Climate Change Profile of Pakistan
Pakistan potentially faces a major climate change challenge. A concerted effort by the government and civil society at all levels is required to mitigate these threats.
In the last 50 years, the annual mean temperature in Pakistan has increased by roughly 0.5°C. The number of heat wave days per year has increased nearly fivefold in the last 30 years. Annual precipitation has historically shown high variability but has slightly increased in the last 50 years. Sea level along the Karachi coast has risen approximately 10 centimeters in the last century.
By the end of this century, the annual mean temperature in Pakistan is expected to rise by 3°C to 5°C for a central global emissions scenario, while higher global emissions may yield a rise of 4°C to 6°C. Average annual rainfall is not expected to have a significant long-term trend, but is expected to exhibit large inter-annual variability. Sea level is expected to rise by a further 60 centimeters by the end of the century and will most likely affect the low-lying coastal areas south of Karachi toward Keti Bander and the Indus River delta.
Under future climate change scenarios, Pakistan is expected to experience increased variability of river flows due to increased variability of precipitation and the melting of glaciers. Demand for irrigation water may increase due to higher evaporation rates. Yields of wheat and basmati rice are expected to decline and may drive production northward, subject to water availability. Water availability for hydropower generation may decline. Hotter temperatures are likely to increase energy demand due to increased air conditioning requirements. Warmer air and water temperatures may decrease the efficiency of nuclear and thermal power plant generation. Mortality due to extreme heat waves may increase. Urban drainage systems may be further stressed by high rainfall and flash floods. Sea level rise and storm surges may adversely affect coastal infrastructure and livelihoods.
Adapting to these impacts may include: development or use of crop varieties with greater heat and drought tolerance, modernizing irrigation infrastructure and employing water-saving technologies, integrated watershed management, reforestation of catchment areas and construction of additional water storage, diversification of energy mix including investment in renewable and small hydropower projects, improved weather forecasting and warning systems, retrofitting of critical energy infrastructure, and construction of dikes or sea walls.
The National Climate Change Policy of 2012 is Pakistan’s guiding document on climate change, setting out the goal of achieving climate-resilient development for the country through mainstreaming climate change in the economically and socially vulnerable sectors of the country. Approximately 6% of Pakistan’s federal budget during 2010–2014 comprised climate change-related expenditures, predominantly in energy and transport. As described in its Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Pakistan intends to reduce up to 20% of its 2030 projected greenhouse gas emissions, subject to availability of international grants to meet the cumulative abatement costs amounting to approximately $40 billion. The country’s adaptation needs have been identified to range between $7 billion to $14 billion per year.