You will have seen the reports from the latest Pakistan floods, and you’ll have likely heard the repeated claims that these floods are “unprecedented” and the “worst in history”, as declared by the country’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
And we’re told yet again that the floods are so devastating because of man-made climate change.
I am not denying that the Pakistan floods are terrible and I’m not denying that they have caused misery and death. I also acknowledge that this year’s monsoon season is currently being reported as the wettest since records began in 1961. But I do feel it’s worth testing the claim that the floods are ‘unprecedented’ and the ‘worst in history’.
What does ‘worst in history’ mean? What do politicians and the media mean when they claim these floods are ‘unprecedented’ and the ‘worst in history’? I imagine there could be three explanations:
- Most people killed by floods.
- Highest percentage of the population affected.
- Largest area of the country affected.
I looked up the data on the numbers of people killed in Pakistan in floods for the last 72 years.
Just in the last 72 years Pakistan has seen many floods. These include:
- The flood of 1950, which killed 2,910 people.
- On July 1st 1977 heavy rains and flooding in Karachi killed 248 people; according to the Pakistan meteorological department 207mm (8.1″) of rain fell in 24 hours.
- In 1992, flooding during the Monsoon season killed 1,834 people across the country.
- In 1993, flooding during Monsoon rains killed 3,084 people.
- In 2003, Sindh province was badly affected due to monsoon rains causing damages in billions and killing 178 people.
- In 2007, Cyclone Yemyin submerged the lower part of Balochistan Province in sea water, killing 380 people. Before that it killed 213 people in Karachi on its way to Balochistan.
- In 2010, almost all of Pakistan was affected when massive flooding, caused by record-breaking rains, hit Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. At least 2,000 people died in the flood and almost 20 million people were affected by it.
The death toll from the current floods is estimated at just over 1,000 people. The two-minutes research I did found four Pakistan floods – 1950, 1992, 1993 and 2010 – which killed more than that. So ‘unprecedented’ and ‘worst in history’ cannot mean that this year’s floods have killed more people than previous floods. That leaves two possible explanations of ‘unprecedented’ and ‘worst in history: either this year’s floods have affected the highest percentage of the population (estimated at 15%) or they have affected the largest area of the country (estimated at over a third). Failing this, the claim this year’s floods are ‘unprecedented’ and the ‘worst in history’ are just the usual nonsense spouted by our climate-catastrophist journalists in order to advance their own careers and to terrify us into obedience to the next series of Net Zero measures and restrictions which will be imposed on us in order to supposedly ‘save the planet’.
I’ll leave it up to you to choose which of these three possibilities is the most likely.
What about the trees? One issue none of the climate catastrophists have mentioned when reporting the floods is the massive scale of deforestation in Pakistan largely due to the country’s rapidly-expanding population. Trees are obviously important in countries which have seasons with heavy rainfall as they help the earth absorb rain, meaning heavy rain doesn’t result in torrents of water, landslides and floods.
The population of Pakistan is increasing at an astonishing rate. At the time of the 2010 floods, which killed around 2,000 people, the population of Pakistan was about 180 million. By 2022, this had reached 230 million – a rise of 50 million (28%) in just 12 years. Probably linked to the rise in population is the rate of deforestation. Just between 2013 and 2020 Pakistan’s tree coverage fell from 5.2% to 4.8%:
The World Wildlife Fund estimated that Pakistan’s deforestation rate was the second highest in Asia (after Afghanistan) and forest coverage was well below the recommended level of 25%. To put this into context, the world average in 2020 based on 193 countries is 32.2%. Pakistan comes in at 164 out of 193 countries in levels of tree cover. Pakistan’s neighbour, India, has 24.3% tree cover – almost six times as much as Pakistan. So, it’s hardly surprising that, with so little tree cover, when the monsoons hit Pakistan, the result is inevitably rushing torrents of water, floods and destruction of property and agricultural land.
A 2012 U.S. Kent State University study of flooding in Pakistan reported:
Pakistan is a developing nation that has historically been subjected to high flooding fatality events due to its socioeconomic characteristics, population, geography and landscape attributes.
Since 1950, floods have been historically the second deadliest natural disaster to affect Pakistan, behind only earthquakes. Recent disasters continue to expose Pakistan’s great vulnerability to natural hazards, as the nation remains highly susceptible to large losses of human life that may transpire from a single event.
Yet with leaden inevitability, our media claim that the floods are all the result of climate change.
David Craig is the author of There is No Climate Crisis, available as an e-book or paperback from Amazon.