Climate Change and Health Impacts in Pakistan

Climate Change and Health Impacts in Pakistan

Saddam Hussain, Sobia Siddique, Ashfaq Ahmad Shah
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2197-7.ch001
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Conferring to the Global Risk Index, Pakistan is ranked as the 7th most susceptible country to the inexorable influence of climate change. Before this century ends, the annual mean temperature in Pakistan is expected to rise from 3°C to 5°C for a focal worldwide discharge situation. Usually, annual precipitation is not relied upon to have a critical long haul pattern. Ocean level is relied upon to ascend further by 60 centimeters. All these climatic events are likely to disrupt the economy, lives, and the socio-political aspects of human life. Pakistan has already witnessed massive loss in terms of human, infrastructural, and economic aspects. The chapter is designed to understand both the direct and indirect health risks associated with frequent climatic events like floods, drought, and heat waves in Pakistan. After analyzing the available literature, it was observed that floods and drought have direct and indirect health risks associated with them while in case of heat waves, health risks cannot be established precisely as multiple variables are involved, playing a significant role.
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The perils of climate change are coming out of shadows and manifesting themselves in various environmental phenomenon or climatic events. Before listing out these climatic events, it is imperative to define ‘climate change’ in a way that a layman is able tounderstand it. Therefore, two important definitions of climate change are adopted by the international bodies working on climate change namely the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC. IPCC demarcated climate variation as “change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer”. While UNFCCC’s definition of climate change is “change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods” (IPCC, 2007a).

Climate-induced changes may be intense and sudden, or slow-onset. The latter includes changes such as soil dilapidation and deterioration in farming productivity, water scarcity, decline in biodiversity, dilapidation of ecosystem services while sudden climatic changes can be categorized into life-threatening hazards like drought, floods, intense rainfall, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) or continuous hot spell. (Hoermann et al., 2010). In its Fourth Assessment Report, the IPCC dissipated a lot of suspicionwith respect to climate change. Global warming is being experienced without a doubt and scientists are 95 per cent sure that anthropogenic activities are the main drivers of climate change (IPCC, 2014). Scientists from various parts of the globe agree that the contemporary rate of warming around the world has the fastest trend when compared with trends in the past. IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report provided unambiguously thorough prognoses for the current century and showed that the contemporary rate of global warming is unlikely to slow down but it is expected to accelerate abruptly. The best available estimate for global warming is 3°C rise by end of the current century. This rise in average temperature worldwide will have dire consequences for all living beings on earth. The entire human civilization will suffer from the burn of climate change (IPCC, 2007).

By looking from the spectrum of human health, climate change is expected to distress the fundamental elements of health: food security, cleaner water and air. Numerous diseases are profoundly climate or environmentally delicate in the sense that they are more sensitive to various climatic events. For instance, greater variability in the climate means expanding air toxins which can, in turn, increase the chances of airborne and respiratory ailments. As dangers from unexpected climate events, for example, floods and violent winds become more visiting and annihilating, the transmission of sicknesses through polluted water and sullied rations is likewise prone to multiply enormously. Climate change is also sabotaging the progress that fights against the climate-sensitive diseases.

Effects of climate change can be broadly seen. It can be classified into direct and indirect impacts when talking in the context of anthropological well-being. The direct human health impacts inmate from floods, storm surges, tropical cyclones and heatwaves. As global warming is mounting up, heat waves are predicted to be more ubiquitous with elongated duration leading to an increase in cerebrovascular, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases (Hales, Edwards, and Kovats 2003). Heat-strokes are more prevalent among outdoor labourers and poor people in parched and semi-parched regions (Chaudhury, Gore, and Ray 2000). Deaths due to heat wave have been found especially among the vulberable communities: poor people, the old, and daily wage workers that include rickshaw drivers and agricultural labourers (Lal 2003).

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