Despite contributing little to global fossil fuel emissions, Pakistan remains extremely vulnerable to climate-related disasters. In another blow, Himalayan glaciers are melting faster than ever before due to climate change. The Himalayan range that spans across five countries is situated in Kashmir Valley and Northern Pakistan, to the south and east of the Indus River. The floods last year were just a glimpse of the catastrophic fate that awaits Pakistan.
With global warming accelerating and heatwaves becoming more intense and frequent, Himalayan glaciers are melting much faster threatening the loss of water supply to 10 of the world’s most important river systems, including the Ganges, Indus, Yellow, Mekong and Irrawaddy. These rivers, directly and indirectly, supply food, energy, clean air and income to nearly 240 million people in the mountainous regions and river valleys. Flash floods as a result of unprecedented glacier melts will uproot millions from their homes within Pakistan and across South Asia. This will trigger mass displacement as well as an influx of refugees aggravating social and economic challenges for the government.
Even if global warming is limited to the 1.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels agreed to in the Paris climate treaty, the glaciers are expected to lose a third to a half of their volume by 2100. This accentuates the need for better preparedness in vulnerable countries and communities. Pakistan, particularly, is not equipped to deal with emerging climate challenges and requires concerted and comprehensive global support. The international community must rise to the task of not just improving predictions, but also compensating the poorest, most vulnerable countries. Political leaders and stakeholders within Pakistan can no longer downplay the gravity of the situation and must amplify climate change response and preparedness.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2023.