Scientists confirm climate change played a role in Pakistan floods

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A scientific study has found that the climate crisis played a role in Pakistan’s historic floods this year, which caused unprecedented devastation in the country, killing 1,400 people and affecting more than 33 million people.

This year’s excessive rainfall and floods were widely dubbed a climate disaster, with UN chief Antonio Guterres describing the devastation as “climate genocide” and Pakistan’s government holding rich countries responsible for the devastation. ordained.

However, this is the first time a scientific study has been conducted to assess the role of a warming planet in the occurrence and intensity of these floods.

research released by World Weather Attribution (WWA)An initiative to conduct real-time attribution analysis of extreme weather events suggests that the climate crisis has indeed played a role in Pakistan’s flooding by intensifying rainfall to 50–75 percent of the region.

The rapid attribution study, conducted by 26 researchers from 10 countries, used scientific models and historical data to determine if the world hadn’t already warmed by about 1.2C since the late 1800s, and by how often. There would have been a possibility of such an extreme event. The event will happen as the planet continues to warm.

The study used two datasets – the first was a 60-day period of heaviest rainfall in the areas around the Indus River, Pakistan’s largest river, in June and September. The second was a five-day period of heaviest rainfall in the southern provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, with heavy flooding.

The researchers used published, peer-reviewed methods and found that climate change increased rainfall intensity in Sindh and Balochistan by as much as 75 percent over a five-day period. Whereas the 60-day monsoon period was about 50 percent more intense due to warming.

The southern provinces of Sindh and Balochistan have been badly hit by floods in the past few weeks and have recorded the hottest August ever. Terms such as “monster monsoon” and “monsoon on steroids” have been used by the authorities to describe the unusual rainfall in the region.

Both the states received seven and eight times their normal monthly rainfall this season, respectively. Pakistan as a whole has received three times the normal rainfall in August.

The study found that such events may occur once every 100 years, or in other words, have a 1 percent chance of occurring every year due to current levels of warming.

“The same event is probably much less likely to occur in a world without human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, meaning climate change has made extreme rainfall more likely,” it said.

However, as the world prepares to warm further from the current 1.2C warming despite international efforts to limit it to 1.5C enshrined in the Paris Agreement, such events are much more likely to occur. 2C warming could make the situation worse.

Read also: In fact: what would be the difference between 1.5C and 2C global warming?

As a limitation, WWA noted that there were some uncertainties in estimating the impact on the overall monsoon period due to the paucity of data and the high variability in rainfall in the region.

Dr Friedrich Otto, WWA co-head and senior lecturer in climate science, said: “Our evidence suggests that climate change played an important role in the phenomenon, although our analysis does not allow us to determine how big a role was.” ” Grantham Institute.

Dr Otto said the “mathematical uncertainty” is because the region has very different weather from one year to the next, making it difficult to see long-term changes in observed data and climate models.

However, he said the findings are in line with what climate projections have predicted for years.

“This is also in line with the historical record that heavy rainfall in the region has increased dramatically since humans began to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And our own analysis also clearly shows that Further warming will make these heavy rain episodes even more intense.”

She continued: “While it is difficult to give an exact figure for the contribution of climate change, the fingerprints of global warming are clear.”

The intensity of rainfall in the region is driven by several weather patterns, such as the La Nia event and the arrival of several sediments from the Bay of Bengal, something that makes Pakistan highly prone to heavy rainfall.

However, the climate crisis has also contributed to changes in the variability of weather systems such as east monsoon rains and western disturbances in the region, something meteorologists have been pointing out for quite some time.

The WWA study also found links between worsening heatwaves with historical rainfall, which was 30 times more likely to occur in a research published in June this year. Scientists and climate activists have long pointed to this connection because warmer air carries more moisture.

It also noted the role of melting glaciers in swelling of rivers, something that intensified due to deadly heatwaves in April-May when temperatures soared up to 50C in parts of Pakistan. Pakistan is home to more than 7,000 glaciers, the most for any country outside the poles.

The study’s findings are in line with the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, which predicted more intense rainfall in South Asia, as the region is considered one of the most vulnerable to the worsening effects of the climate crisis.

The research concludes that there were many factors behind the scale of the catastrophe. Pakistan’s infrastructural weaknesses, high population density, poverty rate and political instability played a major role in its loss.

Preliminary assessments by the Pakistan government said the country suffered a loss of around $30 billion, which would take years to overcome. Meanwhile, lakhs of people have either been displaced or suffered heavy losses.

The country is also staring at a public health crisis as water-borne diseases spread among vulnerable people, something aid agencies say could be a disaster worse than floods. The floods have also raised demands for more climate finance and compensation from wealthy countries.

In the light of persistent extreme weather events not only in Pakistan, but around the world, the demand for damages and damage funds is gaining momentum. Loss and damage is a term used in climate negotiations to refer to money that is given to rich countries for vulnerable nations suffering from the effects of the climate crisis.

Researcher Fahad Saeed from the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Islamabad, Pakistan, said in the release, “The scorching summer heat earlier this year, and now the floods, is a decisive factor in Pakistan’s vulnerability to such extremes.” provide evidence.” of study.

“As the chairman of the G77, the country should use this evidence in Cop27 to inspire the world to reduce emissions immediately,” he said. “Pakistan should also ask developed countries to take responsibility and provide adaptation plus loss and damage support to countries and populations that are bearing the brunt of climate change.”

However, despite mounting evidence of extreme weather leading to the climate crisis, the issue remains a contentious point and it remains to be seen how the upcoming UN climate summit, Cop27, will be able to bring any consensus.

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