereby entrapping heat inside. This is commonly referred to as the “greenhouse effect”. The most significant GHG released by human activities is Carbon dioxide (CO2) that is mostly produced by burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. There are five other major contributing gasses whose production is pledged to be reduced by the countries participating in The Kyoto Protocol, an international accord on emission reduction. These gasses are Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
With ramification on, fresh water supply, food production, natural ecosystem and health etc, climate change has become one of the major ecological challenges facing environmental security around the globe. Climate change is globally manifesting itself in drastic results of storms, cyclones, droughts, floods and other extreme weather events, even more frequently and intensely. Rapidly melting glaciers resulting in water scarcity, endangered coastlines, low agriculture yields leading to food insecurity, and massive population displacement are few of the visible environmental challenges that are contributing to the crises of states authority and identity.
According to the Climate Risk Index 2015 prepared by German watch between 1994 and 2013, more than 530,000 people have died worldwide and losses worth $2.17 trillion were inflicted as a direct result of over 15,000 extreme weather events. As projected by Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, generally termed IPCC, the average global temperature may rise between 1.4 to 5.8 Co before this century ends.
Water scarcity may also worsen up the prevailing intrastate trust-deficit to invigorate the conflict. In context of these multidimensional aspects of the looming environmental problems it is inevitable to look beyond the conventional national security parameters and consolidate the environmentalist version of “security”.
RELEVANCE TO PAKISTAN NATIONAL SECURITY
Since its inception, Pakistan has primarily been focused on its national security due to a hostile environment imposed by the neighboring India from one side & uneasy bystander Afghanistan on the other. Indian aggression on borders, an intractable territorial dispute on Kashmir, and infective intervention within the state coupled with the volatile nature of relationship with the unsettled Afghanistan has shaped a predefined dimension for Pakistan’s security understanding which is the main driver for its reactive foreign policy.
However, in the backdrop of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine and the resultant peace maintained by the two nuclear weapon states, external security concerns seem less ominous to the ravaging damages and causalities caused by various catastrophes in the recent past. Despite the internal and external challenges, Pakistan is a hard country with immense buoyancy; however, more susceptible to “ecological changes” than internal insurgency or external enemies.
VULNERABILITY FOR PAKISTAN
Since the latitudinal extent of the country stretches from the Arabian Sea in the south to the Himalayan Mountains in north, the country is hemmed-in by the Himalayas, the mountain ranges of Suleman in the east, and the low land plains of the Indus River in the south and coastal areas in the west. Sixty percent (60%) of the total watershed area of the Indus basin lies within Pakistan’s territory. It is located in sub-tropics and partly in temperate region. Climate change subjects these areas to risks of glacial retreat, sea level rise, more frequent floods and droughts, irregular rainfall, and upraised temperature. Since more than half of its land area is arid and semi-arid, predicted changes in rainfall and temperature patterns in the future could impinge upon its food security and the welfare of millions of its people. The groundwork studies indicate that Pakistan’s 22.8 percent area and 49.6 percent population is at risk due to the impact of climate change.
Being the second largest South-Asian country with gigantic debt dearth, feeble infrastructure, poor governance, prevalent corruption, unbridled poverty and substantial defense expenditure, Pakistan shares the problems and concerns of South Asia. Global climate change & subsequent catastrophic disaster is one of the major threats that concern the global community, including southern countries & especially Pakistan for the subject matter. Pakistan witnessed devastating floods & deluges in the past decade especially those in years 2010 and 2011 that nearly paralyzed country’s infrastructure and unleashed her vulnerabilities. Endangered coastlines, rapidly melting glaciers & subsequent water scarcity, low agricultural production leading to food insecurity, and population displacement are the challenges contributing to the dilemma of identity and authority of the country.
COASTAL PARADIGM
Karachi, with 20% of the total GDP ratio, largest stock exchange, and conduit to 95% of the international trade, is extremely significant in terms of climate change. Implications could be rising sea level with increased salinity, reduced arable lands, and enhanced number of storms and cyclones which would significantly undermine the resources of Karachi and limit the opportunities for its inhabitants and lead to intense and violent struggle, specifically, in terms of real estate control. Moreover, since the coastline city is home to large population, huge built infrastructure and hub of massive economic activities & opportunities, climate variations could change ethnic composition and political map of Karachi because of forced migrants coupled with constrained living standards in the city. Dismally, rising sea level
in Karachi on one hand and water scarce “thirsty Sindh” on the other would make life impossible in Sindh in the long run.
This population displacement and unemployment could forms the basis for violent struggle & exploitation in this extremely volatile and violence ridden city and would undermine state security with losses in infrastructure, reduced fertility and crop yields. It can be safely assumed that destabilization in Karachi could seriously damage social, economic and political fabric of Pakistan.
