Aug 18, 2010

Is the Flooding in Pakistan a Climate Change Disaster?

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Pakistan
by
Nathanial Gronewold
,
Scientific American via ClimateWire

Devastating flooding that has swamped one-fifth of Pakistan and left millions homeless is likely the worst natural disaster to date attributable to climate change, U.N. officials and climatologists are now openly saying.

Most experts are still cautioning against tying any specific event directly to emissions of greenhouse gases. But scientists at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva say there's no doubt that higher Atlantic Ocean temperatures contributed to the disaster begun late last month.

Atmospheric anomalies that led to the floods are also directly related to the same weather phenomena that a caused the record heat wave in Russia and flooding and mudslides in western China, said Ghassem Asrar, director of the World Climate Research Programme and WMO. And if the forecasts by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are correct, then Pakistan's misery is just a sign of more to come, said Asrar.

"There's no doubt that clearly the climate change is contributing, a major contributing factor," Asrar said in an interview. "We cannot definitely use one case to kind of establish precedents, but there are a few facts that point towards climate change as having to do with this."

There's also no doubt that the Pakistan flooding will join the ranks of the worst natural disasters in recorded history