Pakistan's horror floods are our horror floods too
A combination of heavy monsoon rains and melting glaciers has caused devastating floods that have killed more than 1,100 people and have left a third of the country under water. The Pakistan floods are not an isolated incident for the back page of your newspaper. The scale, and relevance for all of us, should make this the main headline wherever you live.
This summer was marked by extreme weather events all over the northern hemisphere. As a reader of this newsletter, you have likely experienced this too. For instance, many European readers will remember the record-breaking drought in Western Europe. At the same time, many American readers will also have experienced the extreme heat and drought in large parts of the United States. There have also been severe droughts in China, while there was flooding in Japan and South Korea.
It took the western media quite some time to realize how extreme the situation in Pakistan was. Although Twitter was fast to warn the world, the reporting was unreliable since some accounts posted videos from years ago. Then the British media followed, and only then did the leading U.S. newspapers write about the floods. We can blame the media for an initially slow response since there is the uncomfortable feeling that people suffering in non-western countries get less attention than those in the west.
But on the positive side, I notice that the media increasingly writes about the bigger picture of a global climate crisis that manifests itself all over the world in different forms of extreme weather but that are interconnected. For example, air moisture in a drought area is diverted to another region, which can cause a downpour. Increased atmospheric temperature by one degree celsius leads to an increase of some 7 percent more water vapor in the atmosphere. Large-scale climate disasters in non-western countries are often linked to weather extremes like droughts that we experience. And although there is no one-liner cause for the floods in Pakistan, where a complex set of factors is at play, the floods are worse because of the climate crisis that melts the country's glaciers and increases rain during the monsoon. And Pakistan's contribution to the production of greenhouse gases that cause the climate to change is minimal.
We are all living in the early phase of global climate change (yes, it will get worse, and much worse if we don't act). So we are in the same boat, and it's sinking. To keep it afloat, we have limited time, and we have to work together. And since the ones in our boat responsible for the disaster are the same ones in a better position to provide help, the Pakistan floods must get maximum media attention in the west.
Pakistan's terrible experience today will be ours tomorrow unless we, all of us, will very soon take efficient large-scale climate action. So for those that don't feel a moral obligation towards other countries, there is at least the self-interest argument: our boat is sinking, which means your future is also at stake.
Scientists agree that the worst of climate change can still be avoided if we don't waste any time and massively scale up our actions. Perhaps each of our own experiences this summer, and the hard-to-watch pictures from Pakistan, will convince more people that their governments should prioritize climate action to save our planet. If you read this, you will likely live in a country where you have a vote; use it for a better planet.