Climate, ice sheets & sea level: the news is not good for Pakistan, other vulnerable countries

In this file picture taken on August 31, 2022, local residents use a temporary cradle service to cross the river Swat after heavy rains in Bahrain town of Swat valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (Photo courtesy: AFP/File)
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Updated 17 February 2023

Climate, ice sheets & sea level: the news is not good for Pakistan, other vulnerable countries

  • The risk, which will play out over centuries, may also be greater than expected
  • Study shows number of people threatened is underestimated by tens of millions

PARIS: Parts of Earth’s ice sheets that could lift global oceans by meters will likely crumble with another half degree Celsius of warming, and are fragile in ways not previously understood, according to new research.

The risk, which will play out over centuries, may also be greater than expected for a significant portion of the world’s population in coastal regions.

New research suggests that the number of people threatened by sea level rise has been underestimated by tens of millions because of poorly-interpreted satellite data and a lack of scientific resources in developing countries.

Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have shed more than half-a-trillion tons annually since 2000 — six icy Olympic pools every second.

These kilometers-thick ice cubes have replaced glacier melt as the single biggest source of sea level rise, which has accelerated three-fold over the last decades compared to most of the 20th century.

A 20 centimeters increase since 1900 has boosted the destructive wallop of ocean storms made more powerful and wide-ranging by global warming, and is driving salt water into populous, low-lying agricultural deltas across Asia and Africa.

Up to now, climate models have underestimated how much ice sheets will add to future sea level rise because they mostly looked at the one-way impact of rising air temperatures on the ice, and not the complicated interaction between atmosphere, oceans, ice sheet and ice shelves.

Using so-called active ice sheet models, scientists from South Korea and the US projected how much ice sheets would raise global oceans by 2150 under three emissions scenarios: swift and deep cuts as called for by the UN’s IPCC advisory panel, current climate policies, and a steep increase in carbon pollution.

Looking only at a 2100 horizon is misleading, because oceans will continue to rise for hundreds of years no matter how quickly humanity draws down emissions.

If rising temperatures — up 1.2C above preindustrial levels so far — can be capped at 1.5C, the additional impact of ice sheets will remain very small, they found.

But under current policies, including national carbon-cutting pledges under the 2015 Paris Agreement, Greenland and Antarctica would add about half-a-meter to the global watermark.

And if emissions increase — from human or natural sources — under a “worst case” scenario, enough ice would melt to lift oceans 1.4 meters.

Perhaps the most striking finding from the study, published this week in Nature Communications, was a red line for runaway ice-sheet disintegration.

“Our model has a threshold between 1.5C and 2C of warming — with 1.8C as a best estimate — for acceleration of ice loss and sea level increase,” co-author Fabian Schloesser from the University of Hawaii, told AFP.

Scientists have long known that the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets — which together could lift oceans 13 meters — have “tipping points” beyond which complete disintegration is inevitable, whether in centuries or millennia. But pinpointing these temperature trip wires has remained elusive.

A pair of studies this week in Nature, meanwhile, showed that Antarctica’s Thwaites “doomsday glacier” — a slab the size of Britain sliding toward the sea — is fracturing in unsuspected ways.

Thwaites is one of the fastest moving glaciers on the continent, and has retreated 14 kilometers since the 1990s. Much of it is below sea level and susceptible to irreversible ice loss.

But exactly what is driving the march to the sea has been unclear for lack of data.

An international expedition of British and US scientists drilled a hole the depth of two Eiffel towers (600 meters) through the thick tongue of ice Thwaites has pushed out over the Southern Ocean’s Amundsen Sea.

Using sensors and an underwater robot, called Icefin, threaded through the hole, they examined the ice shelf’s hidden underbelly.

There was less melting than expected in some places, but far more in others.

The stunned scientists discovered up-side-down staircase formations — like an underwater Escher drawing — with accelerated erosion, along with long fissures being forced open by sea water.

“Warm water is getting into the cracks, helping wear down the glacier at its weakest point,” said Britney Schmidt, lead author of one of the studies and an associate professor at Cornell University in New York.

