`Droughts Are More Frequent, Lasting Longer and Accelerating Water Shortages, U.N. Says - Olive Oil Times

Droughts Are More Frequent, Lasting Longer and Accelerating Water Shortages, U.N. Says

By Paolo DeAndreis
May. 26, 2022 13:28 UTC

Droughts are hap­pen­ing more often and are last­ing longer, accord­ing to the lat­est United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) report.

Released at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) in Abidjan, in Côte d’Ivoire, the Drought in Numbers report also found that the wors­en­ing effects of these droughts have sig­nif­i­cantly accel­er­ated in recent decades.

We must build and rebuild our land­scapes bet­ter, mim­ic­k­ing nature wher­ever pos­si­ble and cre­at­ing func­tional eco­log­i­cal sys­tems.- Ibrahim Thiaw, exec­u­tive sec­re­tary, UNCCD

According to the report’s authors, droughts that occurred between 1970 and 2019 have pro­voked approx­i­mately 650,000 deaths and rep­re­sent 15 per­cent of the extreme events clas­si­fied as nat­ural dis­as­ters” reported dur­ing those years.

From 1998 to 2017, the global econ­omy has lost $124 bil­lion (€118 bil­lion) because of droughts. Their impact is of such mag­ni­tude in devel­op­ing coun­tries that experts believe 2.3 bil­lion peo­ple are cop­ing with reduced water avail­abil­ity in 2022.

See Also:Record Heatwave and Drought in Pakistan Threaten Crops and Olive Farming

In the past cen­tury, more than 10 mil­lion peo­ple died due to major drought events, which also gen­er­ated sev­eral hun­dred bil­lion dol­lars in eco­nomic losses world­wide. And the num­bers are ris­ing,” the United Nations said.

UNCCD sci­en­tists esti­mated that 160 mil­lion chil­dren are exposed to severe and pro­longed droughts, which boost water scarcity both for pop­u­la­tions and agri­cul­ture. Given the cur­rent trend, the UNCCD esti­mates that 25 per­cent of chil­dren will live in areas sub­jected to extreme water short­ages by 2040.

Furthermore, sig­nif­i­cant human pop­u­la­tions will leave their homes in the next few years, given the dimin­ish­ing water avail­abil­ity. By 2030, it is esti­mated that there will be 700 mil­lion peo­ple at risk of being dis­placed due to drought.

Researchers warned that if the cur­rent trend should be con­firmed, droughts will affect up to 75 per­cent of the human pop­u­la­tion by 2050, with 4.8 to 5.7 bil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in water scarcity for at least one month every year. Today, that fig­ure remains at 3.6 bil­lion peo­ple.

By then, the UNCCD pre­dicts there will be more mass migra­tion hap­pen­ing because of the effects of the droughts in com­bi­na­tion with other dri­vers such as water scarcity, reduced farm­ing yields, sea-level ris­ing and over­pop­u­la­tion.

The impact of droughts on the envi­ron­ment also goes beyond the direct effects on human life. For exam­ple, researchers eval­u­ated that in the last 40 years, 12 mil­lion hectares of land have been lost to drought and deser­ti­fi­ca­tion.

While most of the pop­u­la­tions directly affected by the droughts live in devel­op­ing coun­tries, accord­ing to the UNCCD report, no region is con­sid­ered safe from droughts.

Africa has seen 44 per­cent of the sig­nif­i­cant drought events in the last cen­tury. Still, dozens of such events hit Europe in the same period, affect­ing 15 per­cent of its land and 17 per­cent of its pop­u­la­tion.

In the United States, drought-induced crop fail­ures and other eco­nomic losses have totaled $249 bil­lion (€236 bil­lion) since 1980 alone,” the U.N. said. Over the past cen­tury, Asia was the con­ti­nent with the high­est total num­ber of humans affected by drought.”

The risk of droughts is ris­ing in many areas of the world due to cli­mate change, which exac­er­bates the con­di­tions that fre­quently lead to droughts. In the next few decades, 129 coun­tries will expe­ri­ence an increase in drought length and sever­ity.

Coincidentally, some areas with the high­est risk of drought are also under­go­ing quick pop­u­la­tion expan­sion, and food secu­rity is seri­ously at risk.

According to the UNCCD report, should global sur­face tem­per­a­tures rise 3 ºC above the pre-indus­trial aver­age, drought losses could be five times higher than they cur­rently are, with the most sig­nif­i­cant increase in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic regions of Europe.

UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said the new report brings the full scope of the chal­lenges faced in the fol­low­ing decades into focus as what is hap­pen­ing is not only affect­ing human soci­eties but also the eco­log­i­cal sys­tems upon which the sur­vival of all life depends, includ­ing that of our own species.”

Thiaw empha­sized how coun­tries should focus on com­pre­hen­sive solu­tions such as land restora­tion, which addresses many of the under­ly­ing fac­tors of degraded water cycles and the loss of soil fer­til­ity.”

We must build and rebuild our land­scapes bet­ter, mim­ic­k­ing nature wher­ever pos­si­ble and cre­at­ing func­tional eco­log­i­cal sys­tems,” he added.

The UNCCD exec­u­tive sec­re­tary also empha­sized how beyond restora­tion, there needs to be a par­a­digm shift from reac­tive’ and cri­sis-based’ approaches to proac­tive’ and risk-based’ drought man­age­ment approaches involv­ing coor­di­na­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and coop­er­a­tion, dri­ven by suf­fi­cient finance and polit­i­cal will.”

UNCCD experts also stressed how rel­e­vant it is for humans to change their rela­tion­ship with food, fod­der and fiber” and move toward adopt­ing plant-based diets and stem­ming the con­sump­tion of ani­mals.”

They wrote that that should hap­pen while sus­tain­able and effi­cient agri­cul­tural man­age­ment tech­niques are applied to grow more food on less land with less water.

Early-warn­ing sys­tems that work across bound­aries, new tech­nolo­gies to guide deci­sions with pre­ci­sion and sus­tain­able fund­ing to improve drought resilience at the local level are also key actions,” they con­cluded.


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