Agha Ali Akram, PhD

2010 TRI Fellow in Pakistan

Determining the Impacts of Climate Change on Pakistan’s Agriculture

There is little doubt that climate change has become a reality that the world must accept. The Fourth Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change sets out more clearly than ever before that the “warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”1 Adaptation is on the agenda of countries around the world and there is a growing consensus that the impacts of climate change will hit developing countries hardest, where a large portion of the world’s poorest live.

Pakistan is one such country and will need to seriously consider its adaptation strategy. As agriculture is one of the largest sectors of the Pakistani economy (almost 24% of GDP and 44% of labour utilisation),2 it is critical to ensure that there is adequate adaptation to climate change in this sector. However, in order to begin determining an adaptation policy for the agricultural sector, it is essential to assess the kind of impacts climate change will have. Therefore, to assess these impacts, this study will look to model itself on the work of Mendelsohn, Nordhaus and Shaw3 and conduct a Ricardian analysis of climate change impacts on agriculture in Pakistan. The intuition behind the Ricardian approach is as follows: farmers are able to make economic substitutions to suit their environment, i.e. farmers possess the ability to adapt to their local climatic/environmental settings, producing an efficient level of output and maximising their returns. Given that any sufficiently large geographic entity (e.g. a country) sees a range of climatic conditions, it can be inferred that farmers in those distinct climatic conditions are putting their land to optimal use. What this implies is that a cross-sectional study that relates agricultural land value to climatic factors would serve as a robust indication of the damages that can be expected from a changing climate. A change in temperature for example would see farmers adapt their farming to maximise their returns; the question is whether the agricultural sector will see a net gain or loss as most farmers adapt to a changing climate.

There is a significant data requirement to conduct such a study: agriculture, meteorological, soil quality and geographic, political delineation and socio-economic data, along with the need for integrating it all in a Geographic Information System and analysing it with sophisticated statistical software. This data is available (preliminary work has confirmed this) but, as a consequence of Pakistan being a developing country, it will be a challenge to get it. An assortment of government offices possess different components of the required data and not all of it in a convenient digital form. Thus a significant effort will need to be made in order to locate, access (this will require building and using contacts), collect, (possibly) digitise and prepare the data set. Some of this data will only be available in local government offices and will require travelling extensively to government offices in a number of smaller cities and villages to collect and verify4.

Work during the summer yielded some of the required data. It needs to be determined whether that data is sufficient for the proposed analysis.

. Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. 2007. Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report – Summary for Policymakers, page 2.

2. Khan, Mahmood Hassan (2005), Agriculture in Pakistan: Change and Progress 1947 – 2005, Vanguard Books, page 8.

3. Mendelsohn, Robert, William Nordhaus and Daigee Shaw (1994), “The Impact of Global Warming on Agriculture: A Ricardian Analysis”, American Economic Review, 84 (4), 753 – 771.

4. The federal government maintains aggregate numbers for provinces and federally administered territories; some de-aggregated, district level data is available at the federal level, however much of it sits in district (or more local level) offices.