The planet’s SOS call for climate justice
FOLLOWING the “massive wake-up call” in a report authored by 234 environmental experts from 66 countries, compiled once analyzing 14000 scientific cases over a period of three years under the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the planet validates the findings this year by offering solely two choices for the people occupying its large patches within the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Far East: Face the drought or flow in the flood.
Sadly, it took two centuries for humans to search out this furious response through consistent and unsolicited intervention.
In 1900, fewer than 2 billion people were living on the planet and carbon emissions were 0. 195 billion metric tons. In 1900 there were only 4,192 passenger cars built in the US (the only country manufacturing cars).
According to a rough estimate, there are 1.446 billion cars, 25000 commercial airplanes and 53046 fighter aircraft.
The world’s population stands at almost 7.9 billion in 2021 and carbon emissions are 34.81 billion metric tons.
Population explosion and industrialization induced the thickness of carbon cover on one side and the depletion of forest cover on the other.
Dr Hannah Ritchie, Oxford University, writes, “Shortly after the end of the last great ice age – 10,000 years ago – 57% of the world’s habitable land was covered by forest.
In the millennia since then, growing demand for agricultural land means we’ve lost one-third of global forests – an area twice the size of the United States.
Half of this loss occurred in the last century alone”.The IPPC study anticipates that the global average temperature could reach or exceed a 1.5 C increase in the next two decades which is already 1 C warmer than pre-industrial times.
This fast increment is enough to unbalance mountain systems, ocean systems, rain cycles, and desert systems.
According to the International Alpine Protection Commission, the climate of the Alps has increased 2C over the past 120 years causing a 50 % loss in the ice volume since 1850.
The temperature was recorded at 10 degrees Celsius at the summit of mountain Marmolada one day before a section of the huge glacier collapsed and damaged human life and property in Northern Italy.
Professor David Holland from New York University finds during his extensive research conducted in the ice canyons of Antarctica that the most important Thwaites Glacier, as bigger as Florida, the so-called dooms-day glacier, is losing 300 feet of ice each year.
Thwaites glacier stores enough water to increase the global sea levels by three feet if it all melted.
Historically, the US has been the largest carbon polluter on the globe. However, currently, according to research conducted by Rhodium Group, China emits carbon footprints more than the entire developed world combined— 27% of the world’s greenhouse gases in 2019.
The US was the second-largest emitter at 11% while India was third with 6.6% of emissions.
Other top carbon producers include Russia, Japan, Iran, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. In per capita carbon emissions, Middle Eastern countries like Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, UAE, and Saudi Arabia stand at the top.
Overall, according to World Economic Forum reports 21% of sea level rise in the past two decades is caused by the melting of snow glaciers.
The research analyzed 20000 glaciers on the planet to show how they have lost mass and thickness between 2000 and 2019.
This is a huge threat for nearly 40 % of the world’s population living within 100 km of coastal lines in metropolitan cities like Jakarta, Lagos, Houston, Virginia, Rotterdam, Alexandria, Dhaka, Bangkok, Venice, New Orleans, Osaka, and Miami.
The more painful fact is that the developing nations in Africa and Asia located around the equator are facing the highest brunt of extreme weathers despite having their negligible contribution to carbon emissions.
Climate calamities in these countries bring more drastic consequences for human life and the economy as compared to the developed world due to inadequate resources and lack of precautionary infrastructure.
Pakistan is a classic case study. The country’s topology has a significant gradient connecting the U-shaped Mountains of Koh-e-Suleman, the Himalayas, Hindukush and the Karakorum to the coastal line of the Arabian Sea while passing through vast agricultural plains.
The gradient is perfect to facilitate stormy water flows turning into horrible floods. Moreover, Pakistan is more vulnerable to climate extremities as it shares borders with the two largest carbon producers in the world—China and India.
During the last two months, extensive rainfalls, cloud bursts, and glaciers melting on the peaks of the three greatest mountain ranges intersecting in the north of Pakistan, heavy glacier floods have devastatingly damaged the life, shelter, and agriculture in the southern plains of KP, Punjab, Sindh, and Baluchistan.
More than 1000 people are dead and millions are homeless. The mountain areas of Swat, Dir, Chitral, Kaghan and GB are blocked due to landslides and bridges are cut-off.
Glacier waters have thrown away anything coming in their way including hotels, houses, humans, cars and orchards.
Moreover, 8 unprecedented spells of torrential monsoon rains in a short period of two months aggravated the situation from bad to worse.
The whole of two provinces Balochistan and Sindh are underwater. Hundreds of humans have lost their lives, houses were wiped out, tens of thousands of hectares of agricultural land have become useless, major road infrastructure, communication/power networks and connecting bridges have collapsed.
We registered 1.5 million mud houses in Sindh during the last census and 90% of them have collapsed.
—To be continued.
—The writer is an academic, columnist and public policy researcher, based in Karachi.