Climate change likely juiced rainfall by up to 50% late last month in two southern Pakistan provinces, but global warming wasn’t the biggest cause of the country’s catastrophic flooding that has killed more than 1,500 people, a new scientific analysis finds, AP reported.
Pakistan’s overall vulnerability, including people living in harm’s way, is the chief factor in the disaster that at one point submerged one-third of the country under water, but human-caused “climate change also plays a really important role here,” said study senior author Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College of London.
There are many ingredients to the still ongoing humanitarian crisis — some meteorological, some economic, some societal, some historic and construction oriented. Add to that weather records that don’t go back far enough in time.
With such complications and limitations, the team of international scientists looking at the disaster couldn’t quantify how much climate change had increased the likelihood and frequency of the flooding, said authors of the study. It was released Thursday but not yet peer reviewed.
What happened “would have been a disastrously high rainfall event without climate change, but it’s worse because of climate change,” Otto said. “And especially in this highly vulnerable region, small changes matter a lot.”
But other human factors that put people in harm’s way and weren’t adequate to control the water were even bigger influences.
“This disaster was the result of vulnerability that was constructed over many, many years,” said study team member Ayesha Siddiqi of the University of Cambridge.
August rainfall in the Sindh and Balochistan provinces — together nearly the size of Spain — was eight and nearly seven times normal amounts, while the country as a whole had three-and-a-half times its normal rainfall, according to the report by World Weather Attribution, a collection of mostly volunteer scientists from around the world who do real-time studies of extreme weather to look for the fingerprints of climate change.
The team looked at just the two provinces over five days and saw an increase of up to 50% in the intensity of rainfall that was likely due to climate change. They also looked at the entire Indus region over two months and saw up to a 30% increase in rainfall there.
The scientists not only examined records of past rains, which only go back to 1961, but they used computer simulations to compare what happened last month to what would have happened in a world without heat-trapping gases from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas — and that difference is what they could attribute to climate change. This is a scientifically valid technique, according to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
Study co-author Fahad Saeed, a climate scientist at Climate Analytics and the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Islamabad, Pakistan, said numerous factors made this monsoon season much wetter than normal, including a La Nina, the natural cooling of part of the Pacific that alters weather worldwide.
But other factors had the signature of climate change, Saeed said. A nasty heat wave in the region earlier in the summer — which was made 30 times more likely because of climate change — increased the differential between land and water temperatures. That differential determines how much moisture goes from the ocean to the monsoon and means more of it drops.
And climate change seemed to slightly change the jet stream, storm tracks and where low pressure sits, bringing more rainfall for southern provinces than they usually get, Saeed said.
“Pakistan has not contributed much in terms of causing global climate change, but sure is having to deal with a massive amount of climate change consequences,” said University of Michigan environment dean Jonathan Overpeck, who wasn’t part of the study.
Overpeck and three other outside climate scientists said the study makes sense and is nuanced properly to bring in all risk factors.
The nuances help “avoid overinterpretation,” said Stanford University climate scientist Chris Field. “But we also want to avoid missing the main message — human-caused climate change is increasing the risks of extreme events around the world, including the devastating 2022 Pakistan flooding.”
Pakistan’s dire floods signal global climate crisis, PM tells UN
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif warned Friday that his country’s worst-ever floods were a sign of climate catastrophes to come around the world, as he urged justice for developing nations that bear little responsibility for warming.
Unprecedented monsoon downpours flooded a third of the country — an area the size of the United Kingdom — killing nearly 1,600 people and displacing more than seven million.
“What happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan,” he said in a passionate address to the United Nations General Assembly, adding that lost homes, decimated livelihoods and deluged cropland had meant that for many, life had “changed forever,” AFP reported.
Sharif said injustice was inherent in the crisis, with his country of 220 million people at “ground zero” of climate change but responsible for less than one percent of carbon emissions.
“Why are my people paying the price of such high global warming through no fault of their own? Nature has unleashed her fury on Pakistan without looking at our carbon footprint, which is next to nothing,” he said.
“It is therefore entirely reasonable to expect some approximation of justice for this loss and damage,” he continued, adding his voice to growing calls among developing countries for financial compensation from rich polluters, AFP reported.
The issue of “loss and damage” payments is deeply contentious.
Supporters argue that historic polluters have a moral imperative to pay for the loss and damage already caused by multiplying extreme weather events, which have not been prevented by measures to mitigate or adapt to global warming.
The idea has so far been shot down by rich nations, but UN chief Antonio Guterres endorsed the proposal a few days ago and it is due to be discussed at the next UN climate summit in Egypt.
