What role did climate change play in Pakistan’s devastating floods?

This is one of the greatest natural disasters faced by this Third World nation that already faces a myriad of challenges such as poverty, political instability and security.

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$12 billion in economic damages

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33 million people displaced

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1300 lives lost

World GDP to shrink by 18% if temperatures rise by 3.2°C

As per an ongoing temperature analysis led by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the world has witnessed a rise in global average temperature by at least  1.1° Celsius (2° Fahrenheit). The bulk of these temperature increments have occured since 1975 at a rate of roughly 0.15 to 0.20°C per decade. Climate change is not just changing the fabric of our atmosphere but is threatening our way of life. The Swiss RE reported that the world’s GDP could diminish by 18% if global average temperatures increase by 3.2°C. Rising temperatures and sea levels are causing extreme weather events such as wildfires, droughts, floods, storms et cetera to occur more frequently.

Different parts of the world are already suffering from the repercussions of climate change. Western Europe and Central/Eastern China experienced droughts and record-breaking heat waves leading to water restrictions. This has caused crop shortages, adding to the rising costs of food around the world. Throw in an energy security crisis within the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan that relies on dams to generate approximately 80% of its electricity. Italy’s longest river is flowing at one tenth of its usual rate. These droughts and their significant impacts are forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. Severe downpours have caused floods in Dallas, Texas (USA) and Seoul, South Korea, which experienced its heaviest torrential rain in a century.

Record-breaking heat has also been recorded in Japan, the central US and in the UK, where temperatures exceed 40℃ for the first time. It has also only been a few months since we saw temperatures reach 50°C ahead of the monsoon rains in northern India and Pakistan.

To understand the context, it’s important to know that in 1750, there were 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the air. To date, it’s 421 ppm in the atmosphere. Since then, we’ve emitted over 1.5 trillion tons of CO2. When released, CO2 lingers around for a very long time: between 300 to 1000 years. Therefore, the action we take today based on weather forecasts to reduce carbon emissions will impact generations to come.

Melting glaciers put 7 million at risk

Global warming is making air and sea temperatures rise, thus leading to further evaporation. Warmer air can hold more moisture that causes an increase in the intensity of monsoon rainfall. Pakistan recorded, in several bursts from mid-June to late August, a 500%-700% increase of its usual August rain. Pakistan also has something else making it more susceptible to climate change effects – its immense glaciers.

The country’s region is sometimes referred to as the ‘third pole’ – it contains more glacial ice than anywhere in the world outside of the polar regions. Glaciers located in the northern regions of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions are melting rapidly and creating more than 3,000 lakes. Out of all these lakes, 33 lakes are at the risk of bursting suddenly. Now, if that happens, that will unleash millions of cubic meters of water and debris, putting 7 million people at risk.

If you’d like to further understand the connection between weather and its role in climate change, download our white paper here and unlock new insights that could help us all build a better, cleaner and greener planet.

To ensure that other parts of the world do not witness life-threatening floods on the scale that Pakistan has, it’s imperative that the world comes together to do its bit to build more sustainable global business practices and renew its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is why we at Spire are dedicated to equipping strategic international verticals with accurate, reliable weather datasets to help them make informed, optimal decisions. This way they can anticipate what is to come and how to safeguard their assets, their infrastructure and their surrounding communities.

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