More than 1300 people have died and 33 million people have been impacted by unprecedented flooding in Pakistan. That latter number is more than the entire population of Texas! This is happening in a country that’s produced less than 1% of total global greenhouse gas emissions – and they are paying a heavy price. The estimated cost of recovery is currently at $10 billion, due to the destruction of bridges, homes, schools and crop-yielding farmlands. The climate crisis is hitting hard in nations who’ve had the least to do with it. “Climate compensation”, of some sort, should be based on historic responsibility for emissions, yet it isn’t happening.
This type of destruction is frightening. Since industrialization began, we’ve raised our average global temperature by “only” 1.2 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement is meant to keep the rise to 1.5 degrees. With most emission projections, nations are going to struggle to keep it to 2 degrees of excess warming. We shouldn’t be calling this the “new normal” because that implies we’ve reached some kind of plateau. Even if we stopped ALL emissions today, the gases already in the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide, will continue to wreak havoc for decades. In other words, “we haven’t seen anything yet” when it comes to climate destruction. There’s more coming “down the pipeline.”
Early heatwaves in Pakistan brought a faster end to spring this year. This reduced crop yields and increased the rate of glacial melt. Early in the summer, a glacial lake outburst that took out a key bridge was a warning of things to come. The monsoon – a seasonal reversal of winds that brings moisture with it – lasted for days on end with heavier than usual downpours this summer. This is due to higher-than-average warming of the Arabian Sea.
Climate catastrophe is in plain sight this summer: from these devastating floods, to long-lasting heat waves in the US and Europe, to wildfires in Europe burning nearly three times as much land so far this year than the 2006 – 2021 average, to glacial collapses in the Alps, to historic floods in Texas, a place whose governor still can’t say the words “climate change.”
Western inertia and apathy have been a danger to the globe for far too long. If you’re sick of climate change or sick of hearing about it, try living in a country where you can’t escape it. Where there isn’t any air conditioning. Where there isn’t any government relief. The US has finally passed its first-ever climate legislation, moving the country closer to its goal of a de-carbonized future and taking a significant step towards helping the planet. Let’s keep this up.