Pakistan has estimated total financial losses at $30 billion, and on Friday its finance minister Miftah Ismail tweeted the county was seeking debt relief from bilateral creditors.
Turning his attention to neighboring Afghanistan, Sharif urged the international community to heed a $4.2 billion UN appeal for humanitarian and economic assistance and release the country’s financial reserves, frozen since the Taliban seized power last year.
“Pakistan is working to encourage respect for the rights of Afghan girls and women to education and work. Yet, at this point, isolating the Afghan Interim Government could aggravate the suffering of the Afghan people, who are already destitute,” he said.
The United States recently set up an outside fund to manage Afghanistan’s frozen assets, saying it did not trust the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, AFP reported.
Guterres calls for more action and leadership to deal with climate crisis
During a private meeting of Heads of State and Government, on Wednesday at UN Headquarters in New York, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for more action and leadership to tackle the climate crisis, warning that efforts to keep the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels is “on life support”.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, the UN chief said that he had talked to leaders about the climate emergency, and the “triple global crisis” of food, energy, and finance.
Guterres told the assembled leaders that the devastation he witnessed this month in Pakistan, where flooding covered around a third of the country at its height, occurred with global warming of 1.2 degrees; the world is currently on track for an overall increase of more than three degrees.
The meeting was billed in advance as a “frank and informal exchange” of views between leaders, co-chaired by Mr. Guterres and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, and an opportunity to address key issues ahead of the COP27 UN Climate Change conference, due to be held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in November.
Since last year’s conference in Glasgow, Scotland, climate impacts have worsened, and carbon emissions have risen to record levels, hitting vulnerable communities the hardest.
Four burning issues were addressed during the informal talks: emissions mitigation, climate finance, adaptation, and loss and damage.
On mitigation, Guterres told the leaders that although emissions must be cut almost in half before 2030, they are on track to rise by 14 percent. He called on the representatives of the world’s leading economies – the G20 nations – to phase out coal, ramp up investment in renewables, and end their “fossil fuel addiction”.
“The fossil fuel industry is killing us”, he said, “and leaders are out of step with their people, who are crying out for urgent climate action.”
Under the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, developing countries were promised $100 billion per year to finance initiatives to help them cope with the effects of global warming.
To date, that target has not been achieved. The UN chief declared that financial commitments to the developing world must be delivered immediately, and in full.
“I emphasized the need to double adaptation support to $40 billion dollars a year by 2025” continued Mr. Guterres. “Climate destruction is happening now. People are suffering now”.
Looking ahead to COP27, the Secretary-General expressed his hope that the event will move these discussions forward, as a matter of climate justice, international solidarity and trust.
A G20 Heads of State and Government Summit will take place in Bali in November, during the last days of COP27, and Guterres urged leaders to take important decisions to tackle the “triple crisis” of food, energy and finance.
He urged international cooperation and solidarity to bring down prices that have soared since the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, increase support to developing countries, and prevent a larger crisis next year.
International financial institutions must also step up and offer debt relief to developing countries, declared Guterres, and new mechanisms to get resources to countries that need them should be enhanced and expanded.
Floods kill over 300 in Nigeria this year, and could worsen
Floods in Nigeria have killed at least 300 people this year and the situation could worsen due to heavy rainfall and the effects of excess water from a dam in Cameroon that will affect 14 Nigerian states, the disaster management agency said.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) held an emergency meeting on Monday to review the flood situation and plan a response.
More than 100,000 people have been displaced by flooding since the start of the rainy season and are now living in temporary shelter, NEMA director general Mustapha Habib Ahmed said in a statement made available to Reuters on Tuesday.
Ahmed said Cameroon opened flood gates at Lagdo dam last week and the spillover effects combined with heavy rainfall would lead to flooding in 14 states, including those in the oil-producing Niger Delta.
“I want to advise all the governments of the frontline states to move away communities at risk of inundation, identify safe higher grounds for evacuation of persons, and pre-position adequate stockpiles of food and non-food items, potable water, hygiene, safety and security,” Ahmed said.
Several parts of Nigeria are susceptible to seasonal flooding with coastal states like Lagos at a higher risk.
Authorities in northeastern Yobe state said on Tuesday that heavy rains experienced since the weekend had submerged roads and swept a major bridge linking the state capital and some local government areas in the worst flooding seen in years.
Other states like Adamawa and Borno, which has battled an Islamist insurgency for more than a decade, have experienced flooding due to higher-than usual-rains, which has swept farms and added to the risk of food insecurity.
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