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Climate Change Awareness And The Media Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 5425 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Climate change being the most important issue of the 21st century it is affecting developing countries the most. And a case study of every country is important to understand the level of risk it is at. This paper is a case study of Pakistan and its media. The level of awareness that exists among the people and exactly what sectors and areas are being affected that need to be dealt with in time.

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This paper is a detailed study of climate change, what it is, the evidences of climate change in Pakistan and the vulnerabilities that need to be taken care of by the Media by creating awareness about it by persuading both the Government and the People to take initiatives towards contributing less to climate change. The analysis is based on primary and secondary research which in the end gives recommendations and conclusion so as to what and how should the media create awareness about climate change.


Global Climate Change resulting from an increasing concentration of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) in the atmosphere caused by the use of fossil fuels and other human activities is now an established phenomenon and its effects have been observed in most parts of the world including Pakistan. With continued heavy reliance of the world energy system on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future much larger climatic changes and their adverse impacts are to be expected in the coming decades. According to the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average temperature of the earth’s surface increased by 0.6 °C over the past century and is projected to increase further by 1.1 to 6.4 °C by the end of the current century (IPCC 2007). It will be accompanied by large variations (both, increases and decreases) of temperature and precipitation in different world regions, considerable worldwide increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events (floods, droughts, cyclones etc.), large scale shrinking of Arctic sea ice and recession of mountain glaciers, rise in average sea level by up to 0.6 meter etc., with serious adverse impacts on various socio-economic sectors in many parts of the world.

Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to climate change because it has generally a warm climate; it lies in a world region where the temperature increases are expected to be higher than the global averages; its land area is mostly arid and semi-arid (about 60 per cent of the area receives less than 250 mm of rainfall per year and 24 per cent receives between 250-500 mm); its rivers are predominantly fed by the Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalaya (HKH) glaciers which are reported to be receding rapidly due to global warming; its economy is largely agrarian and hence highly climate sensitive; and because the country faces increasingly larger risks of variability in monsoon rains, large floods and extended droughts. Under the influence of all these factors the Water Security and the Food security of the country are under serious threat. Compounding these problems are the expected increased risks to the coastal areas (these include Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and the hub of its industrial activity and international trade) and the Indus deltaic region due to sea level rise and increasing cyclonic activity; to the mountainous regions due to glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and land slides; to the country’s scanty forests (less than 5% of the land area is under forest cover) due to forest fires as well as reduced regeneration under rapidly changing climatic conditions; to human health due to heat strokes, diarrhoea, cholera, vector borne diseases, etc.; and to human settlements due to floods and cyclones.

Although Pakistan has been rather late in realizing the intensity of the climate change threat to its socio-economic development, the country is now taking this threat very seriously: A dedicated research centre (called, Global Change Impact Studies Centre, GCISC) focusing on climate change related aspects was initiated in 2003 and a high level committee chaired by the Prime Minister (called Prime Minister’s Committee on Climate Change, PMCCC) was established in 2005 to provide national level policy guidelines on climate change related issues. More recently, in October 2008, the Planning Commission (PC) set up a Task Force on Climate Change (TFCC) with a view to take stock of country’s situation vis a vis climate change; to contribute to the formulation of a climate change policy that would assist the government in achieving sustained economic growth by appropriately addressing climate change threats so as to ensure water security, food security and energy security of the country; and to recommend policy measures for promoting large scale Adaptation and Mitigation efforts, for raising awareness of various stakeholders; and for enhancing the capacities of relevant national institutions (see Annex-A for full Terms of Reference (TOR) of TFCC and Annex-B for the list of TFCC members).

While Pakistan is highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, its own contribution to the total global GHG emissions is a miniscule (about 0.8%) and its per capita GHG emissions correspond to about one-fifth of the average for Western Europe (IEA/OECD 2006). As such, the main thrust of the country’s response to climate change is bound to be on Adaptation measures. Still, as a responsible member of the international community, Pakistan would like to contribute as much to the global Mitigation effort as it possibly can while trying to meet the country’s basic minimum energy needs consistent with its socio-economic developmental requirements, energy security considerations, and financial and technological constraints.

Climate change is an undeniable fact of the 21st century and the world is witnessing a rapid change in temperature, precipitation, snow fall, melting of glaciers, sun shine period etc. It is predicted to have a devastating impact on the planet and its inhabitants. The IPCC Synthesis Report (2007) indicated that about 20 to 30 percent species of animals and plants would be at risk of extinction if global temperature rises from 1.5 to 2.5 degree. This will create a range of problems for humans. Moreover, health issues and disease will sharply increase among human beings. IPCC report states, “The health status of millions of people is projected to be affected through, for example, increases in malnutrition; increased deaths, diseases and injury due to extreme weather events; increased burden of diarrheal diseases; increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone in urban areas related to climate change; and the altered spatial distribution of some infectious diseases.”

