By William J. Furney
A “monsoon on steroids”. One-third of the country under water. Millions homeless, their lives and livelihoods destroyed. Vital infrastructure wiped out. A death toll over 1,200 as more than 33 million people are affected by the raging torrents of floods. Damage to property: at least $10 billion.
The extreme flooding devastating Pakistan follows unusually high temperatures in the region during the summer months and is compounded by melting glaciers that caused the Indus River to burst its banks and turn areas of southeastern Sindh Province into a massive flood-zone spanning around 100km wide.
“Pakistan is awash in suffering,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video message this week. “The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids — the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding,” he said, as he called for donations to raise $160 million to provide 5.2 million Pakistanis with food, healthcare and education. And he warned, separately, that the disaster happening in the South Asian nation could strike anywhere around the world.
It is, after all, global warming, caused by burning fossils fuels and methane and other emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere and lead to severe weather. The evidence is all around us, from storms that keep getting stronger to soaring temperatures around the world — soggy Britain recorded its highest ever temperature in July: 40.3°C.
“The widespread nature of the heat meant that the average maximum temperature across the whole of the UK exceeded 30°C for the first time and the UK had its two hottest days on record by this measurement, in a series that goes back to 1960,” the Met Office said.
The same blistering heat was felt all over Europe and in the United States. If this and past years are anything to go by, the world is certainly heating up and, in the process, affecting climate patterns.
Spain suffered from rolling heatwaves this summer, and experts predict the mercury will keep edging up. Mariano Barriendos, a modern history professor and climate change professor at the University of Barcelona, says the evidence points to more frequent heatwaves in Spain, in an upwards trend that’s unlikely to change.
“It is relatively usual for a hot air mass to enter the peninsula from the Sahara Desert. What is worrying is that heatwaves are happening more often,” he told the AFP news agency in August.
What of the naysayers, the climate deniers who insist tales of a heating climate due to human activity are all a hoax, a left-wing agenda designed to hurt the global economy that’s so reliant on oil and industry? They, according to available data, have their heads stuck in the sand, ostrich-style, and have agendas of their own (big business). Others, like the sheepy followers of certain right-wing, blinkered politicians who may be in thrall to giant corporations, just accept whatever they’re told, true or not. For these lemmings, facts do not matter.
“It is undeniable that human activities have produced the atmospheric gases that have trapped more of the Sun’s energy in the Earth system,” says the US space agency NASA, which has captured vast amounts of data about our planet via its satellites. “This extra energy has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land, and widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.”
Presenting “unequivocal evidence that Earth is warming at an unprecedented rate”, driven primarily by human activity, NASA says current levels of warming are occuring at a rate not seen in the past 10,000 years and that from “global temperature rise to melting ice sheets, the evidence of a warming planet abounds”.
And it points to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN body, that found: “Since systematic scientific assessments began in the 1970s, the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to established fact.”
The UN agency adds: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”
In other words, there is no denying that the Earth is hotting up because of what we’re doing, whether it’s driving your car, eating a meat-and-dairy based diet or jetting off on a sun holiday. Climate deniers are therefore deluded, and deserve to be ridiculed.
And so the urgent point is: What do we do about it? Big talking shops on climate change — the most recent in Scotland, last October — produce little other than a jolly for those in attendance: free flights from around the world, slap-up meals and luxury hotels. On the other end of the scale, individual responsibility also falls flat, with most people unwilling to change their comfortable ways to help protect the planet, now and for all the generations to come.
It’s global apathy that won’t change as the next natural disaster befalls a nation. Like in the Meryl Streep film Don’t Look Up, we just do not want to know, even as the planet is hurtling towards cataclysmic annihilation.
- Title image shows floodwaters surrounding a village in Matiari, in southeastern Pakistan. (Photo: UNICEF/Asad Zaidi)