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Pakistan flood: many more will die unless more aid is delivered quickly

Posted on 23 August 2010 by John Cook

When you immerse yourself in the climate debate, it's easy to get lost in the peer-reviewed papers, data and science. But I try not to lose sight of the fact that the reason I care about climate change is because of its impact on humanity. Right now, people are being affected by extreme weather events such as the Pakistan flood which has rendered 20 million homeless by the "slow-motion tsunami". While a few thousand died due to the floods, many more people will die from disease and malnutrition unless more aid is delivered quickly. It's crucial right now that people send donations to relief efforts.

To get an appreciation of the magnitude of the disaster in Pakistan, check out this NY Times article, Flood Disaster May Require Largest Aid Effort in Modern History. Here are some excerpts:

Experts say initial assessments show the scale of damage and human suffering left by torrential monsoon rains over the past three weeks dwarfs the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, 2005 Kashmir earthquake, 2008 Cyclone Nargis disaster in Burma, and Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti -- combined.

"A food crisis is also possible if food assistance is not reached soon enough," warned Martin Mogwanja, the United Nations' chief humanitarian relief coordinator in Pakistan. "And if [aid is] not provided soon enough, there could be a second wave of death caused by waterborne diseases such as gastroenteritis and acute waterborne disease," he told reporters in a teleconference yesterday

Officials say about 800,000 to 900,000 homes have been destroyed or made unlivable. The government believes 4.6 million have been left homeless in just two provinces, Punjab and Sindh.

Pakistan's agricultural economy, the source of income for about 70 percent of the population, has borne the brunt of the damage. "This is where we have been hit the most," said Qureshi.

More than 17 million acres of farmland was inundated, Qureshi said. U.N. officials figure that more than 200,000 head of livestock have been killed in the flooding. And the nation's cotton crop, an important source of export earnings, has largely been wiped out after 1 million acres of the crop was lost to floods in Punjab.

So I exhort everyone to donate to help the relief effort. Here in Australia, we usually donate to Australian Red Cross - for U.S. readers, there's always the American Red Cross and elsewhere, the International Committee of the Red Cross. Americans can also check the US State Department’s page for contributions.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 24:

  1. Everybody needs to donate. Unfortunately the aid and international coordinating organisations need to restructure around the likelihood of more than one international scale catastrophe per year.

    And climate scientists need to learn the right reaction when a microphone is shoved under the nose...

    "Is this due to global warming?"
    "This is exactly the kind of thing we expect with climate disruption. We'll need a few months to analyse whether this particular event is in that category."

    State the possibility first. Emphasise the need for more science to be accurate.
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  2. adelady:

    "This is exactly the kind of thing we expect with climate disruption. We'll need a few months to analyse whether this particular event is in that category."

    I agree completely with the first sentence, but what does the second one mean? In what category? The response just said it was the kind we'll see more of with further disruption, so what's left to decide that could be determined in "a few months"? Surely you're not saying that in a few months scientists would be able to determine if AGW definitively caused any given event.

    I would keep the first sentence you propose and change the second to something like, "If we continue to pour 30 billion tons of CO2 into the air every year then tragedies like this will happen more and more often."

    And yes, everyone needs to donate. I made a similar plea on my site yesterday (http://www.grinzo.com/energy/index.php/2010/08/22/helping-and-learning-from-pakistan/), and I even linked to the same articles John did.
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  3. "This is exactly the kind of thing we expect with climate disruption. We'll need a few months to analyse whether this particular event is in that category". Distortion of facts again.

    The fact is that the Pakistan floods are the result of an unusual but not unheard of weather event, along with the China floods, Western Russia drought and other global catastrophes cause by weather events.

    As someone who has far more expertise about weather than anyone here says in the Climate Realist article “Breaking - Russian heat wave due to dramatic changes in solar activity – Interview with forecaster Piers Corbyn” (Note 1) QUOTE: This year Russia was hit by a record-breaking heat wave that led to wildfires which killed dozens and left thousands homeless. Weather forecaster Piers Corbyn says this is a result of weather cycles, not global warming.
    “What we have is a tremendous amount of activity on the sun and that affects the rush of particles from the sun to the earth and that changes the ionosphere and that also changes the circulation patterns of the globe in what is known as the jet stream,” Corbyn explained. “And that caused a shifting of the weather patterns so the south wind in Western Russia terminated and instead we got a northwestern flow of thunderstorms and cooling” UNQUOTE.

