Even if global warming is limited to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, 500 million people could be subject to increased water scarcity – while this number would grow by a further 50 percent if greenhouse-gas emissions are not cut soon.
At 5 degrees global warming almost all ice-free land might be affected by ecosystem change. This is shown by complementary studies now published by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
“We managed to quantify a number of crucial impacts of climate change on the global land area,” says Dieter Gerten, lead-author of one of the studies. Mean global warming of 2 degrees, the target set by the international community, is projected to expose an additional 8 percent of humankind to new or increased water scarcity. 3.5 degrees – likely to occur if national emissions reductions remain at currently pledged levels – would affect 11 percent of the world population. 5 degrees could raise this even further to 13 percent.
“If population growth continues, by the end of our century under a business-as-usual scenario these figures would equate to well over one billion lives touched,” Gerten points out. “And this is on top of the more than one billion people already living in water-scarce regions today.” Parts of Asia and North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East are particularly vulnerable.
For the green cover of our planet, even greater changes are in store. “The area at risk of ecosystem transformation is expected to double between global warming of about 3 and 4 degrees,” says Lila Warszawski, lead author of another study that systematically compared different impact models – and the associated uncertainties – in order to gain a fuller picture of the possible consequences of climate change for natural ecosystems. This is part of the international Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP).
A warming of 5 degrees, likely to happen in the next century if climate change goes on unabated, would put nearly all terrestrial natural ecosystems at risk of severe change. “So despite the uncertainties, the findings clearly demonstrate that there is a large difference in the risk of global ecosystem change under a scenario of no climate change mitigation compared to one of ambitious mitigation,” says Sebastian Ostberg, lead author of the third study.
The regions at risk under unabated global warming include the grasslands of Eastern India, shrublands of the Tibetan Plateau, the forests of Northern Canada, the savannas of Ethiopia and Somalia, and the Amazonian rainforest. Many of these are regions of rich and unique biodiversity.
The combined changes to both water availability and ecosystems turn out to be nonlinear. “Our findings support the assertion that we are fundamentally destabilizing our natural systems – we are leaving the world as we know it,” says Wolfgang Lucht, one of the authors and co-chair of PIK’s Research Domain of Earth System Analysis.
The studies use a novel methodological approach, introducing new measures of risk based on changes of vegetation structure and flows and stores of carbon and water. To this end, biosphere simulation models were used to compare hundreds of climate change scenarios and highlight which regions may first face critical impacts of climate change.
“The increase in water scarcity that we found will impact on the livelihoods of a huge number of people, with the global poor being the most vulnerable,” says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the co-authors and director of PIK. This might get buffered to some extent through adaptation measures such as expanding of irrigated cropland. However, such an expansion would further increase the pressure on Earth’s ecosystems and water resources. “Now this is not a question of ducks and daisies, but of our unique natural heritage, the very basis of life. Therefore, greenhouse-gas emissions have to be reduced substantially, and soon.”
Article: Gerten, D., Lucht, W., Ostberg, S., Heinke, J., Kowarsch, M., Kreft, H., Kundzewicz, Z.W., Rastgooy, J., Warren, R., Schellnhuber, H.J. (2013): Asynchronous exposure to global warming: freshwater resources and terrestrial ecosystems. Environmental Research Letters, 8 [doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034032]
Article: Ostberg, S., Lucht, W., Schaphoff, S., Gerten, D. (2013): Critical impacts of global warming on land ecosystems. Earth System Dynamics, 4, 541-565, [doi:10.5194/esdd-4-541-2013]
Article: Warszawski, L., Friend, A., Ostberg, S., Frieler, K., Lucht, W., Schaphoff, S., Beerling, D., Cadule, P., Ciais, P., Clark, D.B., Kahana, R., Ito, A., Keribin, R., Kleidon, A., Lomas, M., Nishina, K., Pavlick, R., Rademacher, T.T., Piontek, F., Schewe, J., Serdeczny, O., Buechner, M., Schellnhuber, H.J. (2013): A multi-model analysis of risk of ecosystem shifts under climate change. In: Environmental Research Letters (accepted)For further information please contact:
Jonas Viering | PIK Pressestelle
Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union
UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences