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Global population hit by extreme drought set to double


PARIS: Available freshwater is on track to decline sharply across two-thirds of Earth’s land surface toward the end of the century mostly due to climate change, with the number of people exposed to extreme drought doubling, researchers have reported. Even under a scenario of moderate decline in greenhouse gas emissions, land area scorched by extreme to exceptional drought conditions increases from three to seven percent, while the population at risk jumps from 230 million to about 500 million, they reported Monday in Nature Climate Change.

Projected shortfalls of water were “especially alarming” in Amazon River basin, Australia, southern Africa, the Mediterranean region, and parts of the United States, lead author Yadu Pokhrel of Michigan State University told AFP. Globally, one in 12 people could face severe water shortages every year by 2100, compared to an average of about one in 33 at the end of the 20th century.

“These declines in water storage and increases in future droughts are primarily driven by climate change, not land-water management activities such as irrigation and groundwater pumping,” Pokhrel said.

Humanity has been stalked by the deadly spectre of drought long before carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel caused global warming.

But observational data on Earth and from satellites has left no doubt that climate change is boosting their duration and intensity.

The possible consequences came sharply into view when reservoirs supplying Cape Town, South Africa – a city of 3.7 million – ran dry in early 2018 after a multi-year drought, giving rise to the term “Day Zero” when water runs out.

Global warming to date – just over one degree Celsius since the mid-19th century – enhances the likelihood of such droughts around Cape Town by a factor of three, earlier research has shown.

Allowing temperatures to increase another degree to 2C above pre-industrial levels would triple the risk again. Mexico City is currently facing a water crisis, and California has been coping with a lack of rain for most of the last decade. “There are growing concerns that many regions of the world will face water crises like these in the coming decades,” Pokhrel and colleague Farshid Felfelani said in a commentary published in The Conversation.

Pokhrel and an international team of two dozen hydrologists and engineers calculated for the first time the future impact of climate change on so-called terrestrial water storage (TWS), which is the total of all water stored or available on land.

Earlier projections of drought and changes in water availability have been based mostly on river flows, and only provide a partial picture.

“Understanding the risks ahead requires looking at the entire landscape of terrestrial water storage – not just rivers, but also water stored in soils, groundwater, snowpack, forest canopies, wetlands, lakes and reservoirs,” Pokhrel explained.

The researchers used a basket of hydrological models along with terrestrial water storage data from NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, which operated for 15 years up to 2017. To assess the impact of climate change, the scientists ran the data through two climate scenarios from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). One assumes that humanity ratchets down CO2 and methane emissions enough to cap global warming below two degrees Celsius, in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement. The other assumes a slower reduction in carbon pollution.

Under the first, more optimistic scenario, moderate to severe droughts increase to mid-century and then stabilise. Very extreme water-shortage droughts, however, continue to escalate in frequency.

Under the second scenario, known as RCP6.0, “people living under extreme and exceptional droughts could more than double by 2100, increasing from three percent in the recent past to eight percent,” said Pokhrel.


5 Comments on "Global population hit by extreme drought set to double"

  1. Roger on Sun, 17th Jan 2021 7:56 pm 

    When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

    Wake up, it’s coming…

  2. FamousDrScanlon on Mon, 18th Jan 2021 2:07 am 

    Worried about Earth’s future? Well, the outlook is worse than even scientists can grasp

    “Alarmingly, the research shows future environmental conditions will be far more dangerous than experts currently believe.

    This is largely because academics tend to specialize in one discipline, which means they’re in many cases unfamiliar with the complex system in which planetary-scale problems—and their potential solutions—exist.”

    Overpopulation is self solving. Which cull will you make it to?

  3. suxs on Mon, 18th Jan 2021 7:00 am 

    Great article, Dr. Scanion. Please keep ’em coming!!!

  4. FamousDrScanlon on Mon, 18th Jan 2021 12:23 pm 

    Book review – Cataclysms: An Environmental History of Humanity

    “Some examples include the near-simultaneous rise of agriculture in several places, with geography playing an important role in which plants and animals were available to domesticate, or the fall of the Late-Bronze Age civilizations in the 12th century BCE. The myth of virgin rainforests and the long history of agriculture practised in the jungle. The microbiological onslaught that accompanied the Columbian exchange when Christopher Columbus and other explorers brought new epidemics to the Americas, or the scourge of mosquito-borne diseases that later decimated European colonialists overseas. The medieval Little Ice Age and the global crises it precipitated, or the worldwide impact of the Tambora volcanic eruption. The Great Acceleration in the 20th century and the recognition of the Anthropocene.”

    Free e-book (PDF)

    Cataclysms: An Environmental History of Humanity

    “Humanity is by many measures the biggest success story in the animal kingdom; but what are the costs of this triumph? Over its three million years of existence, the human species has continuously modified nature and drained its resources. In Cataclysms, Laurent Testot provides the full tally, offering a comprehensive environmental history of humanity’s unmatched and perhaps irreversible influence on the world. Testot explores the interconnected histories of human evolution and planetary deterioration, arguing that our development from naked apes to Homo sapiens has entailed wide-scale environmental harm. Testot makes the case that humans have usually been catastrophic for the planet, “hyperpredators” responsible for mass extinctions, deforestation, global warming, ocean acidification, and unchecked pollution, as well as the slaughter of our own species. Organized chronologically around seven technological revolutions, Cataclysms unspools the intertwined saga of humanity and our environment, from our shy beginnings in Africa to today’s domination of the planet, revealing how we have blown past any limits along the way–whether by exploding our own population numbers, domesticating countless other species, or harnessing energy from fossils. Testot’s book, while sweeping, is light and approachable, telling the stories–sometimes rambunctious, sometimes appalling–of how a glorified monkey transformed its own environment beyond all recognition. In order to begin reversing our environmental disaster, we must have a better understanding of our own past and the incalculable environmental costs incurred at every stage of human innovation. Cataclysms offers that understanding and the hope that we can now begin to reform our relationship to the Earth. Categories: History Year:2020″

    No Cancer does it better

    Makes me feel sad for the rest

    No Cancer does it half as good as you

    Humans, you’re the best

  5. Duncan Idaho on Mon, 18th Jan 2021 5:16 pm 

    Will the GOP survive?

    Might be time to get rid of the bad smell?

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