Pakistan floods only the tip of ‘climate change iceberg’

Published September 2, 2022
ISLAMABAD:  Volunteers of Al Khidmat Foundation sort through relief goods meant for flood victims, on Thursday.
—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
ISLAMABAD: Volunteers of Al Khidmat Foundation sort through relief goods meant for flood victims, on Thursday. —Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

WASHINGTON: “The scenes coming out of Pakistan are heartbreaking,” said the head of a US Senate panel on South Asia as US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan assured Islamabad that Washington “will continue to stand by Pakistan during this tragic time”.

The statements, issued by their offices on Thursday, followed media warnings that Pakistan was facing a flood of “Biblical proportions” and the international community must not leave the country to fend for itself in dealing with this “unprecedented disaster”.

At the UN headquarters in New York, Pakistan’s ambassador, Munir Akram, reminded the international community that “Pakistan’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is negligible, but it’s facing deadliest consequences of the changes caused by those emissions”.

“Today it is Pakistan, tomorrow it could be another country,” he said in a series of interviews to various media outlets. “We all need to act in solidarity and find collective ways of how to address this existential threat.”

Pakistan contributes less than 1 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet it is experiencing some of its most severe impacts.

In Washington, Pakistan’s US Ambassador Masood Khan also underlined this point. “The floods are tied to global warming, and exceed past events,” said Ambassador Khan while quoting climate experts.

A report by Axios, a US media outlet, noted that “the estimated 1 million houses destroyed in the flooding were occupied by people who had a very low carbon footprint compared to the average American or European citizen”.

Advisor Sullivan also acknowledged that Pakistan was “experiencing the devastating impacts of the floods” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured Islamabad the US will continue to provide “critical humanitarian assistance like food, safe water, and shelter”.

“We stand with Pakistan in this difficult time,” Mr Blinken said in his second statement on the floods this week.

Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced $30 million in life-saving humanitarian assistance to Pakistan days after releasing about a million dollars in immediate assistance.

Senator Chris Murphy, Chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on South Asia, noted that “severe monsoon season this year has brought unprecedented flooding and subsequently devastating losses” in Pakistan.

“Far too often those who are the least responsible and have the fewest resources face the greatest impacts of the climate crisis,” he said.

“I’ll continue monitoring this crisis and urge the administration to continue providing aid to ensure the people of Pakistan get the support they need,” Senator Murphy added.

Andrew Freedman, a climate and energy reporter for Axios, noted that “the scale and severity of this event are staggering, with the area and population affected exceeding the severity of disastrous flooding seen in 2010, which cost about $10 billion”.

Quoting recent climate studies, the report warned that “back-to-back extreme weather events due to human-caused global warming” could follow as “Pakistan is Exhibit A” what’s coming.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2022

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