Pakistan’s Floods and Climate Injustice
The flooding in Pakistan has been all over the news recently. Over 1,100 people, including almost 400 children, have died from the floods since mid-June, and millions more have been displaced. 33 million people have been affected by these floods, which is 15% of the nation’s population. Over a million homes and 5,000 kilometers of roads have been destroyed, and the total damages to infrastructure, homes, and farms are over $10 billion. Recent satellite images from the European Space Agency show that a third of the country is literally underwater.
Pakistan’s monsoon season usually brings heavy downpours, but this year has been the wettest since records began in 1961. Pakistan has already received twice its usual annual rainfall. The recent rainstorm was 10 times heavier than usual, which caused the Indus river to flood its banks and create what is basically a kilometers-wide lake for much of the river’s length.
Along with infrastructure damage, food insecurity is currently a huge issue as people are having trouble accessing food. It will continue to be an issue for years to come because water is covering millions of acres of cropland and wiping out hundreds of thousands of livestock. Many fields will become unusable and Pakistan’s agricultural industry will have to start again from near-zero. The floods have also caused an increase in infectious diseases since sanitation is near impossible and the water allows more diseases to brew.
These floods have put an immense economic burden on Pakistan to rebuild. While there have been international relief efforts and financial aid for Pakistan, it is not nearly enough. For example, the UK government announced it would give up to £1.5 million ($1.8 million) for flood relief efforts. The UK is historically one of the world’s largest emitters, yet it allocated the equivalent of fewer than 20 cents per person affected. Aid has come from a large swath of nations, but is nowhere near the $160 million that the United Nations and Pakistan jointly appealed for. Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, yet it is the eighth most vulnerable nation to climate change. It is having to bear far more of the brunt of climate change than the largest emitters and is not being properly compensated for it. It is time for the largest emitters to be responsible and start paying their fair share.
You may be wondering how flooding is caused by climate change. This is understandable since this summer the drying rivers in Europe, China, and the US are also being attributed to climate change. The answer is surprisingly simple; if there is less water in one place, there will be more water in another. Climate change is completely shifting weather patterns, which means that unlike air temperatures, which will get hotter everywhere, some places will get wetter while others dry. Also, warmer air holds more water vapor, which means when storms happen, they will be much more ferocious. This paradox is shown by the fact that these floods came right after disastrous heat waves ravaged India and Pakistan. In fact, this heatwave is part of the reason why these floods are so bad. Temperatures skyrocketed in May, causing temperatures in some areas like the city of Jacobabad (which is now underwater) to soar to 51ºC (124ºF). This heat caused the soil to dry out, which made it harder for water to soak into the ground. This means that when the region then got way more rain than usual, the water ran along the surface instead of sinking into the soil. Additionally, this heat wave increased glacial melt, which only added to the flooding.
This is a prime example of the injustice of climate change. The richest countries/largest emitters are stalling climate action while other nations are literally drowning. In order to change this, we need to push the governments of larger nations to take action. This means we need to vote for climate change-fighting candidates, but it also means we must protest and get our current governments to do something.