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Drought land “will be abandoned”

By Joe Romm on November 3, 2008 at 7:52 am

"Drought land “will be abandoned”"

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Leigh Creek, Australia

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, warned

Unchecked climate change will mean that some parts of the world will simply not have enough water to sustain settlements both small and large, because agriculture becomes untenable and industries relying on water can no longer compete or function effectively. This will trigger structural changes in economies right through to the displacement of people as environmental refugees.

While deniers continue trying to confuse the issue by arguing that we don’t know that our current climate is the ideal one, the drought and sea level rise issue render that argument tragically moot.

Humanity has developed around the climate of the last 10,000 years, a climate that has been remarkably stable (see “Must have PPT #1: The narrow temperature window that gave us modern human civilization” — and yes I will restart my “must-have PowerPoints” series after the election).

Any significantly different climate — let alone the devastating 5+°C climate we are risking on our current path — means hundreds of millions of environmental refugees. Unfortunately, with more than 6 billion people on the planet and the livable parts of the world poised to shrink by a third this century, the likelihood of conflict is enormous.

One odd thing about Steiner’s comments:

Steiner said it was not possible to identify specific places at risk, but said vulnerable areas were those which were already considered to be ‘water scarce’ because of dry weather and a lack of infrastructure to store and transport water

Actually it is quite possible to identify specific places at risk. The most threatened places are

  1. Regions that get a significant fraction of their water from inland glaciers
  2. The subtropics.

Indeed, climate change theory is quite specific that the subtropical deserts will expand from unchecked global warming. And that will be the subject of a (very) forthcoming “must have PowerPoint.”
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11 Responses to Drought land “will be abandoned”

  1. john says:

    De Nile is more than a river — and less. Any area currently dependent upon glaciers for water (Northern India, Western China, the US Southwest, and much of western South America, as well as the subtropical deserts and Savannahs will be much drier. Superimposed upon that is the growth in population of about 3 billion by 2050 — much of it in these areas — and you have a recipe for refugees, a breeding ground for terrorists, and a brewing human tragedy of biblical proportions.

    Of course, all this sounds like hyperbole, and so it is not taken seriously. Unfortunately, it’s not — it’s simply an accurate forecast of a future that becomes all but inevitable as each year of inaction passes.

  2. paulm says:

    In Vancouver BC we depend on a decent snow pack to sustain us through the Summer.

    The current level of consumption dictates that we have water restrictions now. This will be a serious problem even here, where it rains most of the time, in the next few years as we are already seeing a general reduction in the snow.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    Not that very many live there, but Argetina’s Patagonia is going to become even drier. Rather scarier, central Chile will become drier, putting this highly productive agricultural area at risk.

  4. alex says:

    Look on the bright side. A reduction in carrying capacity is a strong negative feedback. If we cannot keep our population in check nature will do the job for us.

  5. rpauli says:

    The incomplete timeline for climate chaos is foreshortening.

    We have great climate models http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/11/faq-on-climate-models/

    Where are the detailed scenarios? Is all this too close to fiction?

    Few voices discuss what is scientifically possible, plausible, and inevitable.

    Thanks for the posting.

  6. Last week there was news of water rationing coming by January for California, but we just have had 4 great days of rain.

  7. shopa says:

    I have invented a new way to move water.

    Electric wires are coupled with hoses or pipes. Booster pumps are added as needed and are powered via the wires. Water can be pumped over many miles.

    Communication wires also are coupled to the hose, and a data network monitors and controls the pumps.

    The scheme can be used as a new way to fight wildfires. The electric pumps can replace fire trucks for “relay pumping”. I have designed a helicopter based system for deploying hoses that can deliver water to fires that are many miles from a source of water.

    If a PVC pipe with embedded wires is laid on the ground, the invention can be used as a low cost method to bring water, electric power, and communications to villages that are suffering from droughts caused by climate change.

    The invention can also be used for irrigation systems.

    Please see my website http://www.safersmallcars.com

    I need help developing these patent pending ideas.

  8. jorleh says:

    Greenland ice for energy and water, no problem. Joe marked water just a few days ago, why not the potential energy of Greenland ice masses?

  9. Dano says:

    IMHO America’s Intermountain West will depopulate beginning in a generation. Heat and declining snowpack will do it. If we start doing the “oil-shale” thing, this will move up the timeline.

    Best,

    D

  10. IF ITS AT SEA LEVEL, THE OCEAN WILL SWALLOW IT UP WITHIN 15 YEARS

  11. cet says:

    evet super
    IMHO America’s Intermountain West will depopulate beginning in a generation. Heat and declining snowpack will do it. If we start doing the “oil-shale” thing, this will move up the timeline.