by Kaelin Ferland '23 on September 15, 2022
Catastrophic floods have recently devastated Pakistan, leaving over one-third of the country underwater and displacing 33 million people. Over 1,000 people have already died, but these numbers continue to rise. Typically during this time of year, Pakistan’s monsoon season causes heavy rainfall; however, this year, the rain has been ten times heavier than usual, and with the monsoon season lasting from July through September, there is no clear end in sight.
This is just one of the ways in which climate change will impact our planet. As greenhouse gasses are emitted into the atmosphere, temperature and precipitation frequency increase. Warm air is more effective at holding moisture than cold air. Because Pakistan has been experiencing some of the worst heat waves on the planet, this has allowed the atmosphere to trap moisture, leading to these unprecedented downpours.
Heatwaves have also caused glacial melting in Pakistan. Pakistan has the second greatest number of glaciers, following the polar regions. This has directly contributed to flooding as water from glacial melt enters the Indus River via tributaries, causing it to overflow.
Because of the flooding, Pakistan is also at risk of a food crisis. The floods have destroyed Pakistan’s cropland and killed countless livestock. Pakistan already struggled with food scarcity and hunger, and now these issues are projected to worsen. Two million acres of cropland have been affected and hundreds of thousands of livestock have been killed.
Of the 33 million people displaced by the floods, 16 million of them are children. It has been proven that children are more vulnerable to climate change than adults. Around 500 of the over 1,000 deaths are children, due to drowning and water-borne diseases.
Pakistan accounts for only 0.4% of our global emissions yet is experiencing the most devastating effects of climate change. For comparison, the United States is responsible for 21.5% of emissions, but does not experience its impact to this extent. Instead, developing countries are left to deal with consequences that they don’t bear responsibility for. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated this week that countries “more responsible for climate change…should have faced this.”
It is estimated that 10 billion dollars will be required to help Pakistan recover from this catastrophe, and it could be years before Pakistan fully recovers. It is our responsibility as a wealthy, developed country to provide aid to countries impacted by climate change, especially those who have contributed the least to this problem. As one of the main drivers of climate change, it only makes sense that we fix what we have started. The floods in Pakistan are only a preview of the destruction to come in the next decade if we do not act. We need to start taking climate change more seriously and treating it as the grave threat that it is. We need to start taking accountability and make significant change at a global scale before we are too late.