Global Trends by Martin Khor
Monday, 23 August 2010
The flooding of
For those who still doubt that climate change
is a real problem, the plight of
Up to 20 million people are affected. 900,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged, and 4.6 million people are homeless in just two provinces. 6.5 million people are in need of water, food and medicines.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 70% of bridges and roads have been destroyed.
The agricultural sector has been most hit, with over 17 million acres of farmland flooded, more than 200,000 livestock killed, and most of the cotton and wheat crops has been lost.
John Holmes, the chief UN humanitarian affairs official, said it was a disaster “which has affected many more people than I have ever seen.”
Last week at the United Nations in
The floods are also now attributed to climate
change. It is often not easy to attribute a weather-related event to
the climate change phenomenon, and there is a debate whether disasters
such as the 2005 tsunami, the typhoons that struck the
The Foreign Minister stressed that climate change has become a reality for 170 million Pakistanis and that the present situation confirms the country's “always extreme vulnerability” to the adverse impacts of climate change.
The point on vulnerability is important because there is a recent tendency in the climate negotiations to consider only certain categories of countries (the least developed countries and the small island developing states) as being especially vulnerable to climate change.
Other countries including
A senior scientist at the Geneva-based World Meteorological
Organisation, which is the UN's premier scientific body dealing with
climate issues, has clearly linked the
According to Nathanial Gronewold of ClimateWire, in an article published in
New York Times, scientists at the WMO say there is no doubt that higher
Atmospheric anomalies that led to the floods are
also directly related to the same weather phenomena that a caused the
record heat wave in Russia and flooding and mudslides in western China,
said Ghassem Asrar, director of the WMO's World Climate Research Programme.
He added that
"There's no doubt that clearly the climate change is contributing, a major contributing factor," Asrar said in an interview with Gronewold. "We cannot definitely use one case to kind of establish precedents, but there are a few facts that point towards climate change as having to do with this."
The record high surface temperatures in the
It quotes Asrar as saying that the higher-than-average
Atlantic temperatures and conditions made ripe by the La Niña cycle
of lower temperatures in the central
The disaster was made worse by deforestation and
land-use changes in the affected areas, but Asrar insisted that the
sheer volume of precipitation absorbed by clouds and then dumped on
The flooding started at the end of July and accelerated over August, affecting almost all of the North and most of the central region. At the most intense period, about a foot of rain fell over a 36-hour period, and some areas received 180 percent of the precipitation expected in a normal monsoon cycle.
The water level of the Indus River also reached its highest level in 110 years since records were kept.
According to Gronewold, climate scientists say
this year's summer is one of the hottest ever, with high temperatures
breaking records across the
“Consequently, the surface of the
“This same ridge prevented the rains from reaching
"Basically, this rift that was forming blocked the warm air moving from west to east, and then, on the other side, this air that was super saturated with water vapor had to precipitate all this excess water that was in the atmosphere, which created this unprecedented amount of rain in short period of time," Asrar explained. "The connecting factor is that clearly the warming is a driver for all these events."
International aid is being mobilised for
Pakistan's foreign minister has said US$2 billion is required for agriculture alone, and the economist A.B. Shahid estimates that US$3 billion is needed just to rebuild homes and US$7 billion to restore infrastructure (roads, bridges, canals, government offices).
At present there is no international system for
financing countries affected by climate change or extreme weather events,
and countries like