Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Climate change puts forty percent more people at risk of absolute water scarcity

17.12.2013
Water scarcity impacts people’s lives in many countries already today. Future population growth will increase the demand for freshwater even further.

Yet in addition to this, on the supply side, water resources will be affected by projected changes in rainfall and evaporation. Climate change due to unabated greenhouse-gas emissions within our century is likely to put 40 percent more people at risk of absolute water scarcity than would be without climate change, a new study shows by using an unprecedented number of impact models.

The analysis is to be published in a special issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that assembles first results of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP), a unique community-driven effort to bring research on climate change impacts to a new level.

“The steepest increase of global water scarcity might happen between 2 and 3 degrees global warming above pre-industrial levels, and this is something to be experienced within the next few decades unless emissions get cut soon,” says lead-author Jacob Schewe of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “It is well-known that water scarcity increases, but our study is the first to quantify the relative share that climate change has in that, compared to – and adding to – the increase that is simply due to population growth.”

Today, between one and two people out of a hundred live in countries with absolute water scarcity. Population growth and climate change combined would increase this to about ten in a hundred at roughly 3 degrees global warming. Absolute water scarcity is defined as less than 500 cubic meters available per year and person – a level requiring extremely efficient water use techniques and management in order to be sufficient, which in many countries are not in place. For a comparison, the global average water consumption per person and year is roughly 1200 cubic meters, and significantly more in many industrialized countries.

As climate change is not uniform across the world, the regional differences of its impacts on water availability are huge. For example, the Mediterranean, Middle East, the southern USA, and southern China will very probably see a pronounced decrease of available water, according to the study. Southern India, western China and parts of Eastern Africa might see substantial increases.

“Water scarcity is a major threat for human development, as for instance food security in many regions depends on irrigation – agriculture is the main water user worldwide,” says co-author Qiuhong Tang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “Still, an increase of precipitation is also challenging – the additional water may cause water logging, flooding, and malfunctioning or failure of water-related infrastructure. So the overall risks are growing.” Moreover, many industrial production processes require large amounts of water, so a lack thereof in some regions hampers economical development.

This study is based on a comprehensive set of eleven global hydrological models, forced by five global climate models – a simulation ensemble of unprecedented size which was produced in collaboration by many research groups from around the world. Hence, the findings synthesize the current knowledge about climate change impacts on water availability. The cooperative ISI-MIP process systematically compares the results of the various computer simulations to see where they agree and where they don’t. The results quoted above represent the multi-model average. So some of the models indicated even greater increases of water scarcity.

“The multi-model assessment is unique in that it gives us a good measure of uncertainties in future impacts of climate change – which in turn allows us to understand which findings are most robust,” says co-author Pavel Kabat of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). “From a risk management perspective, it becomes very clear that, if human-made climate change continues, we are putting at risk the very basis of life for millions of people, even according to the more optimistic scenarios and models.”

However, he added, the job is far from being done. “We need to do additional research on how the water requirement portfolio will develop in the future in different sectors like agriculture, industry, and energy – and how, in addition to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, the technological developments in the water sector may help alleviating water scarcity.”

Article: Schewe, J., Heinke, J., Gerten, D., Haddeland, I., Arnell, N.W., Clarke, D.B., Dankers, R., Eisner, S., Fekete, B.M., Colón-González, F.J., Gosling, S.M., Kim, H., Liu, X., Masaki, Y., Portmann, F.T., Satoh, Y., Stacke, T., Tang, Q., Wada, Y., Wisser, D., Albrecht, T., Frieler, K., Piontek, F., Warszawski, L., Kabat, P. (2013): Multi-model assessment of water scarcity under climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early online edition) [DOI:10.1073/pnas.1222460110]

Along with this article, further ISI-MIP results are published online by PNAS:

Dankers, R., et al. (2013): First look at changes in flood hazard in the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project ensemble. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early online edition)

Elliott, J., et al (2013): Constraints and potentials of future irrigation water availability on agricultural production under climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early online edition)

Friend, A. D., et al. (2013): Carbon residence time dominates uncertainty in terrestrial vegetation responses to future climate and atmospheric CO2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early online edition)

Haddeland I., et al. (2013): Global water resources affected by human interventions and climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early online edition)

Nelson, G. C., et al. (2013): Climate change effects on agriculture: Economic responses to biophysical shocks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early online edition)

Piontek, F., et al. (2013): Multisectoral climate impact hotspots in a warming world. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early online edition) [DOI:10.1073/pnas.1222471110]

Prudhomme, C., et al. (2013): Hydrological droughts in the 21st century, hotspots and uncertainties from a global multimodel ensemble experiment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early online edition)

Rosenzweig, C., et al. (2013): Assessing agricultural risks of climate change in the 21st century in a global gridded crop model intercomparison. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early online edition)

Schellnhuber, H.J., et al (2013): The Elephant, the Blind, and the ISI-MIP. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early online edition)

Warszawski, L., et al. (2013): The Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP): Project framework. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early online edition)

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-Mail: press@pik-potsdam.de
Twitter: @PIK_Climate
Weitere Informationen:
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1222460110

Jonas Viering | PIK Pressestelle
Further information:
http://www.pik-potsdam.de

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Cyclic change within magma reservoirs significantly affects the explosivity of volcanic eruptions
30.11.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>