On climate change and water

1. Climate change is exacerbating both water scarcity and water-related hazards

(such as droughts), as rising temperatures disrupt precipitation patterns and the entire water cycle.

2. About two billion people worldwide don’t have access to safe drinking water today (SDG report 2022) – a

number that is expected to increase, exacerbated by climate change and population growth.

3. Only 0.5 per cent of water on Earth is useable and available freshwater – and climate change is dangerously

affecting that supply. Over the past twenty years, terrestrial water storage – including soil moisture, snow and

ice – has dropped at a rate of 1 cm per year, with major ramifications for water security.

4. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C would approximately halve the proportion of the world

population expected to suffer water scarcity, although there is considerable variability between regions.

5. Most of the freshwater used, about 70 per cent, is used for agriculture (it takes between 2000 and 5000

litres of water, on average, to produce a person’s daily food).

6. Since 2000, flood-related disasters have risen by 134 per cent compared with the two previous decades.

Most of the flood-related deaths and economic losses were recorded in Asia.

7. Wetlands such as mangroves, seagrasses, marshes and swamps are highly effective carbon sinks that

absorb and store CO2, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

8. Wetlands also serve as a buffer against extreme weather events. They provide a natural shield against

storm surges and absorb excess water and precipitation. Through the plants and microorganisms that they

house, wetlands also provide water storage and purification.

9. Early warning systems for floods, droughts and other water-related hazards provide a more than tenfold

return on investment and can significantly reduce disaster risk: a 24-hour warning of a coming storm can cut

the ensuing damage by 30 per cent.

10. Water supply and sanitation systems that can withstand climate change could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year.

Sources: UNICEF (1), WMO (2,3,6,9), IPCC (4), FAO (5), UNEP (7), New Climate Economy Report (10)

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