Climate change likely worsened Pakistan floods: Study

Developed countries must take responsibility and provide adaptation plus loss and damage support to Pakistan: Report says climate-fuelled hunger more than doubles in worst-hit countries

By: News Desk
Published: 09:35 AM, 16 Sep, 2022
Climate change likely worsened Pakistan floods: Study
Caption: File photo of a flood-hit area in Sindh province.
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Human-caused climate change likely contributed to the deadly floods that submerged parts of Pakistan in recent weeks, according to a rapid analysis looking at how much global heating was to blame.

An international team of climate scientists at the World Weather Attribution group said on Thursday that rainfall in the worst-hit regions had increased as much as 75 percent in recent decades and concluded that manmade activity likely boosted record levels of August precipitation in Sindh and Balochistan provinces.

The resulting flooding affected over 33 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and killed nearly 1,400 people.

To determine what role global heating played in the downpours, the scientists analysed weather data and computer simulations of today's climate to determine the likelihood of such an event occurring at the roughly 1.2 degrees Celsius of warming that human activity has caused since the Industrial era.

They then compared that likelihood to data and simulations of conditions in the climate of the past -- that is, 1.2C cooler than currently.

They found that climate change likely increased the 5-day total rainfall for Sindh and Balochistan by up to 50 percent.

The analysis showed that there was a roughly one percent chance of such an event occurring in any given year in our current climactic conditions.

"The same event would probably have been much less likely in a world without human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, meaning climate change likely made the extreme rainfall more probable," the team said.

The authors of the study however stressed that due to large variations in seasonal monsoon rainfall over Pakistan historically, it was not possible to conclude that manmade warming contributed significantly to 60-day total rainfall levels.

"What we saw in Pakistan is exactly what climate projections have been predicting for years," said Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in Climate Science at Imperial College London's Grantham Institute.

"It's also in line with historical records showing that heavy rainfall has dramatically increased in the region since humans started emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere."

- Finance needed -

Otto said while it was hard to put a precise figure on the extent to which manmade emissions drove the rainfall, "the fingerprints of global warming are evident".

The World Meteorological Organization this week said that weather-related disasters such as Pakistan's had increased five-fold over the last 50 years, killing 115 people each day on average.

The warning came as nations are gearing up for the COP27 climate summit in Egypt in November, where at-risk countries are demanding that rich, historic polluters compensate them for the climate-drive loss and damage already battering their economies and infrastructure.

Fahad Saeed, researcher at the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Islamabad, said the floods showed the need for richer nations to radically ramp up funding to help others adapt to climate change -- another key ask at COP27.

"Pakistan must also ask developed countries to take responsibility and provide adaptation plus loss and damage support to the countries and populations bearing the brunt of climate change," he said.

Climate-fuelled hunger doubles

From record droughts to catastrophic floods, the world's worst climate hotspots are seeing a surge in acute hunger, according to an Oxfam report that called on rich nations to drastically cut their emissions and compensate low-income countries.

The analysis, "Hunger in a heating world," found that acute hunger had risen 123 percent over six years in the ten most-affected nations, defined by most number of UN weather appeals.

"The effects of severe weather events are already being felt," Lia Lindsey, Oxfam America's senior humanitarian policy advisory told AFP, adding the report was timed to pressure world leaders at the UN General Assembly to act.

The countries -- Somalia, Haiti, Djibouti, Kenya, Niger, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Madagascar, Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe -- have repeatedly been battered by extreme weather over the last two decades.

An estimated 48 million people across those countries suffer acute hunger, defined as hunger resulting from a shock and causing risks to lives and livelihoods and based on reports compiled by the World Food Programme.

That figure is up from 21 million people in 2016; 18 million people are on the brink of starvation.

The report acknowledges the complexity surrounding the causes of global hunger, with conflict and economic disruption -- including those from the Covid-19 pandemic -- remaining key drivers.

"However, these new and worsening weather extremes are increasingly peeling away the abilities of poor people particularly in low-income countries to stave off hunger and cope with the next shock," it said.

Somalia, for example, is facing its worst drought on record, forcing one million people to flee their homes.

Climate change is also causing more frequent and intense heat waves and other extreme weather including floods, which covered one-third of Pakistan, washing away crops and topsoil and destroying farming infrastructure.

In Guatemala, weather conditions have contributed to the loss of close to 80 percent of the maize harvest, as well as causing a "coffee crisis" in the region that has hit vulnerable communities hardest and forced many to migrate to the United States.

- 'Obligation, not charity' -

Oxfam stressed that climate-fuelled hunger is a "stark demonstration of global inequality," with the countries least responsible for the crisis suffering most from its impact.

Polluting industrialized nations such as those of the G20 are responsible for more than three-quarters of the world's carbon emissions, while the 10 climate hotspots are collectively responsible for just 0.13 percent.

"Leaders especially of rich polluting countries must live up to their promises to cut emissions," said Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam International executive director, in a statement.

"They must pay for adaptation measures and loss-and-damage in low-income countries, as well as immediately inject lifesaving funds to meet the UN appeal to respond to the most impacted countries."

The UN humanitarian appeal for 2022 comes to $49 billion, which Oxfam noted was equivalent to less than 18 days of profit for fossil fuel companies, when looking at average daily profits over the last 50 years.

Canceling debt can also help governments free up resources, said Bucher, with rich countries holding a moral responsibility to compensate poorer, most-affected countries.

"This is an ethical obligation, not charity," she said.