With climate patterns across the world changing unpredictably, experts have been saying that the consequences of such changes could be devastating for human society. A series of reports now warns that the climate crisis will trigger widespread hunger and water scarcity that could push the world into intense conflicts.
According to a report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), 17 countries have been identified as being extremely water-stressed. Accounting for almost one-fourth of the entire human population, these countries are consuming 80 percent of the available surface and groundwater in an average year. As demand for water continues to rise amid dwindling supplies, keeping stability in these regions will prove to be a challenge.
“Twelve out of the 17 extremely high water-stressed countries are in the Middle East and North Africa… The region is naturally dry and arid. But the situation there is getting worse. There’s a number of reports and research pointing to the fact that water stress can exacerbate both migration and conflict, and that water is currently a source of growing tension and violence in the Middle East,” Paul Reig, director of WRI’s Aqueduct water risk project, said to CNN.
Another report released by the United Nations warns that extreme climate aberrations are causing shortages in food. An estimated 820 million people are not able to eat regularly. Even though for decades the number of hungry people has been declining, the trend has reversed in the past three years. The report raised doubts on the possibility of achieving the “zero hunger” goal set for 2030.
Several countries are implementing new rules to protect their environment in the face of rapid climate change. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji’s attorney general and minister for economy and climate change, termed climate change as a fight for “our lives and our livelihoods.” The country will be introducing a new act that will strengthen restrictions on the use of plastics, minimize emissions, set up carbon credit schemes, and decide on procedures to be adopted to relocate communities that will be affected by the climate crisis.
“Here in the vast Pacific sits our beloved Fiji. Small and increasingly vulnerable as we scan the horizon anxiously year by year for the kind of extreme weather event that, three years ago, took the lives of 44 of our loved ones and inflicted damage equal to one-third of our GDP… [T]hat is the grave situation in which we find ourselves through no fault of our own and why this government puts such a strong emphasis on the climate issue,” Sayed-Khaiyum said in a speech at the parliament (The Guardian).
Things don’t look too good for the U.S. either when it comes to the consequences of climate change. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that hundreds of American cities could experience U.S. “heat index” temperatures above 100°F for an entire month every year by 2050. Only a few mountainous regions would remain as a refuge from the extreme heat. The U.S. heat index scale tops out at 127°F, with readings of 103°F marked as “danger.”
“We have little to no experience with ‘off-the-charts’ heat in the U.S… These conditions occur at or above a heat index of 127 degrees [Fahrenheit], depending on temperature and humidity. Exposure to conditions in that range makes it difficult for human bodies to cool themselves and could be deadly,” Erika Spanger-Siegfried, co-author of the report and lead climate analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said to the Independent.
The change in global climate will also usher in a change in food production. Many crops that we currently use will probably be replaced by varieties that consume less water and grow quickly. Genetic engineering will be used to create highly drought resistant, pest resistant crops that can be grown all year long. Much more research is needed to verify their viability as a suitable alternative, however. And, of course, so does climate change.