During this year’s monsoon season, Pakistan has experienced extreme weather conditions and unprecedented rains. Various factors can be analyzed and considered as the root cause of the dramatic climate change in Pakistan, creating havoc across the country.

Until writing these lines, World Health Organization and other global development watchdogs have warned about the rise in human calamity due to the floods that will follow the water-borne disease and other catastrophic challenges.

Extent of floods

According to a survey conducted, nearly half of Pakistan is under water. The loss of lives, prosperity, crops, cattle, and other related destruction is unprecedented and beyond the capacity of Pakistan to handle such a huge calamity.

Rainfall in different areas in August (via Pakistan Meteorological Department)

Apart from this, many districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan are also flooded due to heavy rainfall.

Moreover, it is said that this time around, the floods were more devastating than the previous years, especially the 2010 floods.

Now the question is, why is Pakistan flooded so badly? What has caused such a traumatic disaster for the country? And what can be done?

Map showing the flow of rivers in Pakistan as of September 6, 2022 (via Pakistan Meteorological Department)
Pakistan and Climate Vulnerability 

According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021, Pakistan is the eighth-most climate-vulnerable country in the world, with potential devastation on human and economic toll of extreme weather events. According to experts, the devastation will further increase shortly.

Since June 2022, Pakistan has experienced the worst monsoon conditions due to extreme climate change. Widespread flooding and landslides, which are a result of these conditions, had detrimental effects on infrastructure, property, and human life.

The boy is a victim of recent floods in Pakistan

Due to recent floods, more than 33 million people got affected, and out of those, more than 1300 people have died, and these losses of life and property are still fluctuating. Many districts across the country are anticipated to be declared calamities.

Why climate change?

The massive amount of rainfall is due to excessive climate change, and this change is due to many reasons. Most important of them is the rapid and excessive emission of greenhouse gases which is responsible for two successive events.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), the major contributors to both climate change and air pollution are the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

These gases lessen the duration of monsoon in the Asian region, and due to this, a second event occurs, which is the increased severity of rainfall which causes great havoc.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), carbon pollution is one of the major causes of climate change which is leading to global warming is the carbon pollution and it is threatening the wildlife too.

The World Meteorological Department (WMD) is continuously working to facilitate worldwide cooperation in the design and delivery of meteorological services and also doing strategic and operational planning. Still, whole world is facing the issue of climate change.

Alongside this, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is also working on this very issue by preparing comprehensive Assessment Reports about the climate change, its impacts and future risks. However, the climate is still changing rapidly across the world.

Melting of Himalayan Glaciers

The Himalayan mountains are the largest reserve of frozen freshwater outside the North and South poles, but unfortunately, they are melting.

There are almost 54,000 glaciers in the Himalayas, Karakoram, and Hindu-Kush Mountain ranges collectively, according to International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Out of these 54,000 glaciers, more than 7000 are just in Pakistan.

Another dreadful cause of these unprecedented rains in Pakistan is the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayan range.

This summer’s unprecedented heat waves are melting snow and ice in many European regions. This melting of glaciers is not limited to Europe.  Himalayan glaciers have also melted and are still melting due to heat waves.

The reason behind their melting is the rise in earth’s temperature due to the greenhouse gases coming from the bigger countries.

There is a massive increase in the melting of Himalayan glaciers than scientists had predicted. This is giving rise to flash floods and heavy rainfall in the South Asian region, specifically Pakistan.

Passu glacier in Gilgit Baltistan

Due to the melting of this huge number of glaciers, thousands of high-altitude lakes were prone to overflowing, resulting in massive floods and droughts in Pakistan.

Disturbance in the water cycle

A fragile system that has helped manage the earth’s climate and important water cycles for millennia is becoming unstable because of global warming.

Another notable factor causing a huge amount of rainfall in Pakistan is the disturbance in the water cycle in the atmosphere.

This change is due to excessive human activities mostly. The water cycle becomes more intense due to climate change due to human activities and greenhouse gases because more water evaporates into the atmosphere as air temperatures rise.

Water Cycle (via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the period from January to July 2022 was the sixth-warmest start to a calendar year for the entire world in data going back 143 years.

This shows the impact of heat waves and the melting of glaciers on Pakistan and the world. Climate change is a real danger for the whole world, and at the moment, Pakistan has immensely fallen prey to climate change.

Climate change is a cause of many other problems, such as flooding, extreme droughts, heat waves, and stronger hurricanes. Like recent floods, the 2010 floods were also largely attributable to rising global temperatures.

Can things get back to normalcy?

The massive heat waves and the excessive floods in Pakistan are a warning for the world. Human beings should change their attitude toward the environment as excessive heat in the atmosphere could be drastic.

The world should know about the impacts of climate change and get rid of it as early as possible. Also, the states should assist Pakistan as floods devastate lives and impact a range of human rights.

Moreover, the states most responsible for the climate crisis must provide compensation and remedy for the loss and damage caused by the climate crisis.

Use of recyclable materials

The use of recyclable materials is an extremely efficient remedy to curb the issue of climate change. The use of plastic and other such nonbiodegradable substances should be eradicated or reduced.

Moreover, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, wave, tidal and geothermal power should be considered, and their use should be maximized in Pakistan and the world. Deforestation should be discouraged too.

Climate change adaptation is a key entry point for addressing climate-related security risks and sustainable development, and climate change mitigation.

Protection of water-bodies

Large water bodies such as seas and oceans should be protected because they absorb a huge amount of energy but nowadays, they are used for oil and gas drilling or threatened by deep-sea mining.

Protecting water bodies could also be a major step toward reducing climate change. Little steps produce major results.

According to The Chief of the Freshwater Ecosystems Unit at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Joakim Harlin, “Freshwater ecosystems have outsize benefits for society, climate, nature, biodiversity and economies, so protecting them is a top priority.”

Not only Pakistan but the whole world should take these minor steps to cope with the issue of climate change and hence mitigate unprecedented rains and flash floods.

*The writer is a Research Fellow at the Diplomatic Insight

**The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues and the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight and its staff.