UN: Climate Change to Make Droughts Longer, More Common

TIn a Wednesday report, the United Nations stated that the frequency and length of droughts would continue to rise due to human-caused global warming. This is despite water scarcity already having an impact on billions across the world.

The U.N. desertification agency, which is currently hosting a conference of parties in Abidjan in Ivory Coast, estimates that roughly one third of the world’s population—2.3 billion people—is already facing water scarcity, with that number expected to double by 2050.

While drought is not an uncommon occurrence, Africa remains the worst-hit continent. The Americas, India, Australia and Australia are also areas that need to be addressed.

The ongoing debilitating drought in the east and Horn of Africa was highlighted as one of the “dramatic consequences” of climate change by the U.N. agency. In the past century, there were 134 droughts across Africa. More than half of these occurred in East Africa.

“We used to be able to grow enough tomatoes that we could stay fed for 8 months,” said Kenyan farmer Kheira Osman Yusuf, whose crops have been without rain for over a year. “We used to have luscious mango trees and papaya trees.” She added that food sources have become incredibly scarce and the drinking water supply has also greatly suffered. The risk of contamination meant that they had to sometimes drink from livestock reservoirs.

The agency’s lead scientist Barron Orr told the Associated Press that the world needs to be more proactive rather than reactive when it comes to dealing with drought-related disasters. Orr said the next step for hardest-hit Africa is to “direct investments to build resilience, so as to bounce back from drought.”

India saw a drought-related shrink of 5% to its gross domestic product between 1998 and 2017 and Australia’s agricultural productivity slumped 18% between 2002 and 2010 due to drought. According to the report, more wildfires can be expected in India due to a shortage of rains.

U.N. stated that the Amazon is suffering from three consecutive droughts. These have triggered forest fires and climate change. The agency estimates that 16% of the region’s remaining forests will burn by 2050 if deforestation continues at its current rate.

According to the report, there is a way for water scarcity around the world to be managed by taking the appropriate adaptation steps. The report recommends smarter agriculture techniques that use less water and produce more food. Drought action plans can also be implemented and increased investment in soil health. New technologies, early warning systems, and technology upgrades are all possible to help curb food and water shortages.

“We need to steer towards the solutions rather than continuing with destructive actions,” Ibrahim Thiaw, the executive secretary of the desertification agency, said. “We must build and rebuild our landscapes better, mimicking nature wherever possible and creating functional ecological systems.”

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