A fourth study, published last week in the American Geophysical Union journal Earth’s Future, found that rising oceans will destroy farmland, ruin water supplies and uproot millions of people sooner than thought.

“The time available to prepare for increased exposure to flooding may be considerably less than assumed to date,” Dutch researchers Ronald Vernimmen and Aljosja Hooijer concluded.

The new analysis shows that a given amount of sea level rise — whether 30 or 300 centimeters — will devastate twice the area projected in most models to date.

Remarkably, a misinterpretation of data is mostly to blame: radar measurements of coastal elevations used until recently, it turned out, often mistook tree canopy and rooftops for ground level, adding meters of elevation that were not in fact there.

Most vulnerable will be tens of millions of people in the coastal areas of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Thailand, Nigeria and Vietnam.

Earlier research taking into account more accurate elevation readings found that areas currently home to 300 million people will be vulnerable by mid-century to flooding made worse by climate change, no matter how aggressively emissions are reduced.

COP28 ‘great opportunity’ for Pakistan to discuss ideas on climate change — UAE envoy

Updated 9 sec ago

COP28 ‘great opportunity’ for Pakistan to discuss ideas on climate change — UAE envoy

  • UAE embassy co-organizes cleanliness drive in Pakistan’s capital city 
  • UAE envoy says Abu Dhabi ‘working closely’ with Pakistan on climate change

ISLAMABAD: The upcoming 28th Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP) would be a “great opportunity” for Pakistan to discuss ideas on how to support countries most affected by climate change, UAE’s Ambassador to Pakistan Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi said on Saturday.
The UAE will be the second Arab state to host the climate conference after Egypt hosted COP27 last year. The Gulf country will host the COP28 from Nov.30 to Dec. 12, with the global conference expected to attract about 70,000 people, including heads of state, government officials, international industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts, youngsters, and non-state players.
Pakistan is recognized among the countries most affected by climate change around the world. In June 2022, raging floods triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains and melting glaciers killed over 1,700 and swept away large swathes of crops and damaged critical infrastructure. Pakistan estimated damages and economic losses from the floods to be over $30 billion.
The South Asian country has been at the forefront of efforts to extract compensation from wealthy countries for nations impacted the most by climate change. During the COP27 in Egypt last year, Pakistan led a group of 134 states to push for the establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund to compensate countries affected the most by climate change.
“Pakistan is one of the top five countries affected by climate change,” Al-Zaabi told Arab News at the sidelines of the ‘Green Impact Cleanup Drive,’ an event held at Islamabad’s F-9 Park. The drive was co-organized by the UAE embassy, the Capital Development Authority (CDA), Serena Hotels and Ismaili Civic Pakistan.
“The Pakistani delegation who is going to participate in COP28 at Dubai Expo, it is a great opportunity for them to discuss more the ideas on how to support countries affected by climate change,” he added.
The event was aimed at promoting environmental protection, and sustainable practices, raising awareness against littering and the use of single-use plastic. Members of the diplomatic corps, civil society, students, and the public participated in the drive. 
“We are working closely with the government of Pakistan with regard to climate change and we have a lot of projects, a lot of responsibilities in this regard,” Al-Zaabi said.
He said COP28 would be a chance for the international community to gather in Dubai for “more engagement and more negotiations” to tackle climate-related challenges.
“It’s a commitment from the United Arab Emirates to continue working with the international community for the challenges of climate change and the environment,” he said.
Speaking about COP28, the UAE envoy said it would also involve a review of the Paris Agreement, adding that the international community needed to assume greater responsibilities and generate more ideas to address the impacts of climate change.
Kuwait’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Nassar Abdulrahman Al-Mutairi, expressed happiness at seeing children participate in the drive to clean Pakistan’s capital.
“A big thanks goes to you, your teachers, and your family for taking the time to participate in the cleaning of your capital. You are the future and I am sure this initiative you will pass to your own children in the future,” he told students present at the event.
Noor ul Huda Shah, a student and member of the students’ voluntary group, the Golden Jubilee Girls Guide, said she took part in the drive as it was everyone’s collective responsibility to look after the environment.
“It’s our responsibility to take care of our Earth today because, for the next generation, we are creating a safe environment,” Shah told Arab News.
“And if we do not take care of our environment today, we will suffer tomorrow.”

