The Weather Corner | The Lasting Impact of Climate Change-fuelled Floods in Pakistan
We’re bringing you exclusive content from our newsletter, The Forecast, right here on Medium. Sign up here. This feature, called the Weather Corner, takes a deep dive into weird weather around the world, from our December 7 newsletter.
One of the biggest extreme weather events of the year was this summer’s catastrophic flooding in Pakistan. Record rainfalls and melting glaciers during the 2022 monsoon season caused massive floods and landslides from June to September, leaving more than one-third of the country underwater, killing more than 1,500 people, impacting an estimated 33 million more, and affecting 15% of the country’s rice crop and 40% of its cotton crop.
But the crisis is still ongoing: The floodwaters are taking months to recede, and public health threats have emerged. Water contamination leads to the spread of water- and vector-borne diseases, potentially causing outbreaks of diarrheal diseases, skin infections, respiratory tract infections, malaria, dengue, injuries, and more. In addition, reduced health services mean the management of non-communicable diseases is also affected. Plus, lowered crop yields put community nutrition and health at risk.
Scientists have found that climate change made this flooding more likely. Using “attribution science,” their models indicated that human-caused warming had intensified the monsoon rainfall (Pakistan has already seen 190% more rain this year than the 30-year average, after the hottest weather recorded during March and April this year which accelerated glacier melting).
The devastation was caused in part by inadequate water management infrastructure (for both floods and drought) and a lack of early-response mechanisms that help communities react quickly. Fixing these issues — especially to prepare for a climate-changing future of more frequent and severe extreme weather events — requires more financial resourcing, technical assistance, and human capacity building.
One key response came out of the recent international climate conference, COP27, in Egypt. Nations established a fund to address loss and damage caused by climate-induced disasters — which could help Pakistan, which is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world yet responsible for less than 1% of global emissions.
To prevent mass damage from floods like these, adaptation and prevention steps include:
- Implementing early-warning detection flood systems
- Building resilient water infrastructure — particularly new water reservoirs and dams
- Nature-based solutions like conservation and planting more trees as buffers
- National policies that encourage climate adaptation (currently, the region faces an existential threat from intense timber logging and encroachment by hotels and guesthouses along water channels)
- More climate financing from the international community — today, Pakistan continues to depend on loans and technical assistance from global lenders to stabilize its economy. International aid, loan forgiveness and even climate reparations, like the ones discussed at this year’s COP, could help.