While the pundits and partisan experts continue to argue over the validity of global warming, there is little doubt that climate change is a reality. The rapidly increasing changes in our climate are impacting our water supply.
Scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have calculated how much of this essential resource the world risks losing to the effects of climate change. Droughts will become more widespread and wildfires are expected to get bigger, longer and smokier by 2050. The growing world population and its increase in water consumption are also straining fresh water resources. Water sources are melting and drying out.
37 nations already make do with the bare minimum in water resources, according to experts at the World Resources Institute (WRI), a co-author of the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas. Massive investments in efficient water management are necessary to counter the effects of water scarcity.
Agriculture is the world’s largest consumer of water
In times of rising food prices, the agricultural sector has become more interesting for investors. Asian companies, particularly in China, as well as their European counterparts are buying up large swaths of land in Africa to grow food products. They, too, have a vested interest in good harvests and are keen on investment in any aspect of agriculture that offers a significant opportunity to reduce its demand for water. However, technical solutions to save water in agriculture will play only a small role due to the high costs.
Changes in the world’s agriculture and eating habits need to be re-examined
Hunger follows on the heels of water scarcity
Agriculture must change in order to counter dwindling water resources. Climate researchers warn of an increased risk of hunger, in particular in poorer countries, with farmers trying to adapt to cycles of recurring drought and extreme, torrential rains. One way to counter these extremes is through organic farming, which strengthens the capacity of the soil to absorb water, to enrich it and later deliver it again to the plants.
Organic farming could also limit the spread of diseases and pests without farmers having to resort to pesticides. Crop rotation and diversity would make it more difficult for diseases and crop destroyers to infest cultivated areas. This was common practice for many generations before industrial farming began.
In addition, consumers will have to alter their habits in ways that include eating less meat and seeking out crops more attuned to local conditions. In dry regions of the world, farmers could plant the cereal crop millet, which needs significantly less water than corn.
Another climate-friendly measure: growers and consumers should be located closer to one another to decrease theamount of shipments and transports.
Such changes would help feed a constantly growing global population. Even today, the world produces enough food for 14 billion people.
We don’t need to produce more food – what we need is better quality and more diversity.