Agriculture will also become more susceptible to pest and disease attacks. Soil erosion, caused by storms and floods will limit the agricultural scope in the coming years. Trans-boundary movement of pests and diseases will further complicate the situation. Moreover, the peace and livelihoods of billions of people would be threatened due to the scarcity of water. Water availability, according to the demand of growing population, and need, in different sectors is under a cloud of doubt.

The major sufferers would be Africa and Asia. The fresh water availability will decrease many folds. IPCC reported that the water shortage will have severe impacts on South Asian productivity and systems of production. The frequency of production shocks and failure of crops will become more common (IPCC 2007).

Owing to the adverse impact of climate change, natural resources will become scarce. Scarcity always leads to competition to gain the maximum, sometimes at the cost of others, and paves the way for conflicts and wars. Dr. R. K. Pachauri (2007) said, “Climate change has raised the threat of dramatic population migration, conflict, and war over water and other resources as well as a realignment of power among nations. Some also highlight the possibility of rising tensions between rich and poor nations, health problems caused particularly by water shortages, and crop failures as well as concerns over nuclear proliferation.”

Impact of Climate Change on different Sector

Water Resources

Melting rate of glaciers will increase in the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush regions resulting in flash floods to begin with. Increased melting rate will aggravate the process of depletion of water resources. However, some hydrologists are of the view that the rate of snowfall will increase and melting rate will decrease due to lower temperature in Himalaya, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush.

Watersheds and water basin would be degraded due to erosion and loss of forest cover.

Water stresses, drought will increase or vice versa.


Lower productivity and production,

Outbreak and spread of diseases,

Shifting in cropping patterns,

Soil erosion, salinity and water logging,

Increased trans-boundary movement of pests and diseases

Livestock would also be impacted by the climate change induced calamities and vulnerabilities. Lower crop productivity will introduce competition between food and fodder crops in country. Keeping in mind the current situation of food availability in the country, food crops will have to be given top priority.

Forestry, Biodiversity and Land Use Changes

Depletion of biodiversity;

Reduction in forest cover;

Shifting of biomass due to change in temperature;

Loss of wildlife;

Deforestation to make land available for agricultural purposes to nourish the population.

Coastal Zones

Risk of soil erosion and degradation;

Flooding inundation;

Displacement of wetlands and lowlands;

Salinization of ground and surface water.

Natural Calamities

Increased frequency and severity of occurrence of extreme floods;

Increased frequency and severity of occurrence of droughts;

Increased frequency and severity of occurrence of cyclones;

Increased frequency and severity of occurrence of diseases.

Impact of Climate Change on Health

Increased frequency and severity of occurrence of diarrhea;

Increased frequency and severity of occurrence of malnourishment;

Increased frequency and severity of occurrence of malaria;

There would also be heat stresses.

Vulnerabilities are expected to increase across the globe; however, the extent of these would be unequal. Poor people and regions would be more susceptible to climate change and adverse impacts, and their helplessness would be higher, as compared to rich people and regions. As Thomas and Twyman (2005) mentioned, vulnerabilities are higher in developing and least developed countries and their ability and capacity to adapt is limited due to higher level of dependence on natural resources, weak financial and institutional arrangements, and high incidence of poverty, stagnant or diminishing growth of GDP and most importantly absence or weak safety net mechanism.

Pakistan’s State of Environment

The development history of Pakistan is quite interesting. Pakistan’s economy has undergone different experiments over the course of time. On occasion, Pakistan followed the protective-economic model, and other times, the open-market model. However, these models remained oblivious of environmental aspects. Although Pakistan is not a big polluter, the prevalent lack of knowledge regarding nature is a major concern.

Environment and poverty are strongly linked and in some cases, determine impact. The underprivileged sections of society are more dependent on natural resources and their judicious distribution, and at the same time, are more vulnerable to economic, social and environmental shocks. Poor management of natural resources further aggravates the situation in Pakistan. The livelihood of millions of people is, both directly and indirectly, dependent on Pakistan’s natural assets.

How is Pakistan affected by climate change?

Pakistan contributes very little to the overall Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, but remains severely impacted by the negative effects of climate change by the following ways:

Glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding will affect water resources within the next two to three decades. This will be followed by decreased river flows over time as glaciers recede.

Freshwater availability is also projected to decrease which will lead to biodiversity loss and reduce availability of freshwater for the population.

