Compiled By Tanweer Ahmed
Climate change is no longer a distant threat to the very survival of the world as we know it.
Shifting weather patterns across the planet, recent dry spells in Europe, unprecedented heat wave in China, forest fires in the U.S are all signs that the fears of tomorrow have become a reality sooner than expected.
But while the world leaders’ debate and mull over COP emissions targets, Pakistan and its people are suffering the consequences of its inaction in the form of a devastating moon soon which has left behind a trail of unfathomable disaster.
Those wondering where to look for evidence of climate change, look no further. Climate change ground zero is a massive body of water in the Sindh province of Pakistan, visible from the space, and formed in a mere space of weeks as a result of record torrential rainfall. It is the consequence of the bulge in Indus River creating a 10 kilometer long and 100 kilometer wide fresh water lake.
The scale of the deluge has never been witnessed. In the words of US Congresswomen from Texas Sheila Jackson Lee, who has seen this natural monstrosity with her own eyes, there was ‘water as far as the eye can see.’
What the UN secretary general called ‘moon soon on steroids’ and US congresswoman Sheila Jackson dubbed ‘a monster of a disaster’, scientists claim is the result of climate change.
The science is simple; Global warming is causing a rise on global temperatures leading to more evaporation and this intense rainfall. Yet, the effects are deadly as seen by Pakistan.
The fact that Pakistan contributes less than 1 percent of the global green house gases that continue to warm the planet and raise temperatures and yet is 8th in the list of most vulnerable countries is of little consolation.
By contrast the U.S and China, world’s largest economies, alone contribute 45 percent followed by the EU (9 %) and India (7 %).
But the cost is being paid by Pakistan: Approximately 1400 precious human lives including 458 children, 33 million people with direct impact, damages to infrastructure and crops worth billions of dollars, live stock, dams, schools, roads, hotels washed away as if they had never existed.
With more than one third of the country from its North to South affected, the government is yet to come to terms with the exact scale of damage. Conservative estimates suggest it will take 40 billion dollars and years to rehabilitate the people and rebuild the infrastructure.
The signs were already there. Just like for the rest of the world to see.
Uniquely placed on the global map, Pakistan is home to some of the world’s highest mountains and as a consequence more glacial ice anywhere in the world. Its northern areas are also referred to as the Third Pole.
But like the North Pole, these have been melting at a fast pace with occasional bursts that inundated local population. In 2019, the Prince of Wales and Kate Middleton witnessed fist hand a disaster in the making and said that ‘action needed to happen soon’ before we lose many of the precious things we care about.’ Ominous words, indeed.
These melting glaciers have already created more than 3000 artificial lakes, with more than 33 at the risk of bursting which could cause havoc and risk the lives and livelihoods of 7 million people.
As a consequence of climate change, it is not just rainfall that Pakistan is worried about. Though scientists predict more unpredictable weather patterns, its impact will be seen in terms of water scarcity, agriculture, energy and a strain on the economy.
Weakened by a struggling economy, in the midst of a global crisis exasperated by the Ukraine war and resulting energy price spike, the people and State of Pakistan are staring at a harsh reality and one tough question: Will the world come to their aid?
The UN has appealed for financial aid but it is not just a loud call for help with rebuilding the country but also a desperate wake up call for action to battle the effects of climate change. We do not know what calamity the world will face next and more importantly, where. Mere promises will not solve the crisis.