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Pakistan’s Climate Crisis: Could It Be You Next?
The calamities that Pakistan is currently experiencing are a stark warning of the implications of widespread climatic collapse.
04 October, 2022

Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous country, is currently struggling to stay afloat. This summer, the country was pounded by unpredictable monsoon rains from north to south. At the same time, Pakistan’s glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate. Melting glaciers and heavy monsoon rains that began in June inundated more than a third of Pakistan, inflicting massive damage to houses, roads, bridges, rail networks, animals, and crops. These two climate-related impacts have combined to generate a huge super-flood that has decimated the country. In Sindh, the southernmost province, 90% of crops have been destroyed. The Edhi Foundation, Pakistan’s leading social welfare organisation, has cautioned that those who do not survive the floods face famine. So far, over 1,500 people have perished, nearly half of them are children, and 50 million people have been displaced.  Economic losses are anticipated to exceed $30 billion; As flood water stagnates, there is a risk of a malaria outbreak. There is no uncertainty that a generation will be thrown back if the already precarious education and health care systems are forcefully interrupted.

The calamities that the country is currently experiencing are a stark warning of the implications of widespread climatic collapse. According to scientists, global warming induced by greenhouse-gas emissions is increasing the chance of excessive rain in South Asia, which is home to a quarter of the world’s population, and they think there’s little doubt it exacerbated this year’s monsoon season.

The “third pole,” as it is colloquially known, is a large mountainous range stretching from Myanmar to Afghanistan. The region is home to some of the world’s tallest peaks as well as several glaciers. The third pole serves as a water reserve, with ten main rivers flowing downhill from these mountains, sustaining about 1.5 billion people. Even if the countries aim to reduce global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a third of the ice sheets in this region will still be gone by 2100. Temperatures are rising quickly, resulting in a failing ecosystem. The floods that have hit Pakistan are one of the first symptoms of climatic calamity. Despite this, major economies have been unable to achieve an agreement on emissions reductions. Following several summits and international gatherings, we are still not on track to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Every failed climate meeting is terrible news for nations like Pakistan, which falls into the unlucky category of “most susceptible to climate change.” It is distressing to see affluent nations fight over reducing emissions while we continue to pay the expenses in lives and livelihoods, and now considerably more than before.

The consequences of Western economies’ sloth and indifference are now clear. Due to the insatiable use of fossil fuels, blatant contempt for the wild and natural environment we inherited, and illegal consumerism, no country, regardless of wealth, will be exempt from the repercussions of global warming. Today Pakistan is suffering, tomorrow it could be Washington D.C, London, the World. While touring flood-ravaged Pakistan, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he has “never witnessed climate carnage” of this magnitude, accusing wealthier countries of contributing to the disaster. If one believes in climate change, how can one ignore Pakistan, a nation which has already been heated by a dreaded 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit?

Wealthier countries are ethically accountable for assisting developing countries like Pakistan in recovering from disasters like these, as well as adapting to create resilience to climate impacts that will tragically be repeated in the future,” Guterres said, adding that the G20 countries are responsible for 80% of today’s emissions. Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but it ranks ninth on a list published by the NGO Germanwatch of nations most vulnerable to climate-change-related extreme weather. We can only hope that COP27, which will be hosted in Egypt this year, does not fall short of expectations.

The obvious inequality of the climate catastrophe, which is wreaking havoc on nations who have historically had the least to do with its inception, is prompting issues about who should pay for it, particularly for the loss that countries like Pakistan are dealing with. On Tuesday, 30th August, the United Nations launched a request for $160 million in crisis financing, hardly scratching the surface of the $10 billion required. Aid, rescue helicopters, food, and medical supplies are being provided by countries ranging from the United States to Turkey. However, the demand is greater than what the world can provide.

According to Fahad Saeed, a climate scientist with the company Climate Analytics located in Islamabad, Pakistan is in a Catch-22 predicament. The government requires cash to adapt to the situation, but because it must pay for the damage caused by harsh weather, it will struggle to obtain the sums required to react. Pakistan, like many other developing countries, aimed to lift more people out of poverty, which was challenging in the face of back-to-back weather catastrophes and with so little financial assistance from others. The question of who should pay for the devastation is more contentious. At the COP26 climate meetings in Glasgow, the United States was one of several advanced countries that expressed resistance to mandatory payments for climate compensation. Historically, the US accounts for the most greenhouse gas emissions in the world. 

The global north has long resisted requests to create a fund to assist impoverished nations in dealing with the repercussions of climate change and compensating for losses, with America not gratifying its promise of reducing carbon emissions.  Perhaps because it would be interpreted as an admission of guilt. Millions of lives have been lost as a result of Pakistan’s recent climatic disaster. Thousands are likely to be driven below the poverty level, many children will drop out of school, and many women will die while giving birth. The floods will have long-term and disastrous consequences. They are presently in the midst of a catastrophe that they did not cause. 

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1 Comment

  1. Arsh Bharti

    Very well written! Super informative article detailing the crisis in Pakistan.


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