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Climate change and water scarcity are interrelated concerns

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has tweeted a Reuters news article that reports, “Water scarcity could lead to conflict between communities and nations as the world is still not fully aware of the water crisis many countries face as a result of climate change, the head of the U.N. panel of climate scientists warned on Tuesday.”

The article highlights, “More frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of rivers and lakes, urbanisation, over-extraction of ground water and expanding populations mean that many nations such as India face serious water shortages. In addition, the demand for more power by countries like India to fuel their economic growth has resulted in a need to harness more water for hydropower dams and nuclear plants.”

In December 2013, researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany developed models that showed an increase of 1 degrees Celsius to 2 degrees Celsius in global warming would drive up absolute water scarcity around the world by 40 percent. Climate Progress reported, “As far as the changes for absolute levels of water scarcity, the researchers determined that 1.5 percent of the global population currently struggles with absolute water scarcity, and 3 percent faces chronic water scarcity. At 1°C of warming that rises to 6 percent and 13 percent, respectively; at 2°C it hits 9 percent and 21 percent; and at 3°C it reaches 12 percent and 24 percent of all people around the world.”

The implications of that are very real given the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a rise in global temperature of between 0.3 degrees Celsius and 4.8 degrees Celsius by the late 21st century.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) further confirms this concern and says that by 2030, “Water scarcity will worsen due to unsustainable use and management of the resource as well as climate change; the number of people living in areas affected by severe water stress is expected to increase by another 1 billion to over 3.9 billion.”  Several years ago, the Globe and Mail reported that one of the implications of this “will be ‘substantial population displacements’… and that those affected, whom [a UN report] terms ‘climate-change refugees’, will need new water and sanitation services.”

And just last month, in advance of the World Economic Forum in Davos, a survey of 900 experts for the annual Global Risks report found that the greatest risk in terms of impact faced by the world today is the crisis in the world’s water supply.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated that our displacing, mistreating and abusing of water is also a cause of climate change, “We need a restoration strategy for water as a key mitigation factor.” To read about one such restoration strategy, please read Kravčík’s Blue Alternative in Slovakia.

The Council of Canadians will intervene at the next United Nations climate summit in Paris (November 30 to December 11) and while there will be highlighting the intersection between water justice and climate justice issues.

Photo: At the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, the Council of Canadians carried the message that ‘climate justice is water justice’.