For a layman, national security means protecting a country from foreign invaders using the military force. However, national security by definition means protecting the interests and well-being of all the people living within the geographical boundaries of a country. Thus, a comprehensive national security, apart from military, also includes economic, food, water, health, environmental security and so on. The climate change poses a serious challenge to all these non-military dimensions of national security in Pakistan.
The economy of any country is directly linked to its national security in three ways: First, it provides adequate budget to the military for better performance. Second, it improves the lifestyle of people. Consequently, they remain loyal to their country during hard time. Final, it enables any country to achieve its foreign policy objectives. As Edward Luttwak, a security consultant, argued that in post-Cold War, the strength of any country will be determined not by its military but by its economic position.
Climate change carries catastrophic consequences for the economy of Pakistan because it is an agricultural country and relies on this sector economically. Agriculture contributes 18.5 per cent to country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employs 38.5 per cent people to national labour force and is total 70 per cent of the export. Extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and changes in rainfall patterns can negatively affect the agriculture yield contributing to the overall loss to the economy.
Besides, the ecological disasters like flood of 2010 have potential to collapse the country completely by causing a huge damage to its economy. For instance, the flood of 2010, inundated one-fifth of total land, displaced 20 million people and caused an estimated $43 billion total damage to infrastructure. Anatol Lieven writes in his book, “Pakistan A Hard Country” “what is certainly true is that if floods and other ecological disasters on this scale become regular events as a result of climate change, then Pakistan will be destroyed as a state and an organized society.” Thus, climate change can collapse Pakistan and compromise its economic dimension of national security.
Once these glaciers are melted, the river will be dried up converting Pakistan into a semi desert. Afterward, the country would not be able to sustain around 207 million population. Under this scenario, people will start kill one another like a wild beast for survival.
Climate change also poses a serious threat to the food security of Pakistan. Irregular rainfall, drought, floods and storms can decrease agriculture yield in the country. For instance, Pakistan witnessed less than an expected cotton yield last year. It was because of irregular rainfall that took place during harvest time of the crop. As a result, cotton yield witnessed a downward trajectory. Undoubtedly, it was a cash crop, but similar events can occur against the food crop. For example, very recently, the heavy rainfall with hailstorms in some part of the country damaged the wheat crop. In southern Sindh, the strong winds have caused the similar destruction. These events are caused by climate change and may create extreme food crisis in future for the huge population of Pakistan.
Climate change contributes to the water crisis affecting the water security of the country as well. Pakistan receives an average of 240mm rainfall annually. According to this calculation, it comes in the category of semi-desert region. The existing agriculture of Pakistan is because of Indus River. Its reliance on a single river system makes its water security highly risky. Indus river of Pakistan receives its major share of water from melting of glaciers. These glaciers are melting at a very fast pace owing to the climate change. Once these glaciers are melted, the river will be dried up converting Pakistan into a semi desert. Afterward, the country would not be able to sustain around 207 million population. Under this scenario, people will start kill one another like a wild beast for survival.
According to WHO, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress. In 2015 alone, around 2000 people died from heat stroke and dehydration in Pakistan. Most of the children in Thar face malnutrition because of drought. Every year, about 1500 children die in Thar due of inadequate nutrition in their diet and improper treatment. Besides, Floods will contaminate freshwater supplies, heighten the risk of water-borne diseases, and create breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes. As a result, the diseases like malaria and diarrhea will spread adversary affecting the health security of Pakistan.
Protecting the country and its people from environmental threats like global warming, melting of glaciers, rise of sea level, droughts, irregular rainfall among others also comes under the wider dimension of national security. The Global Climate Risk Index has placed Pakistan on the fifth spot on the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change in its annual report for 2020. According to the report, Pakistan lost 9,989 lives, suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion and witnessed 152 extreme weather events from 1999 to 2018. The report was released by the think-tank Germanwatch. Since these ecological threats adversely affect poor farmers who are engaged in agriculture, the government needs to protect its citizens by actively engaging in global discussion to get carbon concentration in the atmosphere reduced.
Thus, climate change negatively affects the economic, food, water, health and environmental security of Pakistan. There is an urgent need for taking some measures to protect the interest and well-being of people from these impacts of climate change.