Record heat, ice loss, wildfires, floods and droughts continue to worsen, affecting communities, nations and economies around the world, the United in Science 2020 report finds.
“Human-induced climate change is affecting life-sustaining systems, from the top of the mountains to the depths of the oceans, leading to accelerating sea-level rise, with cascading effects for ecosystems and human security,” the multi-organization high-level compilation of latest climate science information states.
The researchers, referring to water in the context of “threat”, report that floods and droughts account for 90 Percent of impacts of natural disasters worldwide.
Water shortages for human consumption, food production and energy supply are cited as major roadblocks for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Agenda.
The report highlights some of the droughts that have had major impacts, both on society and the economy, in numerous parts of the world since 2016.
In Africa millions of people required assistance after drought-related food shortages. During 2016 and 2017, 6.7 million people in Somalia were food insecure at the East African drought's peak. Zimbabwe was amongst the worst-affected areas during the droughts of 2018 and 2019. Researchers say that some of the droughts show a human influence, whether direct or indirect.
The risk of wildfires is significantly increased by drought and heatwaves. There were unprecedented wildfires in the Arctic in the summers of 2019 and 2020, while Eastern Australia experienced a severe wildfire season in 2019.
Researchers found that, by 2050, people at risk of floods will increase from the current level of 1.2 billion to 1.6 billion people.
In the early to mid-2010s, 27 Perccent of the global population, or 1.9 billion people, lived in potential severely water-scarce areas. This number is set to increase by between 42 Percent and 95 Percent, or 2.7 to 3.2 billion people, by 2050. In addition, 12 Percent of the world population drinks from unimproved and unsafe sources of water.
The report finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant impacts on the global observing system for weather, water, climate and environment, which is affecting the quality of forecasts and climate services.
“We need science, solidarity and solutions to tackle both the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. I urge leaders to heed the facts contained in this report, unite behind the science and take urgent climate action to set a path towards a safer, more sustainable future for all,” writes António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in the foreword.
The report was produced by the United Nations and global scientific partner organisations.