A third of Pakistan — a land mass about the size of Colorado and home to about 220 million people — is underwater, the country’s climate change minister, Sherry Rehman said Monday. Months of heavy rains and the resulting flooding have killed more than 1,100 people and could end up costing Pakistan, which is responsible for a negligible amount of historic climate pollution, more than $10 billion.
The “catastrophe of unprecedented proportions,” as described by Rehman, bears the hallmarks of extreme weather disasters supercharged by climate change. Hotter air holds more moisture leading to heavier rainfall, while increased glacier melt pumps even more water into already-swollen rivers.
Research in coming weeks will determine exactly how much, if at all, climate change is to blame for the catastrophic flooding, but the “recent flood in Pakistan is actually an outcome of the climate catastrophe … that was looming very large,” Anjal Prakash, a research director at India’s Bharti Institute of Public Policy, told the AP. “The kind of incessant rainfall that has happened … has been unprecedented” [ellipses AP’s]. (Washington Post $, AP, explainer, Gizmodo, NPR, Wall Street Journal $; Recovery and aid: Reuters, Democracy Now, Washington Post $, Reuters, Thomson Reuters Foundation, The Guardian, AP; Climate Signals background: Extreme precipitation increase)