Drought land “will be abandoned”

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.”Related Posts: