- Due to climate change, temperatures in Jacobabad, Pakistan have soared. In June 2021, the hottest day hit 125°F.
- Jacobabad’s residents’ lives’ are entirely dominated by their desperate quest to escape the heat.
- Experts warn that climate change will exacerbate existing poverty and inequality around the world.
The city of Jacobabad, in Sindh, Pakistan, is one of the hottest cities on earth.
In recent years, due to climate change, temperatures in Jacobabad have soared. In June 2021, the hottest day hit 125°F (52°C).
Over the past few decades, on several occasions, temperatures and humidity levels have reached a threshold described by experts as “hotter than a human body can handle”- one of only two cities in the world to hold that status.
At these heat and humidity levels, the human body’s mechanisms to cool itself stop functioning.
A new report from Amnesty International chronicles the lives of Jacobabad residents, whose days are dominated by their quest to escape the heat.
Ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Amnesty urged industrialized countries to help developing countries face the unprecedented threat.
For residents of Jacobabad in the province of Sindh, climate change is not a distant threat, but a lived reality.
Passing out from heatstroke is commonplace, and residents spend their days desperately seeking relief from the heat.
The city offers a glimpse into what life could look like in many other parts of the world.
Many men in Jacobabad work as daily wage laborers and are especially exposed to the heat.
Brick kiln workers, of which there are 5,000 in the city, produce a daily quota of 1000 bricks for less than $US5 ($AU7) a day, Amnesty International said.
They work next to boiling ovens in the open air, often with no protection from the heat.
“It’s hard to breathe when it is that hot, but if I rest, my family and I will go hungry. So how can I take a break?” said Gulab Birohi, a 70-year-old farmhand and brick kiln worker told Amnesty International.
Because of social conventions in the Islamic country, women cannot cool off by jumping into bodies of water and could face gender-based violence if they slept outdoors.
Extreme heat can cause various health issues, including kidney and heart problems, and even brain damage, The Technology Review says, citing Liz Hanna, a former public health researcher at the Australian National University, who studies extreme heat.
Farmers said that mangoes and dates that they grow ripen faster now, because of the heat.
A disabled NGO worker who has a tricycle wheelchair said he has to regularly replaced his as the rubber wears out more quickly because of how hot the ground gets.
Although solar panels are becoming increasingly popular, they are too expensive for daily wage laborers in Jacobabad.
Abdul Malik, a brick kiln worker who makes less than $US5 ($AU7) a day, told Amnesty International,
“Should I buy a solar power battery or food for my children?
As a result, buying ice is a necessary expense, where many use it to cool concrete floors.
While official data is not available on Jacobabad specifically, Amnesty International said the World Wide Fund for Nature estimates only 5.7% of Pakistan’s land is under forest cover.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced a range of plans to combat climate change, including the “Billion Tree Tsunami” plantation drive.
However, Amnesty International said that so far, no reforestation programs had reached Jacobabad, and the city’s residents have been provided with few resources to cope with the heat.
Developing countries will bear an estimated 75-80% of the cost of climate change, according to UN OHCHR, Special Rapporteur for extreme poverty.
“States that have contributed the most to the climate crisis and those with most available resources have heightened obligations, ” the Amnesty International report said.
They added that such countries should work to decarbonize their economies and support vulnerable developing countries.