Pakistan: a Victim of Climate Change

By: Rachel Spears—Political Editor

One third of Pakistan, flooded by record breaking monsoon rains at the end of August, is struggling to recover from the devastating effects of climate change as the death toll has passed 1500.

The seasonal monsoon, a period of increased precipitation during the summer months, resulted in the nation experiencing nearly double its average annual rainfall in less than a month. Rainfall in Pakistan reached its peak in August. The Manchar Lake in the Sindh province breached its banks in three locations. On September 5th, the lake finally began to recede.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

At its height, more than 30% of the country was completely covered in water. “There’s water everywhere,”  said Senator Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari says that the devastation is widespread. “There is barely any dry land that we can find. The scale of this tragedy … 33 million people, that’s more than the population of Sri Lanka or Australia,” he said.

Relief efforts have not kept up with the sudden demand. Heavily damaged infrastructure has made these efforts increasingly more difficult, compounding the growing humanitarian crisis. “Millions are homeless, schools and health facilities have been destroyed, livelihoods are shattered, critical infrastructure wiped out, and people’s hopes and dreams have washed away,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.

Mr. Niaz Murtaza, a political economist, says that the existing economic and political instability in Pakistan has only been worsened by the flooding. “The poor had been suffering the first two months because of inflation, job loss and political paralysis. Now the floods have pushed millions into ruin,” he said. 

Pakistani Finance Minister Miftah Ismail estimates that the country has incurred at least $10 billion in total losses. 

Many are looking for answers following the devastation but others are placing the responsibility on the changing climate. “Let’s stop sleepwalking toward the destruction of our planet by climate change,” said Guterres following the flooding– placing the blame for the flooding on the rising global temperatures.

Mr. Muhammad Fahim Khokhar, a researcher at the National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad, says that Pakistan produces only about 0.5% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, temperatures over the monsoon belt in Pakistan have increased at a rate of around 0.18 degrees each year since 2010. 

Pakistan is susceptible to devastating natural events. “Pakistan is more vulnerable to slight disturbances in climate because of its delicate ecosystems,” said Khokhar in an interview with the Washington Post.

Khokhar says that the recent floods should prompt change. “It is certain that Pakistan should redesign its developmental plan centered with incorporation of all types of natural disasters, community resilience and sustainability,” he said.

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