Saudi ambassador gifts Umrah ticket to Pakistani artist who drew portrait of crown prince

Updated 23 September 2023

Saudi ambassador gifts Umrah ticket to Pakistani artist who drew portrait of crown prince

  • Umar Jarral, 33, suffers from cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that can impact a person’s coordination
  • Jarral has drawn other Muslim leaders, including UAE’s prime minister and the crown prince of Dubai

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, on Friday gifted travel tickets to a Pakistani artist who drew a portrait of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier this year.
Umar Jarral, 33, suffers from cerebral palsy (CP), a permanent movement disorder that can impact a person’s coordination, lead to compromised muscle strength, and produce tremors due to the irregular development of certain parts of the brain that control balance and posture.
The young Lahore-based Pakistani artist, who uses computers to communicate, has created portraits of Muslim leaders from around the world, including the Saudi crown prince.
Malki met Jarral during an event in Lahore to celebrate the 93rd Saudi National Day. In a picture shared on social media platform X by an account titled ‘Pakistan in Arabic,’ Malki can be seen standing beside Jarral with the Saudi crown prince’s painting in his hand.
“Omar had drawn a picture of the Saudi Crown Prince, Prince #Mohammed_bin_Salman, and the Saudi ambassador gave him travel tickets to perform Umrah as well,” the account wrote.

Jarral’s brother, Muhammed Ahmed, separately confirmed to Arab News that the meeting with the Saudi ambassador took place.
The Pakistani artist has also created images of United Arab Emirates Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


Pakistani PM dismisses as ‘absolutely absurd’ possibility military could manipulate upcoming elections

Updated 28 min 27 sec ago

Pakistani PM dismisses as ‘absolutely absurd’ possibility military could manipulate upcoming elections

  • Pakistan has been in deepening political turmoil since April 2022 when ex-PM Imran Khan was ousted
  • Election regulator said this week that polls, originally scheduled for November, will be held in January 2024

