Sweltering under the record temperatures of a blistering hot spring, Pakistan’s farmers have this year had a vivid glimpse of the dangers a changing climate many pose to their livelihoods.
As summer’s fierce heat this year arrived weeks early, the mercury rose above 50C (122F) and set what is thought to be a world record for an April temperature.
The scorching weather of 2018 follows a trend of increasingly short, warm and early spring seasons which have left Pakistan’s farmers struggling to deal with new weather patterns.
The heat has dried out farmland and hit profits by causing fruit and vegetables to ripen earlier, but smaller.
New research from the World Bank attempting to quantify how climate change will affect South Asia over the coming decades has now warned weather changes risk badly denting the living standards of hundreds of millions in the region.
More than 800 million of South Asia’s inhabitants live in predicted climate change “hotspots” where living standards will fall significantly without action to limit greenhouse gases.
As temperatures rise and rainfall patterns shift, difficulties with farming, irrigation, disease and labour are predicted by 2050 to badly hit people’s quality of living in parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.The impact due to changing average weather patterns will be worst inland and most severe in already poor areas reliant on farming and short of water, according to climate and economic models. India will have most of the hotspots.
Researchers at the bank ran two different scenarios for the effects of climate change, based on whether action is taken to limit greenhouse gases.
Under a “carbon intensive” scenario which assumes no action on climate change, more than 800 million people now live in areas where annual household consumption spending will fall by at least 4 per cent by the middle of the century.
The bank judged moderate hotspots as areas where projected consumption spending declines by 4-8 percent and severe ones are where the drop exceeds 8 percent.
“ Changes in the Earth’s climate will have major effects on the people of South Asia, which is already one of the most affected regions of the world,” said Annette Dixon, the bank’s South Asia vice president.
The bank said most previous predictions had looked at the damage rising sea levels and extreme weather could wreak. That research highlighted precarious coastal areas vulnerable to storms and flooding. Looking at the long-term results of gradually rising average temperatures had instead highlighted the risk to interior areas, the bank said.
“ Hotspots are identified where people could be most severely affected by changes in average temperature and precipitation.
“ Many of these are in locations that hitherto have not been seen as particularly vulnerable to climate.”
Under the worst case “carbon intensive” scenario, living standards will fall by 6.7 percent for Bangladesh, 2.8 percent for India, 2.9 percent for Pakistan, and 7.0 percent for Sri Lanka, by 2050, the bank said.
Under the second scenario, where action is taken to tackle greenhouse gases, living standards still fall, but for fewer people. Under that scenario, the predicted hotspots currently support around 280 million people.
Climate change has already reportedly affected the growing seasons in parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the report says.
Yet while the report paints a bleak picture for India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, other countries in the region may benefit from the changing climate.
“Many parts of Afghanistan and Nepal are relatively cold at present, so warming will not have a negative effect on living standards in these countries,” the report said.
“ In addition, climate change may increase precipitation in Afghanistan, which is predicted to have a positive effect.”