CHAPTER 4: Water and climate change

Table of contents
Toward a world of thirst?ForewordExecutive summary Water and population

1. State of the world’s water

2. Freshwater resources3. Coastal and marine water4. Water and climate change

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The accelerating changes in our global climate will undoubtedly cause major changes in the patterns of water cycle and geographical distribution, in the near future. Some regions will receive less precipitation, some more, and this will significantly affect agricultural activity. While some regions will see a reduction in arable land, others will have more suitable land for agriculture. It’s likely that certain types of agriculture will migrate and traditional areas for crops will change. In other words, climate change will alter the geography of traditional crop areas, which may impact on the world’s capacity to provide enough food for all.

Since the 1990s, the scientific community has been warning about the rapidly changing climate, endeavouring to convince people to take urgent measures to mitigate the changes. These multiple warnings have been ignored until very recently, but the issue is now a priority with many international organizations. However, all reliable climate scenarios run by the IPCC and published in the fourth assessment reports show the following results:

- agriculture and rural development will be violently hit by climate change

- poverty and under-nourishment will grow with the uncertainty of food supply

- the climatologic regime will imply more risk of vulnerability for both humans and biodiversity

- a reduction of glaciers will imply a growing security risk for hundreds of millions living near coasts.

In other words, ongoing climate change will mean that the water supply for human communities will become more and more uncertain. The IPCC has stated that between 2000 and 2005 in the northern hemisphere, climate change accelerated faster than predicted, with the consequence that the water cycle could change in an unpredictable way, leading to the possibility of increases in extreme weather.

The fear is that with all these changes, even if the quantity of water in the world does not change, the level of accessibility of the theoretically available water may significantly change.

In this chapter

Increased global water stress

Sea level rise and assessment of the state of the marine environment

Impact of sea level rise in Bangladesh

Impact of sea level rise on the Nile delta

Cereal productivity in sub-Saharan Africa under a projected Intergovernamental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenario

The contribution of climate change to declining water availability

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