Coastal areas bordering the Arabian Sea in the south of Pakistan will be at greatest risk due to increased flooding from the sea and in some cases, the rivers.

Being a predominantly agriculture economy, climate change is estimated to decrease crop yields in Pakistan which in turn will affect livelihoods and food production. Combining the decreased yields with the current rapid population growth and urbanization in the country, the risk of hunger and food security will remain high. 

Endemic morbidity and mortality due to diseases primarily associated with floods and droughts are expected to rise. Increases in coastal water temperatures would exacerbate the abundance of cholera. 

The impact of climate change will also aggravate the existing social inequalities of resource use and intensify social factors leading to instability, conflicts, displacement of people and changes in migration patterns.

Environmental degradation is a well-established fact in Pakistan. Components of the environment, e.g. forests, water, wetlands, land, air are not in satisfactory quality. Moreover, their condition continues to deteriorate with time. The land is losing its fertility due to organic degradation, soil erosion, water logging, salinity and the loss of cover of natural vegetation. Land productivity is increasingly following a decreasing trend and is already very low in Pakistan as compared to the other developed and developing countries.

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The water sector also faces issues of environmental degradation and the dilemma of mismanagement. Industrial, solid and household waste further adds to water pollution and the lack of an adequate governance system is exacerbating the situation. Water basins are also depleting very rapidly. The exhaustion of water basins is and will continue to be the cause of major concerns in the future. Pakistan will have to face the problem of scarcity in future, which will result in reduced hydro power generation.

Over-exploitation of forest resources is a common phenomenon, due to lack of awareness among the masses. The quality of air is worsening due to presence of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the general misuse of natural resources and other unwanted pollutants, such as chemicals. Owing to these problems, Pakistan’s biodiversity is sharply declining. The poor health of natural resources is impacting the whole social, economic and environmental fabric of Pakistan.

This current state of the environment imposes heavy costs on the country’s weak economic structure. Negligence in the past has further impaired the situation and enhanced the financial burden. The current government is coping with problems in tackling environmental issues, due to the weak economic situation and increasing natural disintegration.

Furthermore, the allocation of national funds towards environment and poverty are not based on necessity. Government spending on the environment is clearly insufficient. The institutional framework to address environmental issues is weak, but it has been evolving since the formulation and adoption of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Ordinance in 1983. Pakistan, being a signatory to different international agreements, is reframing its institutes, legal set up and implementation strategies. The government has established different authorities and organizations, e.g. Clean Development Mechanism cell, Environment Protection Agency, Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) and policies and acts e.g. PEPA’97, Environment Policy 2005 and Energy Efficiency Policy and so on.

The Environment Policy 2005 is a pivotal instrument for the response to environmental concerns. The policy addresses the production sector, both natural and industrial, to attain the objective of sustainable development in Pakistan and mainstreaming environmental knowledge. The policy suggests

What Next?

Pakistan is a signatory to almost all environment related agreements and thus has certain obligations and privileges. Now, the question arises as to how Pakistan will fulfill the dream of development in the presence of all these agreements, which call for more sustainable solutions to all these problems. As part of its privileges, Pakistan can ask for financial and technological help from the developed world. Furthermore, Pakistan can also ask for aid in tackling climate change vulnerabilities under the adaptation window. However, there are certain weaknesses or shortcomings in the international agreements which will be discussed at the Copenhagen in the Conference Of Parties 15 (COP) in December 2009. This will be a superb opportunity for Pakistan to voice its concerns.

International Negotiations and Key Issues

The debate on climate change is complex. Uncertainty and inequality of climate change and its impacts make it further convoluted. Scientific evidence suggests that the impact of climate change would be highly unequal due to geography. Poor (developing, least developed and small island countries) regions would be more vulnerable and some small island countries would become endangered. Developing, least developed and small island countries have a very minor share in historical emissions. However, weak institutional, governance and financial infrastructure make them more vulnerable. The Fourth Assessment Report (FAR) 2007, by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed out that the “climate change would be unequal and poor countries would be more vulnerable.”

Problem Statement

the issue in Pakistan is education and lack of awareness about climate change and its impacts on Pakistan and most importantly lack of Government’s accorded budget to tackle climate change by building institutions and research centers. People are not aware about how vulnerable and at risk they are and what they need to do in order to save the future generation.

“Climate Change and Media: a threat and vulnerabilities and the level of awareness about it.”