NEW YORK: Pakistan’s interim prime minister said he expects parliamentary elections to take place in the new year, dismissing the possibility that the country’s powerful military would manipulate the results to ensure that jailed former premier Imran Khan’s party doesn’t win.
In an interview with The Associated Press Friday, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said it’s the Election Commission that is going to conduct the vote, not the military, and Khan appointed the commission’s chief at the time, so “why would he turn in any sense of the word against him?”
Pakistan has been in deepening political turmoil since April 2022 when Khan was removed from office following a no-confidence vote in Parliament. He was arrested in early August on corruption charges and sentenced to three years in prison, later suspended though he still remains in jail. The country is also facing one of the worst economic crises in its history and recovering from last summer’s devastating floods that killed at least 1,700 people and destroyed millions of homes and farmland.
The commission announced Thursday the elections would take place during the last week in January, delaying the vote which was to be held in November under the constitution.
Kakar resigned as a senator last month after outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and opposition leader Raza Riaz chose him as caretaker prime minister to oversee the elections and run the day-to-day affairs until a new government is elected.
Kakar said that when the commission sets an exact election date his government “will provide all the assistance, financial, security or other related requirements.”
Asked whether he would recommend judges overturn Khan’s conviction so he could run in the elections, the prime minister said he wouldn’t interfere with decisions by the judiciary.
He stressed that the judiciary should not be used “as a tool for any political ends.”
“We are not pursuing anyone on a personal vendetta,” Kakar said. “But yes, we will ensure that the law is appropriate. Anyone, be it Imran Khan or any other politician who violates, in terms of their political behavior, the laws of the country, then the restoration of the law has to be ensured. We cannot equate that with … political discrimination.”
He said fair elections can take place without Khan or hundreds of members of his party who are jailed because they engaged in unlawful activities including vandalism and arson, in reference to the violence that rocked the country following Khan’s initial arrest in May. He added that the thousands of people in Khan’s party who didn’t engage in unlawful activities, “will be running the political process, they will be participating in the elections.”
The Pakistani military has been behind the rise and fall of governments, with some of Khan’s supporters suggesting there is de facto military rule in Pakistan and that democracy is under threat.
Kakar, who reportedly has close ties to the military, said those allegations are “part and parcel of our political culture,” to which he pays no attention. He called his government’s working relationship with the military “very smooth,” as well as “very open and candid.”
“We do have challenges of civil-military relationships, I’m not denying that,” he said, but there are very different reasons for the imbalance. He said he believes, after one month leading the government, that civil institutions in Pakistan have “deteriorated in terms of performance for the last many decades” while the military is disciplined, has organizational capabilities and has improved over the past four decades.
The solution, Kakar said, is to gradually improve the performance of the civilian institutions “rather than weakening the current military organization, because that’s not going to solve any of our problems.”
One major problem is Kashmir, which has been a flashpoint for India and Pakistan after the end of British colonial rule in 1947. They have fought two wars over its control.
In 2019, India’s Hindu nationalist government decided to end the Muslim-majority region’s semi-autonomy, stripping it of statehood, its separate constitution and inherited protections on land and jobs.
Kakar said India has sent 900,000 troops to Kashmir and its people are living in “a large imprisonment” with no political rights, in violation of the United Nations Charter’s right to self-determination and the resolution calling for a UN referendum.
While the world focuses on Ukraine, he said, Kashmir “is a crisis which primarily has a wrong geography.”
If Kashmir were in Europe or North America, would there still be what he called a “callous attitude” toward resolving it, he asked.
“The most important player in this dispute is the Kashmir people,” Kakar said. “It is neither India or Pakistan,” but the Kashmiri people who “have to decide about their identity” and their future.
India boasts of being the largest democracy, he said, but it “is denying the basic, democratic principle to have a plebiscite. ... So what sort of a democracy they are boasting about?”
As for Pakistan’s relations with neighboring Afghanistan — under the Taliban rule since 2021 following US and NATO withdrawal — Kakar said “there are some serious security challenges” from the Afghan side, pointing to the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, Daesh and other extremist groups, who at times vie for influence with each other.
When asked whether the government had requested the Taliban to extradite the leadership and fighters from the TTP, he said they are in contact with authorities in Kabul, “but there is nothing specific which I can share with you.”
The international community has withheld recognition of the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan.
Karar said a meeting of regional leaders to discuss what incentives and changes of behavior the Taliban would need to undertake for recognition to be considered hasn’t been finalized, but “I think we’re heading toward that milestone.”
Kakar was a little-known first-time senator from Pakistan’s least-populated, least-developed province when he was tapped to be the caretaker prime minister.
“It’s a huge privilege,” he said. “I feel I never deserved it. It’s just a divine blessing.”
By law, he can’t contest the elections when he’s interim prime minister, but Kakar said in the future he hopes “to play a constructive political role in my society.”

Pakistani FM ‘hopeful’ flood aid promises will be fulfilled

Updated 23 September 2023

Pakistani FM ‘hopeful’ flood aid promises will be fulfilled

  • Floods last year inflicted over $30bn in damage, economic losses on Pakistan
  • While donors have pledged around $10bn in aid, it has yet to be disbursed

NEW YORK: Pakistan is “hopeful” that pledged reconstruction funding to rebuild parts of the country damaged by floods last year will be disbursed soon, Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani said on Friday.

At a press conference during the UN General Assembly in New York, he told Arab News: “Pakistan is one of the worst affected as far as climate change is concerned because it has affected about 33 million people.

“One-third of the country was inundated with water, and about $30 billion worth of losses were suffered.”

Pakistan was devastated by the 2022 floods, which were the world’s deadliest since those in southern Asia in 2020.

About a month after last year’s disaster, Pakistan and other countries attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt decided to establish the Loss and Damage Fund to assist countries in dealing with the effects of climate change.

Many donors have pledged funds to help Pakistan rebuild flood-affected areas. The Islamic Development Bank pledged more than $4 billion, the World Bank $2 billion and Saudi Arabia $1 billion.

“So far, there has been very little which has trickled down from the international community as far as the rehabilitation and reconstruction work that has to be carried out. Pakistan is doing that from its own resources,” Jilani told Arab News.

