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Why Pakistan suffers from climate change despite minimal carbon footprint?

After blistering heat waves destroyed crops and dried up rivers in the Northern Hemisphere, more than a thousand people have died, and millions have been displaced in Pakistan due to catastrophic flooding. 

The UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has issued a warning calling it “a monsoon on steroids”.

The country’s climate change minister Sherry Rehman referred to the situation as a “climate-induced humanitarian disaster of epic proportions”.

It is well established that burning fossil fuels is generally warming the world and intensifying extreme weather, but how much of the deadly flooding in Pakistan or the heatwaves in Europe is due to climate change?

TRT World takes a closer look. 

Extreme weather events and global warming

Extreme weather events have existed in the past and will continue to do so in the future, but there may be a connection between climate change and the likelihood or severity of these events.

A 2021 study found that each 1C increase in global temperature resulted in 5 percent more rain, intensifying south Asian monsoons.

The severe heat in Pakistan also speeds up glacier melting, which causes water to rush from the Himalayas to Pakistan in potentially deadly occurrences known as glacial lake outburst floods. 

This causes flash flooding in Pakistan in addition to the usual flooding caused by overflowing rivers.

Pakistan and global emissions

The floods have reignited a long-standing argument about whether rich nations like the United States, which historically has been the main producer of carbon dioxide, should contribute to the costs of climate change for less developed nations.

Pakistan’s finance minister estimates that the damage incurred thus far due to the floods would likely reach $10 billion, or a staggering 4 percent of the nation’s yearly gross domestic product.

For many years, poorer nations have been requesting financial assistance from rich nations to cover the costs of heat waves, floods, droughts, sea level rise, and other climatic disasters. 

They say that wealthy countries like the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan that grew wealthy through the use of fossil fuels also heated up the earth, inflicting loss and damage on underdeveloped nations.

But the Biden administration joined in resisting efforts to establish payments to developing countries that have been hit hard by climate change.

Pakistan’s planning minister Ahsan Iqbal said the country was feeling the effects of climate change caused by the richer nation’s “irresponsible development”.

“Our carbon footprint is the lowest in the world,” said Mr Iqbal.

“The international community has a responsibility to help us upgrade our infrastructure, to make our infrastructure more climate resilient, so that we don’t have such losses every three, four, five years.”

Scientists say that although the flooding in Pakistan has all the signs of a disaster fueled by climate change, it is too soon to blame it officially.

They have not yet completed the calculations comparing what occurred in Pakistan to what would happen in a world without warming. 

The study’s results, which are anticipated in a few weeks, will formally establish how much, if any, climate change is a factor.

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