Objectives and Significance of the Study

This study is aimed at knowing how much vulnerable Pakistan is to threat of climate change and the level of awareness that exists in the society about it. The purpose of the study is to gather information about the role media is playing educating people about it and how much do people know. This paper will evaluate the reasons behind the lack of awareness that exists in people due to lack of media specialists who can report, educate and spread awareness about climate change. Considering the fact the media changes many opinions and lifestyles it can have a huge impact on people’s way of thinking and persuade them to change their lifestyles to more sustainable ways of living and using any commodity. As climate Change is the biggest and the gravest issue of the 21st Century.

Literature Review

The media coverage and role in creating awareness about the state of environment and climate change reporting is poor in Pakistan and it increases the vulnerabilities. All the articles that were referred to put forward the same point that how journalists should be trained to report about the problems coming as a result of Climate Change. The journalists should put all efforts to build strong linkages for creating awareness among all levels of the society and extend their support and cooperation to the Ministry of environment and all the civil society members working for climate change for achieving the goal of a healthy and clean environment.

In Farehia Rehman’s article in THE NATION ‘Media must create awareness about environment issues’

By FAREHIA REHMAN June 5, 2009

‘The Director UNESCO Islamabad Maurice Robson said that the organization is collaborating with the Ministry of Environment for organizing two media workshops for strengthening the capacity of media professional. He said that there is dire need to improve the linkages between the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Education for promoting environmental education in different segments of the society.’

‘The aim is to do capacity building of journalists for effectively reporting on climate change and mountain ecosystem related issues in order to help boost the efforts for raising awareness in the concerned areas.’

Media can play a major role in persuading and convincing people about the depth of the problem of climate change like Al Gore documentary has converted many people and turned them into responsible citizens who want to use sustainable ways of consuming electricity, while buying their cars, while using plastic bags and while polluting their environment. And the article ‘Al Gore’s documentary draws students attention’ (Pakistan Observer 13th April 2010 Islamabad) Supports this argument that the documentary and the media content increases youth’s interest.

‘Kakakhel said that energy production is the single most GHG producing process which is profusely used in food production and processing technologies.

He advised the students not to use shower but water and use towels outside ten times and use more climate-friendly products. Say no to plastics, he said, which are damaging trees.

He said one can have a car pool and effort should be made to use bicycles wherever possible and convince people by talking and writing to editors. He said that bad actions and inactions are more dangerous.’

Another article ‘Call for technology transfer, aid to mitigate climate change’ (Dawn13 May 2009 Islamabad)

‘Farrukh Iqbal Khan from the Foreign Office suggested establishment of fund for innovative projects to enhance awareness while creation of regional curriculum on climatology, capacity building and knowledge generation’

A lot of articles are found on just negotiations that have been held by policy makers on climate change and how and what sectors are being affected that need to tackled. Pakistan’s vulnerabilities are being discussed in the articles but they also urge the media persons to be trained and to learn how to report about climate change and how media should play an important role in the information gap that exists in people about the issue.

Even the Article 6 of the UNFCCC Convention supports the fact that there is need of building institutions to create awareness and spread education at a National and regional, sub regional levels if needed with international help. Following are the clauses:

(i) The development and implementation of educational and public awareness programmes on climate change and its effects;

(ii) Public access to information on climate change and its effects;

(iii) Public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and developing adequate responses; and

(iv) Training of scientific, technical and managerial personnel.

Climate change is irreversibly harming Pakistan, with its tremendous social, environmental and economic impacts. The main challenges are reduced agricultural productivity, human morbidity, and stressed use of natural resources. The agriculture productivity in Pakistan is being affected due to changes in land and water regimes. This is negatively affecting agriculture productivity by altering bio-physical relationships like changing growing periods of crops, altered scheduling of cropping seasons, increased crop stresses (thermal and moisture stresses), changing irrigation water requirements, altering soil characteristics and increasing the risk of pests and diseases.

The report prepared by the Task Force on Climate Change will work to evaluate institutional weaknesses and suggest measures for strengthening capacity of relevant institutions, promoting program for advocacy and awareness, mainstreaming climate change into national and sect-oral policies, provide guidelines for reduction of green house gas emissions and environmental pollution as well as guide for the development of clean development mechanism-based projects to avail international opportunities for financing.

Media has a serious role to play in this Instead of covering issues about two celebrities getting into a fight or how the Indian soap operas have reached a 1000 episodes our journalists should report about the scientific effects of climate change on our biosphere, talk about a fisherman in Gawadar who can no longer feed his family because the fish is hard to catch as the catch has declined due to global warming they are becoming endangered. Or they come in different seasons now; the whole pattern of weather is changing.

