Since June 2022, Pakistan has been experiencing major flooding in the southern part of the country. By August 2022, a state of emergency was declared due to the growth of the flood across Pakistan.
Pakistan, the fifth most populated country in the world, also has the world’s second-largest number of glaciers, behind only the Arctic. Rising atmospheric heat caused by climate change caused those glaciers to melt, causing flooding in Gilgit Baltistan, and also the rivers and tributaries further south. The rising temperature and sea level of the Indian Ocean also contributed to abnormally heavier monsoon rains. The rapid oceanic temperature changes come right after back-to-back heat waves in Pakistan, where temperatures have reached over 49 degrees C (121F). This left the land and people of Pakistan even more vulnerable to the disaster. Many places suffering drought in Pakistan were even more vulnerable to floods, as the ground was too dry to absorb the water of the monsoons.
The flooding has reached catastrophic levels, with Pakistan’s minister of climate change calling it a “disaster of biblical proportions”. Nearly one-third of Pakistan is underwater, and over 1500 people have died while 33 million people are internally displaced. According to the UN, over 16 million children are at risk.
The effects of the disaster reach far beyond the human toll. The damages to infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and hospitals have totaled over 30 billion dollars. Schools, public health facilities, shops, markets, and thousands of homes have been destroyed. The rebuilding of these facilities could take decades. Such destruction of critical services has had major impacts on those displaced. Those injured or ill are unable to receive the care they need. The rise in water level can lead to the unchecked spread of diseases such as malaria, dengue, and other illnesses, after years of work to control them. This has implications that reach far beyond just this year. The lack of clean drinking water has also left many people in danger of contracting waterborne diseases. The damage to people’s fields, and livestock is immense, causing many to lose their main source of income.
The lack of proper sanitation for flood victims exacerbates these issues, and the limited supplies cannot offer much to people who fled their homes with nothing. In addition, much of Pakistan’s arable land is now underwater, which is a grim indicator of potential food shortages in a country already dealing with high inflation.
The response from the international community has been widespread. The UN and governments across the world have mobilized to provide millions of dollars in aid and supplies. The climate crisis is the major cause of the flooding, and many people worldwide have called for high-emitting countries to pay more as reparations for their carbon footprint. The massive carbon emissions by countries in the global north compared to Pakistan have drawn criticism over the inequalities of the effects of climate change. Although Pakistan has over 220 million people, its carbon footprint is much less than that of the average footprint per capita of other countries in the global north, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
The United States is the 3rd largest producer of CO2 emissions, with the US military and the oil and gas industry releasing massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The US produces 16 tons of CO2 per capita, one of the highest in the world, and Canada produces 14.2 tons per capita-14 times the amount of Pakistan despite having only 17% of Pakistan’s population. Other Gulf countries also produce astronomical amounts of CO2, due to the oil and gas industry in the region.
Pakistan only produces .5% of the world’s carbon emissions, yet is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change disasters. The high carbon emissions of other countries cause severe impacts on Pakistan. Daily temperatures of over 50C cause hundreds of deaths each summer, rising atmospheric temperatures affect the Indian Ocean and exacerbate monsoon season, which leads to widespread flooding. This obvious discrepancy is a prime example of the climate injustice faced by billions of people in the global south.
Countries in the global south lack the infrastructure and economic sturdiness required to protect their citizens, whereas affluent countries have the geographic safety and the resources required to recover and protect against climatic calamities. As we examine the effects of climate change, it’s important to recognize how environmental injustice affects less privileged countries. How Pakistan will recover from these floods remains to be seen, and is a chilling reminder of the devastation climate change will cause.
If you are able, please donate to Islamic Relief at the links below to help provide supplies and shelter to those affected by flooding. May Allah (SWT) protect the people of Pakistan, ameen.