    NOTES:
    1) see http://climaterealists.com/?id=6173

    Best regards, Pete Ridley
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  4. I think it's wrong to say that these extreme events are caused by climate change. But it's equally wrong to say that climate change isn't in all likelihood contributing to the severity of these events.

    But back to the original post, keep giving because the scale of this crisis is huge.
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  5. Lou,

    My feeling is that experts need to *first* say that soemthing is or is not consistent with expectations.

    Both you and I want to say something more about the dangers, but experts also have to avoid being seen as doomsayers. Saying we need time for the science was really my strategy for getting reporters off the back pronto, rather than getting into long-winded explanations of statistical esoterica. Because we know where that can finish up.
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  6. Adelady, I agree with you, climatologists of all people should understand the trouble ahead for humanity. A carefully considered response to reinforce the message that these extremes will become common place in the not too distant future, will at least be a step in the right direction.
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  7. "But I try not to lose sight of the fact that the reason I care about climate change is because of its impact on humanity."

    But if humans are causing climate change by increasing CO2 and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, and we are, is it not logical that the fewer humans there are across the world, the less effect we'll have on the environment.

    Won't trying to save all the humans effected by 'natural' disasters, just increase the carbon footprint even more. Instead, should we not just let a natural, negative feedback mechanism do its work?

    Granted, losing a few million will not make much difference, but multiplying that by a few thousand 'natural' disasters will, unless we intervene by dumping even more CO2. The real question is what maximum population can support a comfortable technological level as a steady state and maintain CO2 levels, eg, at <350 ppm.
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  8. One does not hear much about over-population, or population control today. It almost seem politically incorrect to even mention it. What research has been done on these questions? Why don't we talk about them any more?

    If we do not take care of nature, nature will take care of us.
    _______

    BTW, I am asking questions, not saying what I will do for suffering people. My emotional reactions are locked in. That's not to say emotional paradigm shifts may not be best for the young and future generations.
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  9. Kernos, global warming is not tied to population growth. Think about it. Where do you see high population growth? In poor areas with limited technology. Where do you see high CO2 emissions? In wealthy areas where population is generally stable.

    So no, killing off a million Pakistani farmers doesn't help stop global warming at all.
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  10. "So no, killing off a million Pakistani farmers doesn't help stop global warming at all."

    Just as I said, but killing off a few thousand million would.
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  11. "As someone who has far more expertise about weather than anyone here says ... Interview with forecaster Piers Corbyn”

    Good to see people maintaining a sense of humour in the face of these catastrophic events.

    The Disasters Emergency Committee is a great way of donating in the UK.
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  12. Anne-Marie, don’t overlook the fact that a major contribution to the extent of the catastrophe arising from this weather event in Pakistanis is not so much due to an extraordinary monsoon as to the manner in which the river(s) are being managed and the manner in which people are populating unsuitable areas.

    Dappledwater, there is enormous uncertainty about future changes to global climates and whether the globe will get hotter or colder. There is no convincing evidence that “these extremes will become common place in the not too distant future”.
    Kernos chooses to give the impression that we know that “humans are causing climate change by increasing CO2 and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere” but he is wrong. We do not know this, we speculate about it. From what he says he must be quite happy to volunteer to be one of those “few million (who he considers) will not make much difference”. I tend to agree with CBDunkerson.

    Best regards, Pete Ridley
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  13. Pete Ridley at 08:06 AM, the impact humans have on changing the landscape is often totally ignored when such disasters are being tied to climate change.
    Every piece of infrastructure whether buildings, roads, levee banks etc provide obstructions to the natural flow of water. The Mississippi being a good example.
    It has to be accepted that without any change in the magnitude of ANY weather event, such obstructions are going to magnify the adverse effects of ALL such events.
    The same with fires, cleared areas and particularly roads through thick forests apart from exposing the immediate surface areas to increased evaporation, provide funnels that allow extra oxygen into areas that in the normal course of events would have had more difficulty sustaining such an inferno, and of course all roads lead to areas of concentrated habitation which themselves provide even more highly combustible fuel also more open to the flow of oxygen in.
    There is no getting away from the tragedy of those caught by such events, but they should not be used to play with the emotions of others to push what is in many ways a political view.
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  14. Pete Ridley, which GCM's project a long term cooling trend with increasing greenhouse gases?.
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  15. Kernos #10: Did you not read any part of my comment except the last sentence? Killing off a few billion (or "thousand million" as you put it) non-industrialized farmers would not help slow global warming EITHER. They aren't the ones causing CO2 levels to increase. China and India have long had huge populations... but their CO2 emissions were virtually non-existent until they began to industrialize. The vast majority of their populations (in rural areas) still emit little CO2.

