Climate-change-linked droughts have increased dramatically since 2000
Thanks in part to climate change, the number and frequency of droughts on the planet have increased by 29% in the past 22 years, according to a United Nations report released Wednesday. As a result, roughly one-third of the Earth’s population, 2.3 billion people, now face the risk of water scarcity.
Droughts like the one gripping the American Southwest, where water restrictions have been imposed in states like California and Arizona and reservoir levels continue to fall heading into the dry summer months, are being felt across the globe. A severe drought in the Horn of Africa has put the lives of millions of people in Somalia at risk. The combination of drought and an intense heat dome that has lingered over parts of Pakistan and India is threatening the current wheat harvest and putting millions more lives in danger. Thanks to a series of drought years, Australia’s agriculture industry registered economic declines of 18% between 2002 and 2010, the U.N. report said.
France has seen a 25% drop in rainfall since the start of April, accompanied by a rise in normal temperatures not usually experienced until summer, France24 reported, with dire consequences for crops like corn, sunflowers and beets.
Numerous studies have established the link between rising global temperatures and drought. Hotter temperatures speed up evaporation, reducing the amount of available surface water, drying out crops and other plants. The hotter it gets, the quicker that reaction plays out, raising the risks of wildfires that can feed off dried-out vegetation.