Climate change presents a grave threat to the security and prosperity of almost all countries across the globe. Pakistan, which ranks tenth in 2014 global index of fragile states, is also no exception to it. This phenomenon is turning out to be the most fundamental of all non-traditional security threats for Pakistan. These threats arise primarily out of non-military sources, and climate change as well as the resultant resource scarcity, infectious diseases, natural disasters, irregular migrations and food shortages are taking a heavy toll on the country.
Traditionally, national security is analyzed through the lense of physical threats from invaders, extremist groups, whether within or outside of the country, and social or political unrest which may lead to destabilization. However, along with these, the world, at present, is witnessing a new threat to global and national security in the form of climate change. In case of Pakistan, the climate change has turned into one of the biggest national security issues, and failure to acknowledge its impacts today will pose serious challenges for the country in the near future. It is because of the fact that climate change is a threat multiplier that exacerbates existing pressures as well as poses new challenges to security in fragile societies like Pakistan.
Robert McNamara one said, “Security means development and without development there is no security.” It means that there exists a strong linkage between a country’s national security and the economy because only a strong economy can ensure strong defence; it will enhance country’s power and hence will strengthen national security. But, Pakistan’s economy is highly vulnerable to climate change effects and this phenomenon has been identified as the biggest security threat in recent times.
Although in recent years, Pakistan’s economy has shown some promising signs of development, it has been sluggish for the past many years. Natural disasters, which directly result from climate change, have been hitting Pakistan’s economy hard especially since 2010. Recurring, devastating floods strike heavy blows almost every year.
Recent estimates from the World Bank reveal that Pakistan has suffered losses in excess of $18bn because of natural disasters over the last one decade. In addition, data from the NDMA shows that more than 2.5m people were affected due to last year’s deluge in the Chenab and Sutlej rivers, with over 350 casualties and destruction of over 1m acres of crops. This year, floods have again damaged the economy. According to the World Resources Institute, Pakistan ranks 5th in the list of top 15 countries that account for 80 percent of the population exposed to river-flood risk worldwide. While Pakistan’s economy has seen negligible growth over the last many years, WRI estimates indicate that nearly 1 percent of the GDP losses are attributable to floods every year. Additionally, studies indicate that on average, up to 1.6 percent of the country’s population is affected by natural catastrophes every year.
Changing climate has emerged as a big national security threat for Pakistan and if not tackled through policy initiative, it may have devastating effects on the population of the country. For Pakistan, climate change is turning out to be the most fundamental non-traditional security threat and its impacts are already being felt in the form of floods, droughts, cyclones and sea level rise in and around Pakistan.