Unfortunately, a lot of our articles of late have focused on extreme weather events, with heatwaves in the US and raging fires in the UK. Around the world, the average temperature continues to rise, producing freak weather occurrences year round as climate change worsens. Recently, two other countries have joined in the growing tide of environmental catastrophe; Pakistan and China.
Extreme Monsoons in Pakistan
As of the end of August, Pakistan has been facing torrential rains during its regular ‘monsoon season’, although this year has broken all previous records since 1961. With ten times the regular amount of rainfall, 500% above the average, over a third of the country is currently underwater. The rains have displaced millions of people, destroyed millions of acres of essential crops and killed thousands of people and livestock. Due too to the increase in refugees and exposure to unsanitary conditions, millions may also become prey to infectious diseases. Roughly 15% of the country, around 33 million people, have been affected, with 70% of staple crops destroyed.
As of now, the majority of those millions, already facing impoverished conditions, are at risk of even further deprivation as authorities and aid centres struggle to feed the starving masses. Several organisations are attempting simultaneous aid programs, including the United Nations with a $160,000,000 appeal to aid in treating and feeding the most affected. Despite their own problems, China has added the support of its military planes in carrying flood aid, pledging $14,500,000 in relief funding. The floods themselves may take up to six months to recede entirely.
What seems interesting, amongst the chaos, is that Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s carbon emissions, yet it ranks as the eighth most vulnerable nation in the climate crisis. This is largely due to the country's unique climate and position on the globe, sitting close to the equator, where extreme weather events are likely to happen. In fact, 65-75% of the country’s water supply is tied up in these regular monsoons, which bring much-needed water whilst providing some land devastation.
The problem with global warming is that it distorts these regular events by changing the temperature levels on which this precarious balance rests. The increase in heat results in greater precipitation, drying much of the surrounding land masses and hoarding a lot of moisture in the air. This increased water vapour, trapped in a steadily heating cloud, is eventually forced to come down as rain, at levels much higher than would be normal.
The volatile nature of this recent monsoon should be a reminder to other fossil-burning and CO2-emitting nations that our actions don’t stop at country borders. The results of climate change are global and don’t necessarily punish the perpetrator of climate crimes as heavily as other, less responsible nations.
We all share a globe, which means we need to think globally.
Extreme Heatwave in China
If Pakistan’s ongoing struggles weren’t enough to remind us of climate change, the extreme heatwave in southwestern Chinese province Sichuan should more clearly highlight the direct effects of global warming. Likewise, this heatwave is also the most aggressive in 60 years since the beginning of weather records — another indicator that Pakistan is not an isolated freak event.
The effects of the seventy-day heatwave have been most widely felt in the power shortages in the whole region, leaving Sichan’s 80 million inhabitants with an unreliable source of power. Demand for air conditioning only increased the number of power outages, leading to the suspension and rationing of electricity everywhere, from factories to shopping malls, high-rise flats and public transport. Crops and livestock have also been greatly affected, resulting in the largest drought in recorded history.
While relief came on the 30th of August with rain downpours, the temperature remains at an unprecedented level. While bringing tremendous relief, the interruption of this extreme weather event hasn’t come in time to prevent the inevitable food shortages across half of China, with temperatures topping 40℃ in some regions. With crops, rivers and dams drying up and hydroelectric plants being forced to shut down, the immediate aftermath is hard to predict. But, since Sichuan receives 80% of its power from hydro, the most immediate concern has been power.
"There is nothing in world climatic history which is even minimally comparable to what is happening in China," says weather historian Maximiliano Herrera. "This combines the most extreme intensity with the most extreme length with an incredibly huge area all at the same time."*
Compared with Pakistan, China is one of the world’s worst polluters, even considering its large population. In total, it is responsible for 27% of the world’s global emissions. Events like this threaten to undermine the country’s commitment to decreasing its carbon footprint by the year 2030, with an increase in fossil fuels being implemented to prop up the failing hydro dams. While this will undoubtedly help with the power outages, the irony is that such an action can only add to the increasing problems. Meanwhile, China really is stuck in a difficult position between elevating conditions for millions of people and protecting its future with clean energy. But without an effective solution, events like the recent heatwave could become regular occurrences every five to ten years.
- Gan, Nectar. “China’s worst heat wave on record is crippling power supplies. How it reacts will impact us all” on CNN World. Date Published: 26th August, 2022. Site Link: https://cnn.it/3DR8tjy.
- Magramo, Kathleen. “A third of Pakistan is underwater amid its worst floods in history. Here’s what you need to know” on CNN World. 2nd September, 2022. Site Link: https://cnn.it/3SahlFb.
- Saifi, Sophia. “Pakistan ‘still in danger’ and flooding may take up to six months to recede, authorities say” on CNN World. 13th September, 2022. Site Link: https://cnn.it/3fitHwq.
About the author - meet Earthan James McCulloch
James is a literary student and environmental enthusiast who likes thinking about the better futures we could have (and those we best avoid). When not playing with other people’s dogs or taking long, mindful walks, he’s usually found reading and writing, often at the local library. You can check him out on his blog for something a little different, where he talks about all things literary or otherwise.