Pakistan this spring began experiencing record-breaking, drought-intensifying heat, which scientists concluded had been 30 times as likely to occur because of human-caused global warming. Now, much of the country is underwater.
More than 1,100 people have died so far, and more than one million homes have been damaged or destroyed. After nearly three months of incessant rain, much of Pakistan’s farmland is now underwater, raising the spectre of food shortages in what is likely to be the most destructive monsoon season in the country’s recent history.
While scientists can’t yet say how much the current rainfall and flooding may have been worsened by climate change, researchers agree that in South Asia and elsewhere, global warming is increasing the likelihood of severe rain.
When it falls in an area also grappling with drought, it can be particularly damaging by causing sharp swings between far too little water and far too much, too quickly.
“If that rainfall was distributed over the season, maybe it wouldn’t be that bad,” said Deepti Singh, a climate scientist at Washington State University Vancouver.
Instead, strong cloudbursts are ruining crops and washing away infrastructure, with huge consequences for vulnerable societies, she said.
“Our systems are just not designed to manage that.”