The Case of Pakistan: How Climate Change Will Unequally Impact the Global South

By: Juwayriah Hasan

The monsoon season has devastated Pakistan as flooding has inundated nearly one-third of the country. In August alone, the rains were 800% more than average in the province of Sindh. Such destruction can be blamed on none other than the effects of climate change and its very tangible effects that have killed 1,730 people since mid-June and affected the livelihoods of 33 million people.

Although monsoon floods are not unheard of in Pakistan, this year they were apocalyptic and have left the country’s people homeless, facing public health crises due to water-borne diseases, and in a state of economic disaster. Individuals’ livelihoods were washed away in the destruction of the floods. It is estimated that 150 bridges and about 2,200 miles of roads were destroyed, more than 700,000 livestock have been killed,  and 2 million acres of crops and orchards were devastated. The government of Pakistan estimates that the floods caused a loss of around  $10 billion – $40 billion

The effects of climate change and the rising temperatures have resulted in the melting of 7000 glaciers, which provoked what is known as glacial-outburst floods. Pakistan is a country that has the most glaciers outside the polar regions, mostly located in the northern regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. With continuous greenhouse gas emissions, more glacial ice will melt that can possibly contribute to similar flooding in the future. According to climate policy consultant Dawar Butt, “melting glaciers are the biggest economic, human and national-security threat Pakistan will ever face.” Furthermore, the World Weather Attribution estimates that the increasing temperatures of 1.2 degrees Celsius caused the monsoon rains from June to September to be 50% more intense than they otherwise would have been. 

This terrible disaster has demonstrated how climate change has become reality, and that these effects will not be felt evenly: those who face the worst of climate change will largely be in the Global South. Despite Pakistan contributing less than 1% to greenhouse gas emissions, it is paying the brunt of the climate-related disasters. Pakistan is ranked in the top 10 most vulnerable countries to be affected by climate change. 

And while developing countries like Pakistan will suffer the devastating effects of climate change, it is the countries in the Global North who are responsible for 92% of greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, the effects of climate change will only accelerate and will disproportionately affect the people who contribute the least to the crisis. Secretary General of the UN Antonio Guterres called for the G20 industrialized countries that contribute to 80% of greenhouse gas emissions to have a “moral responsibility” to help Pakistan recover and fight against such disasters “supercharged by the climate crisis.” 

Countries in the Global South tend to face the brunt of climate-related disasters due to a myriad of factors. For example, there is far greater reliance on natural resources, which makes the effects of climate change particularly profound. In Pakistan, many of those affected by the floods lost everything. Their reliance on agriculture and livestock to sustain their livelihoods was swept away as the floodwaters inundated the land. As natural resources are a significant factor in the country’s economic status, climate change will exacerbate such natural resources leaving people susceptible to its effects.

Further, in countries that are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, displacement will rise as certain areas will become inhabitable. In Pakistan, climate migrants and those displaced will be over 600,000 by 2030 if there is no action taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the number will likely reach closer to 1.2 million at the rate climate change is going.  

There needs to be restitution and reparations from industrialized countries and fossil fuel companies that contribute the most to climate change. Developing countries do not have the necessary infrastructural tools to fight against the worst effects of climate change, and countries in the global North need to respond to such damages by correcting historic injustices against global South states. 

In the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), being held from November 6, 2022 to November 18, 2022 in Egypt, 77 developing countries will bring up demands for loss and damage. Developing countries are demanding richer polluting nations to pay for the loss “of lives, cultures or species that can never return, and the ‘damage’ to vital infrastructure that needs to be repaired after climate-driven disasters” that they caused.

As a chair for COP27, Pakistan plans to push hard for the contested climate debate over loss and damage. On Monday, November 14, the G7 launched a Global Shield program where pre-arranged insurance and disaster protection funding would be provided to countries in the event of a climate disaster, with Pakistan, Ghana, and Bangladesh being the first to receive funding. 

While the Global Shield program is a positive step forward in providing countries hit hardest by climate change funding, it by no means replaces loss and damage solutions. Countries vulnerable to climate change can face up to $580 billion in loss and damage by 2030. The monstrosity of the effects of climate change means there needs to be a widespread solution, on part of richer polluting nations, to address the impact countries in the Global South will face. 

With climate related disasters ever increasing in the future, the disparity between who will pay the cost for and who has benefited from environmental degradation should be acknowledged and factored into future, climate-related solutions.

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