WATER SCARCITY AND INTERSTATE CONFLICT
Resort to war & hostility for acquisition of non-renewable natural resources like oil & minerals is often observed within a state and between the states. Yet another reason for such conflict could arise for freshwater resources. Since water is fundamental to existence that is irreplaceable and distributed inequitably, it becomes a strategic objective for a state. States geographically located upstream could exploit water as weapon by diverting, limiting, and polluting water share or overflowing it through dams.
In South Asia, water share is a major reason of rifts and disputes between the populous states like Pakistan, India. As Kashmir possesses important water resources, crucial to Pakistan’s agriculture, Water sharing occupies major part of Pakistan’s inveterate Kashmir dispute. Existence of dispute and mutual fear of each other’s water system, if not leading to war, could certainly result in troubled peace with huge drain on economies of both states. Potential climate changes affecting water sharing and availability would intensify a conflict that could culminate into limited war between states or serious crises of authority within states.
NATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY
According to a report published in Express Tribune December 14, 2015, Pakistan has produced 0.2 million metric tons of CO2. Although Pakistan has produced a lower amount of greenhouse gases, yet it has been one of the worst affected countries due to global warming. Even after having been consistently affected by climate emergencies year after year, its response to solve the issue has remained lackluster.
Nevertheless, to cope with the threats of climate change through adaptation and mitigation measures, Pakistan launched its first National Climate Change Policy in February 2012. Recognizing the significance of the problem of climate change, Ministry of Climate Change launched Framework for implementation of National Climate Change Policy (2014-2030) in November 2013.
However, in a report published by Daily The Nation on October 14, 2015, it was reported as an unfortunate matter of concern that Pakistan could not implement its first ever National Climate Change Policy 2012 due to the lack of political will.
INTENDED NATIONALLY DETERMINED CONTRIBUTIONS (INDC)
By Oct 2, 2015 some 146 countries, contributing almost 87% of global greenhouse gas emissions, had submitted their intended national climate action plans to the United Nations ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, held in December. The document from Pakistan – titled the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) – outlined Pakistan’s contribution to the global fight against climate change carried significance for three reasons. Firstly, it gives country a chance to outline its climate actions. Secondly, adding up targets in documents makes it possible for the world to track progress towards achieving the collective goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels. Finally, The INDCs also give developing countries, like Pakistan, an opportunity to outline their adaptation efforts. Despite all the documentations in this regard, no immediate impacts could be seen on ground as far as practical implementation of the policy is concerned.
CONCLUSION
Climate change is much latent for compromising Pakistan’s national security. Despite being the least responsible country for climate change with its negligible contribution of 0.8% emission, Pakistan is yet among the top ten states most vulnerable to its drastic impacts. Climate variations could change ethnic composition and political map because of forced migrants coupled with constrained living standards and unemployment could forms the basis for violent struggle in the various regions of the country.
Potential water shortage resulted by climate change could result in food and energy insecurity that could further disrupt social cohesion and weaken state institutions. Moreover, domination over water resources & subsequent conflict could culminate into limited war between states or serious crises of authority within states.
With least public awareness, conspicuous absence in manifesto of political parties and lacking complete action plan, despite presence of a policy, clearly reveals that climate change is least prioritized as a threat.
Pakistan is a hard country with immense buoyancy; however, more susceptible to “ecological changes” than internal insurgency or external enemies that is evident from the inflicted damages of previous catastrophic events.
RECOMMENDATIONS
The first step that could be crossed is the immediate realization of climate risk and environmental security as an issue of critical concern remains absent from the policy implementation landscape. As explained already, climate change is a matter of national security. So, just as we act aggressively on information from the national security intelligence community, we must also act on the scientific evidence from our nation’s best climate scientists.
In context of international objectives of emission control, Pakistan must clearly demarcate that which activities will fall under unconditional contribution and which activities can happen if Pakistan is provided external support. In this framework several countries, multilateral development banks and multilateral climate funds have pledged heavy amounts for climate financing.
Developing new institutions or modifying existing ones to promote adaptation to climate change. It would also involve modifying climate-receptive infrastructures already planned or implemented or other long-term decisions that are susceptible to climate.
Adapting and promoting renewable resources e.g. solar power, improving energy efficiency and adding to forest cover are crucial steps that can be taken to protect its environment. In this framework, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government’s Billion Tree Tsunami program needs appreciation as an effort towards protecting forest cover and should motivate other provincial governments to take concerted efforts in protecting their forests.
Improved Weather forecasting systems are need of the hour. Implement reforms on land-use planning and adaptation of new techniques for confident projection of
regional climate change and its variability, including extreme events.
Most importantly, it is vital to materialize National Climate Change Policy into productive actions. Since the policy aims to transform various economic sectors and conventional methods of using natural resources, it may encounter resistance from the national and international groups having vested interests. Therefore, a visionary, resolute, service-oriented and mature political leadership with an understanding of climate change as a security threat to Pakistan’s existence could take firm stance of enhancing its adaptation capacity.

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