Pakistan is responsible for only a small fraction of global warming but is among the countries that will be hit hardest by the effects of climate change, RK Pachauri of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change says.
Speaking at a regional conference here on "Climate change: Challenges and opportunities for South Asia" here, Pachauri said Pakistan was witnessing severe pressures on its natural resources and environment.
"Climatic changes are likely to exacerbate this trend. Water supply, already a serious concern in many parts of the country, will decline dramatically, affecting food production. Export industries such as fisheries will also be affected, while coastal areas risk being inundated, flooding the homes of millions of people living in low-lying areas," Dawn Wednesday quoted him as saying.
"The fact is that global warming was unequivocal and there is no scope for scientific questioning. Pakistan faces potential environmental catastrophe," Pachauri maintained.
Although Pakistan produces minimal chlorofluorocarbons and emits little sulphur dioxide, thus making a negligible contribution to ozone depletion and acid rain, it will suffer disproportionately from climate change and other global environmental problems, he maintained.
The effects are already being felt.
Pakistan contributes just one-35th of the world's of carbon dioxide emissions but temperatures in the country's coastal areas have risen since the early 1900s by 0.6 to 1 degree Celsius.
Precipitation has decreased 10 to 15 percent in the coastal belt and hyper-arid plains over the last 40 years, while summer and winter rains have increased in northern Pakistan.
This apart, droughts in 1999 and 2000 have caused sharp declines in water tables and dried up wetlands, severely degrading ecosystems.
Pachauri explained in detail the impact of such changes on Pakistan and on the lives of its people.
He said the health of millions would be affected with diarrhoeal diseases associated with floods and drought becoming more prevalent.
Intensifying rural poverty is likely to increase internal migration as well as migration to other countries. Given the enormity of the impact, adaptation and mitigation measures are critically important, Pachauri maintained.
"Although most societies have a long history of adapting to the impacts of weather and climate, climate change as we are experiencing it today poses new risks that will require new investments in adaptive responses," he warned.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who attended Tuesday's session of the two-day conference as the chief guest, "appeared disturbed by the fact that environmental degradation would cost five percent of the GDP every year", Dawn said.
"Climate change is an economic and developmental problem as well as environmental. The government will make concerted efforts to achieve desired outcome to mitigate climate change," the newspaper quoted Galani as saying at the conference.