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85% of the world’s population lives in the driest half of the land


85% of the world’s population lives in the driest half of the land, 783 million people do not have access to clean water, and 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. The economic and health effects will be exacerbated by climate change and its effect on water ecosystems.
Of the numerous challenges climate change will present to the world’s poorest citizens, its effects felt through water will be some of the most hard-hitting.
The recent report Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C World Must Be Avoided, commissioned by the World Bank, provides a clear picture of the planet in a 4-degree-warmer world and the disruptive impact on agriculture, water resources, ecosystems, and human health. It reveals that between 43 percent and 50 percent of the global population will be living in water-scarce countries by the end of this century. As a consequence, there likely will be increasing aridity and drought in many developing countries.
In the face of this, the theme of this year’s World Water Day on March 22 is the International Year of Water Cooperation. Although water scarcity is often viewed as a source of potential conflict, increasing pressure from a changing climate can also be harnessed to continue a well-established tradition of peaceful cooperation on water issues.
Water at the heart of the adverse effects of climate change
At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, where a study cited the water supply crises as among the top 5 highest risks by likelihood and impact, World Bank Group President Jim Kim referred to water as “the teeth of climate change.”
Climate change impacts are often experienced as water-related events, such as flooding, drought, or extreme storms. Extreme weather events associated with a changing climate carry both economic and human costs. Economic losses from recent floods in Thailand, Pakistan, and Australia were devastating: in Thailand alone, losses due to flooding in 2011 resulted in losses of approximately $45 billion, or about 13 percent of GDP.

World Water Day: Learn More About Water & Climate Change

What’s Happening to Water in the Arab World? Lessons Learned from Water Cooperation in the Nile Basin 1 River Basin, 9 Countries, 1 Vision Reaching Across the Waters What Does Water Look Like in a 4°C World? Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C World Must Be Avoided Adaptation to a Changing Climate in Arab Countries
Currently, 1.6 billion people live in countries and regions with absolute water scarcity and the number is expected to rise to 2.8 billion people by 2025. When considering the human costs of climate change, it will be those least able to adapt – the poor and most vulnerable – that will be hit the hardest.
“Looking forward, it is clear that water management practices of the past are no longer adequate. Transformations in behavior, institutions, and policies will be at the center of governments’, companies’, and our attention,” said Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s vice president for sustainable development.
Poor sanitation conditions exacerbated by extreme weather events
Roughly 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation and one billion live without access to clean water, which leads to 4,000 child deaths per day from water-borne illnesses. Economic losses from lack of sanitation cost up to 7 percent of GDP in some countries. For communities whose residents defecate in the open, as over 1 billion people currently practice every day, flooding from extreme weather events has the potential to create an even more dangerous environment for children by increasing opportunities for diarrheal disease.
By declaring 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation, the United Nations is drawing attention to a well-established history of disparate parties cooperating to solve water resource management issues. Eighty percent of the world’s rivers cross national boundaries. Hundreds of agreements on managing transboundary water exist, including 90 international water agreements to manage shared water basins in Africa. As climate change increases the volatility of water ecosystems, cooperation on access and stewardship of water resources will need to ensure human wellbeing and sustainable development.
The World Bank’s push for sustainable development recognizes that water impacts food, education, energy, health, gender equity, and livelihoods, and that focusing solely on economic growth in the present and delaying environmental sustainability considerations to a future date, is increasingly untenable. The world is already facing an urgent water crisis, and the situation will likely worsen because of climate change.

World Bank

7 Comments on "85% of the world’s population lives in the driest half of the land"

  1. GregT on Thu, 21st Mar 2013 5:07 pm 

    If current trends continue, most of the continental US will experience a severe water crisis within a decade.

  2. Kenz300 on Thu, 21st Mar 2013 8:14 pm 

    Oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants need huge amounts of water to generate electricity.

    Fracking requires huge amounts of water.

    Just one more reason to switch to safe, clean alternative energy sources.

    Wind, and solar require no water to produce electricity.

    Wind and solar are safer, cleaner and less damaging to the environment.

  3. GregT on Thu, 21st Mar 2013 8:22 pm 

    Wind and solar both require massive amounts of fossil fuels, which require water.

    Even without the needed fossil fuel input, wind and solar are not the answer to the world’s impending water crisis. They would only allow us to keep some semblance of BAU for a bit longer, which will only exacerbate the problem.

  4. LT on Thu, 21st Mar 2013 8:23 pm 

    “85% of the world’s population lives in the driest half of the land”

    >> Doen’t make sense! I think the other way around. Populations usually live where there are water. (Los Angeles and Phenix areas rely on fossil energy to pump water from faraway sources, and thus will not last very long.)

    Look at all the world major rivers and delta areas: The Ganges, the Yellow, the Yangtse, the Mekong, the Amazone, The Indus, the Euphrate, the Nile, the Volga, the Danube, the Thames, the Saine, etc.

    Now look at Sahara desert, Gobi desert, Punjabi desert, Taklamakan desert, the states of Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Western Texas…. Are there a lot of people living there?

  5. BillT on Fri, 22nd Mar 2013 12:41 am 

    Anything coming from the World Bank or the IMF is suspect. Both are arms of the Empire and big banking. Lies are their tools of trade.

  6. rollin on Fri, 22nd Mar 2013 1:07 am 

    Due to national boundaries and laws, as well as overcrowding, migration is not an option so the people are forced to stay while the area dries up.

  7. GregT on Fri, 22nd Mar 2013 5:57 am 


    The US has some of the tightest border restrictions in the world. The migration that has occurred from Mexico over the last 2 decades is nothing short of massive. People will move to survive, even if some of them have to die trying.

    As the climate heats up even more, where will all of the people from the US go? And who is going to stop them?

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