INDUS FLOODING AND THE FUTURE August 16, 2010Posted by wmmbb in Environment, Humankind/Planet Earth.
The floods in Pakistan are reported to have left 20 million people homeless, in round figures equivalent to the population of Australia.
To emphasize how bad things are, the Prime Minister linked them to the likened the challenge to that of the Partition. In these situations the disaster is bad enough in terms on its immediate impact on the people involved, but often the secondary effects such as the spread of disease, the destruction of infrastructure, and the loss of food production may have a greater impact.
David Batty and Saeed Shah in The Independent described some of these implications and ramifications of the disaster:
The agricultural heartland has been wiped out, which will cause spiralling food prices and shortages. Many roads and irrigation canals have been destroyed, along with electricity supply infrastructure.
“The immediate risk is one of food riots,” said Marie Lall, an Asia expert at Chatham House. “There is already great resentment in Swat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where people had to be cleared during the government offensive. Now there is the threat of social unrest as various factions, families and ethnic groups compete with each other in the event of a breakdown in government.”
The World Bank estimates that crops worth $1bn (£640m) have been ruined and the Pakistani finance secretary warned today that the disaster would cut the country’s growth in half.
The government may have to spend $1.7bn on reconstruction, and has said it will have to divert expenditure from badly needed development programmes.
Fresh downpours could bring more destruction and displacement. Scattered showers with heavy downpours are expected in the upper north-west, upper Punjab, parts of the north and Kashmir over the next 24 hours, according to Pakistan’s meteorological department.
Since this is Pakistan, there is also talk in this instance that might be taken seriously of another military coup. There will be some significance that these events are taking place during Ramadan.
BBC News reports of the relationship of these events in Pakistan, which are consistent with heavy Monsoon Rains in other parts of south and eastern Asia and the high temperatures in Central Russia that have led to the outbreak of fires. The common factor is the unusual behavior of the upper atmosphere Jet Stream.
Is there a relationship between the behavior of the Jet Stream and Global Warming? Nevertheless, these are examples of climate-induced extreme weather events that are predicted to occur with greater magnitude and frequency in the future as the atmosphere warms up due to increased levels of greenhouse gases.
At least the EU has anticipated these outcomes by setting up a fund to meet the contingencies. Deutsche Wella reports on the EU proposed Global Climate Change Alliance with developing countries:
The European Commission this week announced the creation of a fund to help developing nations battle climate change, putting in 50 million euros ($69 million) itself to kick it off. Louis Michel, EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, proposed the global alliance to help developing nations deal with and adapt to the effects of climate change.”We need to maintain structured dialogue on tackling the effects of climate change,” he said. “And we have to prepare developing nations for future natural disasters.”
With global warming affecting many sectors, the EU is keen to integrate “climate proofing” into poverty reduction efforts in order to ensure sustainability. The plan will reduce emissions from deforestation.
According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), the number of natural disasters recorded since 1900 is on the rise, as is the number of people affected by such disasters since 1975. From tsunamis in Asia, hurricanes in central and North America to earthquakes in Pakistan, floods in India and famine in Africa, natural disasters have become increasingly frequent and increasingly deadly in recent years. Seven of the 10 worst disasters of the last 20 years occurred between 2000 and 2006.
Moreover, the EU Commission is concerned that the effects of global warming are felt first and foremost by the poor and vulnerable in developing countries. Responsible for just a small percentage of global pollution themselves, they nonetheless feel the immediate effects of ecological degradation caused by industrialized and emerging nations. While most affected by global warming, these countries also have the least capacity to deal with climate change.
The political debate in Australia, while not taking into account our own vulnerability, completely has failed to take into account the point made here that poorer countries who have not be substantial contributors to Global Warming will be bearing the brunt. It is encouraging that the EU is taking the initiative to set up funding. There were suggestions (and I cannot now find the reference) that “aid fatique” was starting to set in. The climate challenge will either unite all of humanity around a common cause, or we go separately and selfishly to our individual dead-ends. It seems to me the polluters and the polluting industries and those who control and profit from them have no excuse and moral culpability for their efforts to delay effective action to address the underlying cause.
Deutsche Wella reports that while the UN Secretary General is calling for increased commitment of aid, the response of civilian donations in Germany are very low. I suppose that Germany might not be an exception in this case.
Howard Falcon-Lang at the BBC reviews the history and science associated with the Indus floods. It is interesting that deforestation in the headwaters of the river. This points to a human cause.