UN Report Suggests
Big Water Issues for Many Years to Come
The UN has indicated that even if humankind immediately and dramatically begins to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there will still be significant shifts and some major transformations in climates around the globe for decades. Forecasted changes include rising sea levels, more intense droughts, floods and extreme storm conditions. In some areas plant and animal life could disappear.
Sea levels will probably rise by 7.08 to 23.22 inches (18 to 59 cm). There is a confidence level above 90% that there will be more frequent warm spells, heat waves and heavy rainfall. There is a confidence level great than 66% that there will be an increase in droughts, tropical cyclones and extreme high tides.
Australia, the driest inhabited continent on earth is experiencing its worst-ever drought. Much of the American west has also recently endured a serious and extended drought. The latest scientific studies anticipate that dry spells like these are apt to becomes more severe both in the US West and around the world. Climate scientists report that patterns of rain and snow are shifting appreciably from the Himalayan Mountains to the Tigris-Euphrates River Basin.
Glaciers in North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Europe are melting at an ever-accelerating pace. Hundreds of millions of people draw their water from river systems whose sources are mountain glaciers and snow packs. The World Glacier Monitoring Service, which tracks 27 glaciers, show that they have been steadily losing mass since 1980. One scientist has reported that warming and the pace of glacial retreat at high altitudes is unprecedented in at least 2000 years, and in some areas at least 5,200 years. An example is the Core Kalis glacier in Peru retreated 10 times faster during the 90s than from 1963 to 1978. These are overwhelming changes. Glaciers could totally disappear in the near future.
Mt. Karakoram, Pakistan
Arid regions will dry out further, and some places that do get precipitation will have it come in the form of rain rather than snow, or it will come at the 'wrong' time. A pattern of consistent droughts alternating with strong downpours - with less opportunity for that moisture to be absorbed or retained - has been tracked in the last five years.
Consensus is strong that these issues are more than 50% human-induced. In Sydney, special Water Restriction patrol cars cruise the city 24/7 searching for homes or businesses that are wasting water.
One prediction is that in many places freshwater supplies will likely be inundated with salt water from sea surges.
Estimates are that from 400 million to 3.2 billion people will face serious water shortages over the next 20 to 50 years.
Ways in which we can all contribute to the solution include buying water-efficient washing machines, replacing water-thirsty lawns and gardens with drought-tolerant xeriscaping, capturing and reusing water with rain barrels
, gray water reuse, showerheads that save water,
low-flow toilets, (see toilet adapter
) gardening with
Zeba Quench which reduces the need for watering, and using irrigation systems or sprinklers that put water only where you want it
We can also encourage our communities to create water-saving plans, and participate in them.
Turkey, Syria and Iraq have formed a joint commission on water issues, but unfortunately it hasn't met since the start of the first Gulf War in 1992. This illustrates how political instability can interfere was water use planning.
There are some areas that are expected to be wetter in the winter months. It is projected that Russia, Northern China and the US Northeast will each be 20% wetter in winter by 2090 or so.
Let's not wait until disaster strikes. The water shortage will have far more severe implications for humankind than the gas shortage will. Take action now.
Thanks to the Christian Science Monitor for some information used in this story.