Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

More than 500 million people might face increasing water scarcity

08.10.2013
Both freshwater availability for many millions of people and the stability of ecosystems such as the Siberian tundra or Indian grasslands are put at risk by climate change.

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:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-Mail: press@pik-potsdam.de
Twitter: @PIK_Climate
Weitere Informationen:
http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/3/034032/article
(Link to the article by Gerten et al)
http://www.earth-syst-dynam.net/recent_papers.html
(Link to the article by Ostberg et al once it is published on Tuesday afternoon)

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

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas
19.07.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht NSF-supported researchers to present new results on hurricanes and other extreme events
19.07.2018 | National Science Foundation

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>