Global Warming to Critically Impact Water and Land Ecosystems, Warns Study

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Written By: Emma Websdale

Globally increasing temperatures may have unmanageable impacts on terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems, resulting in 500 million more people facing water poverty, research warns.
3507176794New research by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), published in the international scientific journal Earth System Dynamics, has found that even if global warming is limited to 2C above pre-industrial levels, 500 million additional people could suffer from water scarcity, with the figure steadily increasing as the temperature rises.

“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”, said Dr. Dieter Gerten, one of the lead authors of the study.

He added, “And this is on top of the more than one billion people already living in water-scarce regions today.”

Maps published in the study marking the areas most at risk from water shortages and vegetation changes include Pakistan and the border of India –two areas already suffering from floods and droughts. Meanwhile, Mexico, North Africa, parts of Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean are also projected to suffer from further water stress.

“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”, said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, co-author of the report and director of PIK.

“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.”

Findings from the paper warn that consequences of failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be dire, putting nearly all terrestrial ecosystems at risk of severe change.

Calculating 152 scenarios using 19 climate change models including changes of vegetation structure and flows and stores of carbon and water, the study found that, even if strong climate mitigation limited warming to 2C above pre-industrial level, up to one fifth of the land’s surface would experience moderate change.

Furthermore, a warming of 5C –a number the institute predicts is 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 including the forests of northern Canada, grasslands of eastern India, the Amazonian rainforest and the savannahs of Ethiopia and Somalia.

“Our findings support the assertion that we are fundamentally destabilizing our natural systems”, said Wolfgang Lucht, co-author of the study. “We are leaving the world as we know it.”

 It is scientific findings such as this that call for urgent solutions in tackling both greenhouse gas emissions and water scarcity. Here at Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation we have one answer: it’s called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.