In little over a decade, Pakistan has faced two large-scale floods, costing billions of dollars in losses and impacting millions of people.
The World Weather Attribution, in its rapid study published in the early hours of Friday, has linked devastation in Pakistan caused by extreme rainfall and flooding to climate crisis.
“Pakistan is owed reparations not only for climate change that is happening now, but really for that whole history of the way that the river basin is managed in this part of South Asia,” Ayesha Siddiqi, an author of the study, tells reporters during an online press briefing.
“Pakistan should absolutely demand financial compensation and reparations for what is happening there today.”
I have never seen climate carnage on the scale of the floods here in Pakistan.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) September 10, 2022
As our planet continues to warm, all countries will increasingly suffer losses and damage from climate beyond their capacity to adapt.
This is a global crisis. It demands a global response. pic.twitter.com/5nqcJIMoIA
While there has not yet been a definitive estimate of the total losses incurred, some analysts say total financial damages and reconstruction costs would hover around at least $19.5 billion.
“If that seems like a reasonable calculation, then of course, it seems very legitimate to have a conversation about how that money can be put together,” says Siddiqi.
Siddiqi says the ‘Loss and Damage’ framework of COP26 provides for a roadmap to get the process done institutionally. “I think there are other avenues to talk about, but that conversation needs to be had,” she says.
“Like, what about the big IMF (International Monetary Fund) package that Pakistan has just renegotiated with the international financial institutions. Debt relief can be offered to Pakistan so that Pakistan does not spend all of its money servicing debt.”
Sept 14: Based on updated data, @rogueonomist and I estimate total financial damages and reconstruction costs of the 🇵🇰 2022 floods at $19.5bn.— Uzair Younus عُزیر یُونس (@UzairYounus) September 14, 2022
This is our base case and every week new data is taking up the figure higher. pic.twitter.com/ikmh5p6Jy3
The World Weather Attribution is an initiative by a group of scientists coming together to study the role of climate change at the time of unfolding of an extreme event at a particular place.
The study on the recent Pakistani floods uses “well-established peer-reviewed methods” to ascertain how much more likely human-induced climate change made the extreme rainfall more frequent and intense.
“Based on observations and models, combining with the authors’ theoretical knowledge, climate change did play a role,” says Sjoukje Philip, one of the authors of the study.
The finding makes the case for Islamabad to press industrialised nations, responsible for excessive carbon emissions, to contribute to the relief efforts.
Pakistan Meteorological Department says the country received more than three times its usual rainfall in August, making it “the wettest August since 1961”, whereas Sindh and Balochistan received seven and eight times their usual monthly averages.
⚠️ After the devastating #floods, Pakistan now faces an unprecedented food security crisis.— ICIMOD (@icimod) September 9, 2022
We assessed potential crop production losses in 🇵🇰’s Sindh Province using a #RemoteSensing approach.#PakistanFloods @servirglobal @GovtofPakistan @FoodSecurityPK @ClimateChangePK (1/2) pic.twitter.com/DebfQF7GTG
Friederike Otto, an author of the study, says they looked at two different events to understand the extraordinary rainfall: a) 60-day rainfall over the entire Indus basin; and, b) looking at the provinces Sindh and Balochistan, which were devastated the most by the rains, over the five-day period of maximum rainfall.
The scenario ‘a’, Otto explains, captured the fact that this year the whole monsoon season in the country remained extremely wet, signalling “there was a lot more rainfall than average”. While in scenario ‘b’, the scientists observed there were some days where the provinces experienced extremely heavy rain, which exacerbated the impact of flooding.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has put the number of the population affected by the heavy rainfall and extreme floods at 33 million, with 1.7 million houses destroyed and 1,500-plus deaths.
Fahad Saeed, another author of the study, says a precursor to this additional extreme rainfall is “a record-breaking heatwave in March and April in Pakistan and parts of India”.
“That particular heat flow brought the depression from the Bay of Bengal to Pakistan’s southern areas,” he tells the press briefing.
“Instead of following their normal pathway of going to the northern parts of the country, they ended up in the southern areas, resulting in some areas receiving over 700 percent increase in precipitation.”
Saeed adds while heat waves are relatively easier to predict, monsoons are “notoriously hard”.
The study mentions that Pakistan is geographically situated at a place where two precipitation weather systems terminate, meaning the monsoon rains from the east and south-east during summer, and disturbances from the Mediterranean Sea during cooler months of winter.
“It is well established that climate change results in increasing the variability of these systems,” it adds. “These changes, either spatially or temporally, make the country more prone to such extremes.”
As far as the eye could see, I saw water; we were the first US delegation to visit the most devastating and deadly flooding in Pakistani history. A flood of historic proportion, really a monster of a disaster. pic.twitter.com/I7SnnIbcED— Sheila Jackson Lee (@JacksonLeeTX18) September 4, 2022
Pakistan’s readiness to combat adverse impacts of climate changes has always been a subject of much debate. Being a low-middle income country, it does not help the case either.
“Looking at the future, for a climate 2 °C warmer than in preindustrial times, models suggest that rainfall intensity will significantly increase further,” the study says.
“Both current conditions and the potential further increase in extreme peaks in rainfall over Pakistan in light of anthropogenic climate change, suggest that there is an urgent need to reduce vulnerability to extreme weather in Pakistan.”