The United Nations has warned that over five billion people could have difficulty accessing water in 2050. The global body urged world leaders to seize the initiative ahead of COP26 — the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.
The report by the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation is titled “The State of Climate Services 2021: Water”.
The report said that 3.6 billion people suffered from inadequate access to water for at least one month per year in 2018.
The UN agency said 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. It said that the most substantial losses were recorded in Antarctica and Greenland. The agency added that many highly-populated lower latitude locations are also experiencing significant water losses in areas that traditionally provide water supply.
Asia most affected
The WMO said that most of the flood-related deaths and economic losses were recorded in Asia, where river flood warning systems require strengthening. The agency said that concurrently, there has been around a 30 per cent increase in the amount and duration of drought events since 2000, with Africa the worst-affected continent.
The UN agency said that there were major consequences for water security, as only 0.5 per cent of the water on Earth makes up of useable and available freshwater.
Addressing a pressing conference, the Secretary-General World Meteorological Organisation Petteri Taalas said, “We need to wake up to the looming water crisis. 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.”
He said, “We have seven per cent more humidity in the atmosphere because of the current warming and that’s also contributing to the flooding.”
Walking the talk at COP26
Taalas called on the global leaders to take the climate-related issue seriously at the COP26. He said that 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.
The WMO chief said, “We cannot wait for decades to start acting. 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 of the countries attending COP26 should be to step up their ambition to fight climate change Taalas warned that more was needed to be done with regards to climate adaptations saying the negative trend in weather patterns should be expected to continue for the coming decades.
Meanwhile, water-related risks have increased in frequency over the past 20 years. Since 2000, flood-related disasters have risen by 134 per cent compared with the previous two decades.