    Wiping out all of the Americas, Europe, and industrialized portions of Asia (your 'few billion' people) would have a major impact on global warming from CO2 emissions. But those areas have much better disaster preparedness and simply will not suffer those kinds of losses. The only places you get huge population growth and massive deaths from natural disasters are in poor rural areas which aren't contributing to CO2 emissions in any significant way.

    So again... no significant 'negative feedback' on CO2 emissions from natural disasters. At least not any time in the near future. Go out a hundred years or more and it might be a different story... depending on how much CO2 we've emitted and how well technology has kept up with allowing us to adapt to the climate.
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  16. CBDunkerson #15:

    "China and India have long had huge populations... but their CO2 emissions were virtually non-existent until they began to industrialize."

    Which they are doing now and will be doing more of in the future. And, is it not largely farmers that clear land to grow crops? I think saying human population, global or regional, has nothing to do with global warming and other human environmental impacts is simply specious.

    "So again... no significant 'negative feedback' on CO2 emissions from natural disasters. At least not any time in the near future. "

    Is not one of the causes of environmental problems, short term thinking/ Should we not be thinking in the long term, say a millennium from now?

    "...how well technology has kept up with allowing us to adapt to the climate."

    I think the goal to not to adapt, but to turn back to pre-industrial levels, or say to 350 ppm, as some suggest. I certainly don't want coastal city dwellers inundating my grandkids as they all run for higher ground.

    Besides, these human disasters may be the only thing to get the politicians thinking beyond the next election. Or is that just wishful thinking?

    I do not think the environmental problems can be solved without taking human population(s) into account.
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  17. The high human population of the planet does play in to CO2 emissions, but population GROWTH specifically does not... precisely because that growth occurs in the areas which do NOT have high CO2 emissions.

    Environmental problems in general are different (and off topic) than CO2 emissions specifically.

    Getting back down to 350 ppm does not require a return to pre-industrial technology. If it did it would never happen. Instead, the obvious path to lower CO2 emissions is power generation from sources other than fossil fuels.
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  18. @Lou Grinzo post#2

    "If we continue to pour 30 billion tons of CO2 into the air every year then tragedies like this will happen more and more often."

    More than CO2-cause, I would say "If we continue to deforest then tragedies like this will happen more and more often."

    Pakistan has only 2.5% forest coverage. It was destroyed at a rate of 24%/year in the last 10 years.
    That's the main reason for human losses and damages.
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  19. sorry, missed the link:

    Biofuel demand driving Africa "land grab" : report

    Article here

    this is the real cause of future tragedies
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  20. mscavazz wrote : "Pakistan has only 2.5% forest coverage. It was destroyed at a rate of 24%/year in the last 10 years.
    That's the main reason for human losses and damages."



    24%/year in the last 10 years ? How come they still have 2.5% of it left, then ? Perhaps you'd better provide a link.

    Also, since much of the country is arid or semi-arid, and since AGW is making the country even warmer, deforestation will have to take its place as another cause of future tragedies related to AGW.
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  21. sorry JMurphy 24% was the %change rate/year. Its also the overall deforested % between 1990-2005. Not exactly what I wrote above, I admit, but as a result the 2.5% left is correct.
    see here

    My opinion for short, is that even with no global warming such tragedies would occur anyway due to deforestation and bad land-cover decisions.
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  22. mscavazz, although deforestation and bad land-cover decisions are, of course, important factors, how do you think these sort of tragedies can happen without an increase in precipitation (over a comparatively short space of time), and where do you think all that extra water is coming from ?
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  23. JMurphy, NASA and NOAA bulletins about strong La Nina, COMBINED to unusual position and stay of polar jet-stream, strongly suggest these two phenomenon are the main causes of this exceptional rainfall (and warm & dry climate over russia due to same jet-stream anomaly).
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  24. Anything really to argue about here?

    As the WMO notes: "A series of recent publications indicate that main patterns of atmospheric variability exhibit noticeable changes and are predicted to be different in a warmer climate." Paraphrased, different things are expected to happen and different things are observed to be happening. What happened in Pakistan is novel in our records, could reasonably be attributed in part to what the WMO notes.

    Meanwhile expansion of human culture is expanding risks incurred when weather explodes old statistics.

    Monomania is not productive.

    For my part, I just noticed the point of John's post and will once again dig into the old wallet. If I have any serious reservations they come down to my unfulfilled wish I could get a signed statement about improved birth control when I send money into places like Pakistan. My qualms do not address the needs of the already-quick.
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