The South Asian country of about 220 million people is now facing an unparalleled catastrophe after eight consecutive weeks of heavy rainfall. Since mid-June 2022, Pakistan has been swamped by intense monsoon rains that have led to the country’s most terrible flooding in a decade. According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, the floods have impacted more than 33 million people and destroyed or damaged more than 1 million houses. At least 1,100 people were killed by floodwaters that inundated tens of thousands of square kilometres of the country. In addition, about 150 bridges and 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) of roads have been destroyed across the country, according to ReliefWeb. More than 700,000 livestock and 2 million acres of crops and orchards have also been lost.

Pakistan, which is already facing political and economic turmoil, has been thrown into the front line of the human-induced climate crisis. The country has faced dramatic weather conditions this year, from record heatwaves to deadly floods being one of the world's global climate crisis hotspots. Recently, UN Secretary General António Guterres also stated that the people living in this region are 15 times more prone to die from climate impacts.

Pakistan is home to more glaciers than anywhere outside the polar areas. Global warming makes the country more vulnerable to sudden outbursts of melting glacier water, according to the Meteorological Department in Islamabad.

This flood is a consequence of the intense heat that melted glaciers in the northern mountainous regions, increasing the amount of water flowing into tributaries that eventually make their way into the Indus river. In addition, the heatwaves also coincided with another extraordinary event — a depression, or a system of intense low air pressure, in the Arabian Sea, which brought heavy rain to Pakistan’s coastal provinces as early as June.

Some weather agencies have also predicted that the ongoing La Niña climate event — a phenomenon that is typically associated with stronger monsoon conditions in India and Pakistan — will continue until the end of the year, says King. “It’s not a super strong link, but it probably is playing a role in enhancing the rainfall.”

Human-induced global warming could also be intensifying downpours. Climate models suggest that a warmer world will contribute to more intense rainfall, says Hussain. Between 1986 and 2015, temperatures in Pakistan rose by 0.3 °C per decade — higher than the global average.

Researchers and public representatives also say that other factors have perhaps increased the devastation, including an ineffective early-warning system for floods, poor disaster management, political instability and unregulated urban development. A lack of drainage and storage infrastructure, as well as the large number of people living in flood zones, are also implicated. “These are governance issues, but they are minuscule in relation to the level of the tragedy that we are seeing occur,” says Aslam.

About the Author: Maryam Eqan is an Executive In-chief and Founder of The Earth Needs Love. She believes in youth engagement and activism for environment, climate, and sustainable development.