Climate change makes droughts longer, more common, UN says

The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to man-made climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people around the world, the United Nations warned in a report on Wednesday.

The United Nations Desertification Agency, which is currently hosting the Conference of the Parties in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, estimates that about one-third of the world’s population (2.3 billion people) is already facing water scarcity, a number it expects to double by 2050.

While no region was spared the drought, the report noted that Africa was the hardest-hit continent, with the Americas, India and Australia also highlighted as areas of particular current and future concern.

this debilitating drought The East and Horn of Africa has been highlighted by UN agencies as one of the “dramatic consequences” of climate change. The African continent has suffered 134 recorded droughts over the past century, more than half of them in East Africa.

“We used to be able to grow enough tomatoes that we could feed us for eight months,” said Kenyan farmer Kheira Osman Yusuf, whose crops have not rained for more than a year. “We used to have luscious mango and papaya trees.” Food sources have become very scarce and drinking water supplies have been greatly affected, she added. She explained that they sometimes had to resort to drinking water in livestock reservoirs, risking getting sick from the contamination.

The agency’s chief scientist, Barron Orr, told The Associated Press that the world needs to be more proactive, not reactive, when dealing with drought-related disasters. Orr said the next step for hardest-hit Africa is “direct investment to build resilience in order to recover from drought”.

Between 1998 and 2017, India’s GDP shrank by 5 percent due to drought, while Australia’s agricultural productivity slumped 18 percent between 2002 and 2010.The country can also expect more wildfires like this In late 2019 and early 2020 The report warned that this was due to a lack of rainfall.

The same is true for the Amazon, which has suffered three droughts since the turn of the century, the UN said. cause forest fires, climate change and deforestation are also to blame. The agency estimates that if deforestation continues at the current rate, 16 percent of the region’s remaining forests will be burned by 2050.

But with the right adaptation measures, global water scarcity could be limited, the report said. It proposes that smarter farming techniques that use less water while producing more food, drought action plans and more investments in soil health, new technologies and early warning systems can all help reduce food and water scarcity .

“We need to steer solutions, rather than continue destructive actions,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the Desertification Agency. “We must better build and rebuild our landscapes, mimicking nature as much as possible and creating functional ecosystems.”


AP climate and environmental reporting is supported by several private foundations.View more about the Associated Press climate initiative here. The Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.

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