By doing so, the public not only understands what you’re saying, but begins to empathize with a specific person. That empathy means they care – and the more you make people care about your issue, the more they are willing to agree with your point of view. Suddenly, the reporter has a way of telling your story in a way that his or her audience is more likely to care about.

The argument strengthens the very basic point of educating a poor for example a farmer about his crops and how they can be affected by climate change and what he needs to do to about it. Media reaches down to the poorest of the poor in every form, and medium be it radio, news papers or Television (Internet has nothing to do with farmer community). Media can transform the way people think and how they act. There is just need to inject the fear of being affected by climate change that can cause disasters. Media has the power to convince people to agree to what they disagreed before. Climate change needs all the attention at this moment and this is the right time. People in the northern valleys and people near sea e.g. fisher men, transporters e.g. the Karakorem Highway will be washed off with the Hunza Lake water level when the Glaciers fully melts. These are all things that are the top and most important issues affecting trade and business and causing many lives. Climate change will only become worse if not treated well and taken care of, and practical awareness needs to be spread among these people who are the most vulnerable to it through media.

Research Methodology

The research was from both primary and secondary sources. The questionnaire containing 16 questions was filled by 40 young university students equally distributed among females and males from different backgrounds to check the knowledge and level of awareness in them about climate change considering the fact that the youth has access to and is obsessed with media and whatever it shows has an effect on them. The questionnaire gave out the first hand results and opinions of people. The questions were designed in a way that each was connected with the other and they had a pattern of starting from the basic questions about the term climate change and then how much they think media has been covering it and then whether Pakistan is vulnerable and what are the policy makers doing about it. How effective media’s role has been in reporting about climate change and telling Pakistan how and from where Pakistan is the most vulnerable what sectors are being affected by it and how many problems can arise because of it in future.

The articles support and problem statement that the analysis of the survey questionnaire.

Survey Analysis

A sample of 40 students was taken from different disciplines (MBA, BBA, and BSS) among them there were 20 males and 20 females. The analysis is as follows:

Q.4 Are you familiar with the term climate change?

More than 80% of the people are familiar with the term climate change and around 18 % people have heard it but don’t know what it means but none said that they haven’t heard it or are not familiar with it. Climate change the term is known to the majority of the young people that were interviewed. As climate change is an undeniable fact of the 21st century and especially people in the third world are the most vulnerable to it, as Pakistan being one of the vulnerable countries are youth is familiar with the term because they have heard or read it somewhere or maybe they can feel major changes in weather and probably relate it to climate change.

Q.5 where did you hear it from? What were your sources of awareness about this issue?

Around 68% of the people’s main source of information about climate change is newspaper/television/internet. Only 10% said they were affiliated with some organization working for climate change and that’s how they knew about it. And around 23% said they had watched some documentary on it. So this shows that only literate class knows about it and its their own efforts through which they know about it but the illiterate or the people who do not have access to TV or cannot read news paper are at greater risk because they mostly they are farmers people working in villages around sea shores , river banks, fishers etc they are the most vulnerable to any climatic disaster and they usually do not have the access to such mass media.

Q.6 how often do you see climate change issues being addressed in the news papers or by our media?

Around 38% people think that climate change issues or the topic is being covered every week by the media or news paper. 35% think that it’s once a month, almost 13% said that they have never seen any coverage on it and 15 % people said they come across it every day. But the main twist is that it is not being covered by the local media this much or it is not focused on Pakistan specially, its different areas, from where ever it is being affect for example from the south or the north, or whether the Himalayan glaciers are at risk or the fish in the sea in Karachi. People do not know how much and from what angles Pakistan is getting affected and what measures are needed to tackle any such disaster.

Q.7 Are you aware of any organizations working for climate change?

Interesting answers were revealed out of this question as exactly 37.5% people said yes they were aware of organizations working for climate change and same percent age of people also said they didn’t know about any such organizations. And to balance it out the 25% people said that maybe they knew or had heard some organizations working for it they weren’t sure about it. This shows the level of confusion, and extreme views in the youth about this issue being tackled in Pakistan and how and by whom. As it is very important for the people to know about the right organizations to be informed and to get connected with if they are interested in becoming an agent of change by contributing towards the work being done by those organizations for climate change. This just shows the lack of interest of people and the ambiguity that exists in them about the issue because most of the people are not aware about the level of Pakistan’s vulnerability to it because they are not being educated about it.

Q.8 Do you agree that Climate change is being addressed by policy makers

It is clearly visible that majority (35%) of the people strongly disagreed with the statement that climate change was being rightly and sufficiently being addressed by the policy makers.

And that is the core problem. This leads to lack of institutions and lack of the urge to create awareness about t


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