An analysis of Pakistan’s devastating floods found man-made climate crisis ‘fingerprints’ on the disaster, which has killed more than 1,500 people and destroyed so much land and infrastructure it has plunged the South Asian nation into crisis.
The analysis, released by the World Weather Attribution initiative on Thursday, was unable to quantify exactly how much climate change contributed to the floods – which were caused by several months of heavy rain in the region – but some of his models have found that the crisis may have increased the intensity of rainfall up to 50%, looking specifically at a five-day downpour that hit Sindh and Balochistan provinces hard.
The analysis also revealed that the flooding was likely a 1 in 100 year event, meaning there is a 1% chance of similar rainfall each year.
If the world warms by 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures – as it is on track to do – short bursts of rain like those seen over the five-day period will likely become even more intense. The Earth is already about 1.2 degrees warmer than before industrialization.
The scale of the floods and WWA’s analysis highlight the huge financial need to address the impacts of the climate crisis.
“The kind of help that is coming in right now is paltry,” Ayesha Siddiqi, a geographer at the University of Cambridge, told reporters at a news conference. “A number of Western economies have argued that they are suffering from their own crises, due to the war in Ukraine and various other problems.”
She described the UK’s initial aid of £1.5 million ($1.7 million) as “laughable”.
The UK, however, has increased its commitment to £15m ($17 million) more recently. The geographical area that is now Pakistan was part of the former British colony of India until 1947, when the British divided the territory into two separate dominions.
Fully developed nations have a far greater historical contribution to climate change than the developing world.
Siddiqi said the funds flowing into Pakistan paled in comparison to the aid sent after the deadly floods that hit the country in 2010.
“The great world news [in 2010] was all about ‘We have to help Pakistan or the Islamists will win,'” she said, explaining that there was a fear in the West at the time that Islamist groups were taking advantage of the aftermath of the floods to recruit more members. “And this time, of course, we don’t have the same geopolitical imperative to help Pakistan, and so the aid has really been a pittance.”
Pakistan is responsible for about 0.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions, even though it represents nearly 2.7% of the world’s population, according to the European Union’s Global Emissions Database. China is the world’s largest emitter, with 32.5%, and while the United States is second, with 12.6%, it is historically the largest emitter in the world.
More than 33 million people in Pakistan have been affected by the floods, more than the population of Australia or the state of Texas. The floods destroyed 1.7 million homes, washed away dozens of bridges and turned verdant farmland into fields of dust.
The UN estimates the recovery could cost around $30 billion, roughly the same value as the country’s annual exports.
There were limits to what scientists could determine about the role of the climate crisis in the flooding, as the affected area has enormous natural variability in rainfall patterns during monsoon seasons. It is also a La Niña year, which usually brings heavier and longer rainfall to Pakistan.
The role of climate change in the heatwaves – which also hit Pakistan and other parts of the northern hemisphere this year – is much larger and often clearer to determine in South Asia, the scientists said. A WWA study published in May found that pre-monsoon heatwaves in Pakistan and India were made 30 times more likely by climate change.
“Each year the risk of a record-breaking heat wave is higher than the year before,” said Friederike Otto, WWA co-founder and climatologist at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute.
The next heat wave in Pakistan is likely to have “quite devastating consequences”, she said. “Because even if everything is done now to invest in reducing vulnerability, it takes time.”
She said while scientists can’t pinpoint exactly how much climate change contributed to the floods, it was likely closer to ‘doubling’ their likelihood, as opposed to the factor of 30 they found with the surge. heat in the region.
The question 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 some developed countries, and should be at the heart of future COP27 international climate negotiations in Egypt. .
“I think it’s entirely justified to say, ‘We need, finally, real commitment to address the loss and damage from climate change,’ Otto said.
“Much of what leads to disaster is related to existing vulnerabilities and not to human-induced climate change. But of course the Global North plays a very important role in this as well, because many of these due to colonialism, etc. So there is a… very huge responsibility for the Global North to finally do something real and not just talk.