“Our banks are issuing loans on easy terms to all those people who were affected. But then obviously, there are limits to what the banking industry can do.

“This is the kind of situation we’re in. I think we’re hopeful that most of the promises which were made by the donors will be fulfilled shortly.”

Regarding foreign policy, Jilani described the formation of new blocs and rivalries in the Asia-Pacific region as “a very uncomfortable situation” for Pakistan.

“Asia-Pacific has been a very peaceful region, a prosperous region, and it has made great economic strides in the last 40-50 years. Any tension within the Asia-Pacific region, from our point of view, is certainly not good for peace and stability in the region,” he said, adding that Pakistan prioritizes good relations with all countries, specifically mentioning China and the US.

When asked about Islamabad’s potential to confront the Pakistani Taliban, which operates along the border with Afghanistan, Jilani said: “Afghanistan is a sovereign country. Pakistan follows a policy of non-interference … while respecting the sovereignty of other countries.

“At the same time, we have expectations that the Afghan side would take action against all groups who are violating Afghanistan’s soil to carry out terrorist activities against other countries.”

Jilani added that during a meeting between the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan in May, “there was a reiteration of this commitment by the Afghan side that they won’t allow Afghan soil to be used against other countries.”

Jilani also praised Pakistan’s commitment to democracy and free elections. “We’re a democratic country. There’s absolutely no doubt about it. In Pakistan, when parliament has completed its full term, it’s a constitutional requirement that there’s a caretaker setup which is meant to ensure neutrality in the next elections,” he said.

“This is meant to ensure that the elections are free and fair, and is meant to ensure that people are able to participate in the voting process without any violence.”

Jilani said Pakistan is heavily involved in efforts to tackle Islamophobia in Europe, and had made a case for the criminalization of religious-based hate speech in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Contact Group on Muslims in Europe.

“We also appreciated the introduction of a bill by the government of Denmark which would criminalize such offenses, either the burning of holy books or insulting the prophets of any religion. I think this is a good step they’ve taken,” he added, saying he is hopeful that if such a bill passed in Demark, other European nations may follow suit.

India dethrone Pakistan to become top-ranked ODI side ahead of World Cup

Updated 23 September 2023

India dethrone Pakistan to become top-ranked ODI side ahead of World Cup

  • India become top-ranked side in all three formats of cricket after beating Australia by 5 wickets
  • Pakistan slump to number 2 rankings after losing to Sri Lanka, India in Asia Cup’s Super Four clashes

ISLAMABAD: India brushed aside Pakistan to claim the top spot in the One Day International rankings this week, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said on Saturday, with the development taking place less than two weeks before the World Cup kicks off.
India scripted history on Friday after beating Australia in the first of the three-match ODI series between the two sides. After beating Australia by five wickets in what was a one-sided match, India became only the second team in history to top all cricket formats. South Africa were the only side to have achieved the feat in 2012.
Rohit Sharma’s side were already the top-ranked team in Test and T20 formats of cricket before climbing to the top in the ODI format. Pakistan had regained the top ranking in ODIs after losing to India and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup after India lost to Bangladesh in the Super Four stage of the tournament.
“India have become the No.1 ranked team across all formats in the
@mrfworldwide ICC Men’s Team Rankings,” the International Cricket Council (ICC) said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

India’s win over Australia in Mohali took them to 116 rating points, one ahead of Pakistan, who have now slumped to number 2 in the ranking.
Sharma’s side, however, could slump down the table if Australia— on 111 points— win the remaining two matches in the series against India.
If India win the series, they will head into the showpiece tournament as the world’s top-ranked ODI team.
Pakistan, meanwhile, head into the World Cup at the back of a disappointing performance in the Asia Cup tournament and injury woes.
Chief Selector Inzamam-ul-Haq on Friday announced the 15-man World Cup squad for the Babar Azam-led side, which included pacer Hassan Ali instead of ace bowler Naseem Shah.
Shah has been ruled out of the upcoming tournament due to a shoulder injury he suffered during the Asia Cup. Pacer Haris Rauf also sat out part of Pakistan’s match against India after he suffered discomfort in his right flank.
Pakistan open their World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on October 6.