Blame global warming for floods in Pakistan; here’s why

Study finds peak five- and 60-day rainfall this season was once every 100 years

Global warming would have increased the melting of ice in all the mountainous regions of Pakistan. Photo: iStock

The catastrophic floods in Pakistan this monsoon, particularly in August, have been impacted by global warming, according to a new study by the World Weather Allotment (WWA).

The WWA is a group of scientists around the world who study extreme weather events to find out how human-induced global warming and climate change are responsible.

The floods were a direct result of extreme monsoon rains throughout the season, which intensified in August. A continuation of La Niña in its third year, as well as heat waves induced by global warming from March to May, were cited as reasons for extreme rains.

Read more: Floods in Pakistan: what role has climate change played?

Global warming would have increased the melting of ice in the mountainous regions of Pakistan, according to the study.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

There is potential for a second disaster in Pakistan: a wave of disease and death following this catastrophe, linked to climate change which has severely affected vital health systems, leaving millions of people vulnerable.

The Director General appealed to donors in a statement dated September 17, 2022 for more funds to reduce the impact of this impending crisis.

WWA’s Pakistan Flood Study analyzed two types of maximum rainfall events – over five-day periods and 60-day periods. According to the study, the peak five-day and 60-day rainfall this season has occurred once every 100 years.

For the five-day maximum rainfall events, intense rainfall became more prominent as the country warmed, the analysis showed.

“Some of these models suggest that climate change could have increased precipitation intensity by up to 50% for the definition of the five-day event,” the study said.

In Sindh and Balochistan, the provinces most affected by the floods, the five-day extreme rainfall was 75% more intense than a world without global warming.

On the other hand, the 60-day extreme rains were 50% more intense, according to the study. These two provinces recorded their wettest August this year, with respectively seven and eight times their normal rainfall for the month. Pakistan received three times its normal rainfall in August, the highest since 1961.

The researchers also cautioned that there is a lot of uncertainty in these estimates due to the high variability in monsoon rainfall in the region. “The observed changes may have a variety of factors, including but not limited to climate change,” the study said.

Another source of uncertainty is that the region constitutes the western end of the South Asian monsoon region. There is a big difference in rainfall between the dry western parts and the wet eastern parts.

“Many available state-of-the-art climate models struggle to simulate these precipitation characteristics,” the researchers said. Good enough models do not match the actual observations made. It is therefore difficult to quantify the exact role of climate change in the flooding.

Read more: Flood protection measures: Pakistan is for the long haul

The floods which actually started in June and continued through August have killed over 1,500 people, affected 33 million and caused economic losses of over $30 billion. This devastation came at a time when the country was also under severe economic strain.

Agricultural losses worth $2.3 billion on 18,000 square kilometers of cultivated land, including 45% of the cotton crop, have occurred, according to the study.

Cotton is the country’s main export. It would take a long time for Pakistani farmers to recover from this debacle.

Pakistan requested payments for loss and damage under the 2015 Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He called on historic emitters of greenhouse gases like the United States and Europe to pay for losses and damages since the floods. .

Pakistan has emitted just 0.3% of global GHG emissions since 1751, while the United States has emitted a quarter of all GHG emissions. The current study significantly strengthens Pakistan’s claim regarding the payments to be made.

Payment for loss and damage is going to be a key part of the negotiations for the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in November 2022.

Teresa H. Sadler