Pakistan floods: Experts call aid ‘scarce’ as they find role in climate crisis


A study into Pakistan’s devastating floods has found “fingerprints” of a man-made climate crisis in the disaster, which has killed more than 1,400 people and destroyed so much land and infrastructure that it has plunged the South Asian nation into crisis.

The analysis published on Thursday by the World Weather Attribution initiative could not quantify exactly how much climate change has affected the floods – which have been caused by months of heavy rains in the region – but some of its models found that the crisis could be affected. It increased the intensity of rainfall by up to 50% as Sindh and Balochistan provinces were hit hard by five days of torrential rain.

The study also found that the floods were likely 100-year events, meaning there is a 1% chance of similar heavy rains occurring each year.

If the world warms by 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial temperatures—as it is likely to do—short bursts of rain like those seen over a five-day period are likely to become even more intense. The Earth is already about 1.2 degrees warmer than industrialization.

The magnitude of the floods and the WWA analysis highlight the enormous financial need to address the impacts of the climate crisis.

“The support it’s getting right now is poor,” University of Cambridge geographer Ayesha Siddiqi told reporters at a news conference. “Some Western economies have argued that they are experiencing crises of their own because of the war in Ukraine and many other issues.”

He described the UK’s original £1.5m ($1.7m) aid as “ridiculous”.

The United Kingdom, however, recently increased it to 15 million pounds ($17 million). The geographical area that is now Pakistan was part of the former British colony of India until 1947, when the British divided the land into two separate domains.

Fully developed nations make a larger historical contribution to climate change than the developing world.

Siddiqi said the funds flowing into Pakistan compared to the aid sent after the deadly floods that hit the country in 2010.

“Big news in the world [in 2010] it was all about ‘we have to help Pakistan or the Islamists will win,'” he said, explaining the fear at the time that Islamist groups in the West would take advantage of the floods to recruit more members. “And this time, of course, we don’t have the same geopolitical imperative to help Pakistan, so the support has been really thin.”

Pakistan is responsible for about 0.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions, despite having nearly 2.7% of the world’s population, according to the European Union’s emissions database. China is the largest emitter in the world, with 32.5%, and although the USA is second, with 12.6%, it is historically the largest emitter in the world.

Gudpur, Pakistan

Satellite image ©2022MaxarTechnologies

More than 33 million people have been affected by the floods in Pakistan, which is more than the population of Australia or the state of Texas. The floods destroyed 1.7 million homes, swept away dozens of bridges and turned green farmland into dust fields.

The UN has estimated that the recovery could cost around $30 trillion, the same value as the country’s annual exports.

There were limits to how much scientists could determine the role of the climate crisis in the floods, because the affected areas have high natural variability in rainfall patterns during the monsoon season. It is also a La Niña year, which usually brings heavier and longer rainfall to Pakistan.

The role of climate change in heat waves – which have also hit Pakistan and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere this year – is much bigger and clearer to determine in South Asia, scientists said. A WWA study published in May found that pre-monsoon heat waves in Pakistan and India were 30 times more likely to occur as a result of climate change.

“Every year the chance of a record-breaking heat wave is higher than the year before,” said Friederike Otto, co-founder of WWA and a climate scientist at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.

Tents housing people displaced by floods in Sehwan city, Sindh province, on September 14, 2022.

He said the next heat wave in Pakistan will have “quite devastating consequences”. “Even if everything is done now to invest in reducing vulnerability, this takes time.”

He said that while scientists could not determine exactly how much climate change affected floods, they were probably closer to “doubled” their likelihood, compared to the 30-fold factor found in regional heatwaves.

The issue of who should pay for the impacts of the climate crisis, known as “loss and damage”, has long been a sticking point between developing and developing nations and is expected to be central to the COP27 international climate talks. whether in Egypt .

“I think it’s completely justified to say, ‘Finally, we need a real commitment to address the loss and damage of climate change,'” Otto said.

“Much of what leads to disaster is related to existing vulnerabilities and not to human-caused climate change. But, of course, the Global North plays a very big role in this as well, because many of these weaknesses are from colonialism and so on. So … the Global North has a very big responsibility to finally do something real and not just talk”.