Droughts linked to climate change have increased dramatically since 2000, report says

Droughts linked to climate change have increased dramatically since 2000, report says

Thanks in part to climate change, the number and frequency of droughts on the planet has increased by 29% over the past 22 years, according to a United Nations report released on Wednesday. As a result, about a third of the Earth’s population, or 2.3 billion people, now face the risk of water scarcity.

“The facts and figures in this publication all point in the same direction: an upward trajectory in the duration of droughts and the severity of impacts, affecting not only human societies but also the ecological systems on which the survival of all life depends, including that of our own species,” Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said in a statement.

Droughts like the one in the American Southwest, where water restrictions have been imposed in states like California and Arizona and reservoir levels continue to drop as summer months approach dry, are being felt around the world. A severe drought in the Horn of Africa has endangered the lives of millions of people in Somalia. The combination of drought and an intense heat dome that has lingered over parts of Pakistan and India is threatening the current wheat crop and putting millions more lives at risk. Thanks to a series of drought years, Australia’s agricultural industry suffered an economic decline of 18% between 2002 and 2010, according to the UN report.

The emaciated bodies of five goats lie in the parched sand with sparse vegetation in the distance.

Goat carcasses lie in the sand on the outskirts of Dollow in southwestern Somalia. Residents of Gedo in Somalia have been displaced by drought and forced to come to Dollow in search of help. (Sally Hayden/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

France has seen a 25% drop in rainfall since early April, accompanied by a rise in normal temperatures not usually seen until summer, France24 reported, with disastrous consequences for crops like maize. , sunflower and beets.

“So very quickly we found ourselves in a critical situation – even before the summer started,” hydrologist Emma Haziza told France24.

Many studies have established the link between rising global temperatures and drought. Warmer temperatures accelerate evaporation, reducing the amount of surface water available, drying out crops and other plants. The hotter it is, the faster the reaction, increasing the risk of forest fires that can feed on the parched vegetation.

“We are at a crossroads,” Thiaw said in a statement. “We must move towards the solutions rather than continuing with destructive actions, believing that marginal change can cure a systemic failure.”

The UNCCD report offers a grim warning of what humanity will face if it does not work to try to prevent further land degradation caused by climate change.

By 2030, according to the report, “an estimated 700 million people are at risk of being displaced by drought”. By 2040, about one in four children is expected to live in places that will experience “extreme water scarcity”, and by 2050 the prevalence of droughts will mean that between 4.8 and 5.7 billion people “will live in areas that lack water”. for at least one month every year.”

A man walks along the waterline in a landscape devoid of vegetation.

A boat ramp nearly collapsed in the drought-stricken Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada on May 10. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

According to climatologists, the key to avoiding this fate is to replace fossil energy sources around the world with renewable energies. There has been some encouraging news about this. In April, for example, the United States produced 20% of the country’s electricity from wind and solar sources, a record.

Yet the effort to transition to renewable energy coincides with the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions. Without drastically reducing these emissions, scientists warn, there is little hope of preventing temperatures from rising more than 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Above this threshold, evaporation rates would also increase dramatically, increasing the chances of more crippling droughts.

A report released on Tuesday by the Met Office, the UK’s meteorological service, put the odds at 50-50 that humanity could make the sweeping changes needed to prevent average global temperatures from rising above the 1.5° mark. Celsius over the next five years.

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