UN: In 2050, 5 Billion People may have Difficulty Accessing Water
More than five billion people could have difficulty accessing water in 2050, the UN warned on Tuesday, urging leaders to take the initiative at the COP26 summit.
As early as 2018, 3.6 billion people had inadequate access to water for at least a month a year, according to a new report by the UN World Meteorological Organization.
"We need to wake up because of the impending water crisis," WCO chief Peter Taalas told AFP.
The State of Climate Services 2021: Water report comes just weeks before COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.
The WMO stressed that over the last 20 years, the levels of water stored on land - on the surface, in underground layers, in snow and ice - have been falling at a rate of one centimeter per year. The biggest losses are in Antarctica and Greenland, but many settlements in lower latitudes are experiencing significant water losses in areas that traditionally provide water, the WMO said.
The agency said it has major implications for water security, as only 0.5 percent of the Earth's water is usable and accessible fresh water.
"Rising temperatures are leading to global and regional changes in rainfall, leading to a change in rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, with a major impact on food security, human health and well-being," Taalas said.
Meanwhile, water hazards have become more common over the past 20 years. Since 2000, flood-related disasters have increased by 134% compared to the previous two decades.
"We have seven percent higher humidity in the atmosphere due to the current warming and this is also contributing to the floods," Taalas told a news conference. Most of the flood deaths and economic losses have been reported in Asia, where river flood warning systems need to be strengthened, the WMO said.
At the same time, there has been a 30% increase in the number and duration of droughts since 2000, with Africa being the most affected continent.
Taalas called on COP26 countries to step up their efforts. He said most world leaders spoke of climate change as a major risk to human well-being, but their actions did not match their words.
"We can't wait decades to take action," he said. "It's also a message for countries like China that have said they would like to become carbon neutral by 2060 but have no specific plan for the next decade."
He said that the main priority of COP26 is to strengthen the ambitious levels of climate change mitigation, but further work is needed on climate adaptation, as the negative trend in climate models will continue in the coming decades - and in the following centuries, when it is about melting glaciers and rising sea levels.
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