UN report warns of global water crisis amid climate change

Published October 6, 2021
A new report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation says 3.6 billion people had inadequate access to water for at least one month per year in 2018. — Reuters/File
A new report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation says 3.6 billion people had inadequate access to water for at least one month per year in 2018. — Reuters/File

GENEVA: More than five billion people could have difficulty accessing water in 2050, the United Nations warned on Tuesday, urging leaders to seize the initiative at the COP26 summit.

Already in 2018, 3.6 billion people had inadequate access to water for at least one month per year, said a new report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation.

“We need to wake up to the looming water crisis,” said WMO chief Petteri Taalas.

“The State of Climate Services 2021: Water” report comes just weeks before COP26 — the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.

The WMO stressed that over the last 20 years, the levels of water stored on land — on the surface, in the subsurface, in snow and ice — had dropped at a rate of one centimetre per year.

The biggest losses are in Antarctica and Greenland, but many highly-populated lower latitude locations are experiencing significant water losses in areas that traditionally provide water supply, said the WMO.

The agency said there were major ramifications for water security, as only 0.5 percent of water on Earth is useable and available fresh water.

“Increasing temperatures are resulting in global and regional precipitation changes, leading to shifts in rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, with a major impact on food security and human health and well-being,” said Taalas.Meanwhile water-related hazards have increased in frequency over the past 20 years.

Since 2000, flood-related disasters have risen by 134 percent compared with the previous two decades. “We have seven percent more humidity in the atmosphere because of the current warming and that’s also contributing to the flooding,” Taalas told a press conference. Most of the flood-related deaths and economic losses were recorded in Asia, where river flood warning systems require strengthening, said the WMO. At the same time, there has been around a 30 percent increase in the amount and duration of drought events since 2000, with Africa the worst-affected continent.

Taalas urged countries at COP26 to raise their game. He said most world leaders were talking about climate change as a major risk to the welfare of mankind, but their actions were not matching their words.

“We cannot wait for decades to start acting,” he said. “That’s also a message for countries like China which has said that they would like to become carbon neutral by 2060 but they don’t have a concrete plan for the coming decade.” He said the top priority at COP26 was stepping up ambition levels in climate mitigation, but more work was also needed on climate adaptations, as the negative trend in weather patterns will continue for the coming decades — and the coming centuries when it comes to the melting of glaciers and sea levels rising.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

Covid funds controversy
Updated 01 Dec 2021

Covid funds controversy

A COMPREHENSIVE and detailed report by the auditor general of Pakistan on the utilisation of Covid-19 funds by the...
01 Dec 2021

Sindh LG law

THE Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, introduced by the PPP to roll back the Musharraf-era local bodies system in ...
Monster of circular debt
Updated 01 Dec 2021

Monster of circular debt

The crisis facing the energy sector cannot be tackled sustainably without taming the many elephants in the room.
New Covid danger
30 Nov 2021

New Covid danger

The government’s messaging around the coronavirus and the potential threat of Omicron must be reactivated.
Updated 30 Nov 2021

Saudi conditions

DECADES of fiscal profligacy have trapped the country in a situation where it not only has to borrow more money to...
30 Nov 2021

Mental health concerns

THE economic and psychological effects of Covid-19, combined with the issues of joblessness and inflation, have had ...