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Citizen Voices Climate Change

Beyond Covid-19: Pakistan Is Severely Vulnerable To Food Insecurity From Climate Change

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The UN’s FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) defines food security as follows:
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

Food security is the biggest concern of human race since its birth. The survival of the human race is entirely dependent upon the availability of food and food production is directly affected by climatic condition. Global climate change since the last few decades has adversely affected global food production, so undoubtedly it has brought up a great challenge for the continued existence of the human race.

Climate change occurs when changes in Earth’s climate system result in new weather patterns that remain in place for an extended period of time. This length of time can be as short as a few decades to as long as millions of years.

Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of the impact of climate change. In fact, Pakistan already has suffered a lot in the wake of floods, drought and heat waves between 1996 and 2015. In this present scenario of biological threats and climate vulnerability, if the Pakistani government and policymakers do not take it seriously, then the day is not far when circumstances will be far beyond anyone’s control.

Since long, scientists and researchers are warning about climate change and its catastrophic effect on the entire planet. Due to aberrant weather conditions, yield loss of staple foods has drastically increased in the past few years. Current rains in Pakistan are proof of such phenomena. These unseasonal rains are damaging wheat and other crops. The increasing threat of climatological extremes, including very high temperatures, might lead to catastrophic loss of crop productivity and result in widespread famine. It is very important right now to assess the impact of global climate change on crop production in Pakistan. There is a differential effect of climate change both in terms of geographic location and in the crops that will likely show the most extreme reductions in yield.

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High temperature stress has a wide range of effects on plants in terms of physiology, biochemistry and gene regulation pathways. Abiotic stresses are often interrelated, either individually or in combination – they cause morphological, physiological, biochemical and molecular changes that adversely affect plant growth and productivity, and ultimately yield. Heat, drought, cold and salinity are the major abiotic stresses that induce severe cellular damage in plants. Extreme variations during hot summers can damage the intermolecular interactions needed for proper growth, thus impairing plant development and fruit set.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its third assessment report in 2001 noted that due to decreased water availability, the poorest countries will be affected the most, particularly by reduction in crop yield. According to IPCC reports, the agricultural crops’ vigour and productivity will be decreased up to 30% over the 21st century. Adverse effects of climate change are also hitting maritime environments, meaning reductions in fishing yields. In 2014, the IPCC noted that if this trend continues, it may lead the world beyond the threshold of global warming to a stage where current agricultural practices will no longer be able to support large-scale human civilization. Another report supported this fact by noting that millions are already suffering food insecurity due to climate change and predicted a further decrease of crop production by 2%-6%, each decade, globally.

According to the mutual report from Climate Risks and Food Security and the World Food Program, data from the last 20 years shows the shift in rainfall more towards the southern and central regions – which is a clear indication of changing rain patterns but no one is talking about such important issues. Already this year in Pakistan, due to heavy rains, the wheat crop is almost ruined and farmers don’t know who what to put it down to: technology, scientists, a management and regulation system which could not warn them or Divine will.

Climate change and food security should be prioritized both in actions and policy. before it goes out of control and hunger becomes a virus like COVID-19 bringing the continued survival of humanity into question. We cannot completely do away wit climate change vulnerability. but at the very least we can mitigate it.

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The author is a doctoral candidate and researcher at China Agriculture University, Beijing, China. She specializes in Plant Biotechnology.

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