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The window of opportunity for addressing growing drought and expanding drylands is closing

The window of opportunity for addressing growing drought and expanding drylands is closing

A dead tree stump in front of a sandy landscape and a shallow pool of water in the background.

Chile and ArgentinaThe American West are in the midst of a decade-long, megadrought — the driest conditions those regions have seen in a century. There are many areas in Western CanadaThe United States are experiencing extreme drought — a once in 20-year event.

Drought reduces the productivity of agriculture, reduces crop yields, and increases heat-related deaths. It can lead to conflict and increase migration. People with marginalized status are taken from their land. It makes people more vulnerable.

Drought is a result of natural climate variability. But it is also one consequence of climate change, which is increasing in frequency. Droughts that were once a decade in dry regions are now expected to occur more frequently than ever before., if the Earth’s average temperature warms by 4 C.

If countries don’t drastically reduce their emissions of burning coal, oil, and natural gases, we will be far short of our goal to limit global warming below 1.5 C. Dryland could also be affected expand by a quarter and encompass half of the Earth’s land area, including parts from the Prairies.

Governments must recognize that changes are already occurring in dryland areas, and that other changes cannot be avoided, even with lower emissions. If we want to reduce drought-related deaths and livelihood losses, we must have better strategies for dealing with wildfire, conflict, water scarcity, land degradation, and desertification.

Climate change is imminent

DrylandsAre Warming up twice as fast in humid areas. Scientists predict that within the next 50 years, there will be between One billion to three billion people will live in temperatures that exceed the climate range that has been serving humanity for more than 66,000 years., or migrating somewhere else.

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These areas will have a profound impact on the quality of life and livelihoods. Animal husbandry — such as livestock production — It will be impossible to keep animals alive if temperatures rise.. And city infrastructure wasn’t built to handle intense flood events, which are causing damageAnd Many dryland areas are seeing an increase in their population.

A dead tree stump in front of a sandy landscape and a shallow pool of water in the background.
The Wickiup Reservoir, Oregon, September 2021.
(AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

We are also witnessing major human changes

Current climate adaptation efforts for near-term droughts and floods tend to be incremental, reactive and small. Yorkton (Sask.) responded to three consecutive floods by making some infrastructure improvements, but it was not successful. Time passes and social learning is no longer enduring..

These short-sighted interventions leave vulnerable and marginalized populations most at risk. Recurring drought reduces the availability and cost of drought-risk reduction support such as crop insurance. It also increases the cost of insurance premiums. It may be impossible for many farmers.

The government must implement policies to reduce future drought impacts and increase farmer resilience. They could provide solutions to wind erosion or dust management or launch campaigns that reduce water consumption or promote the reclamation or restoration of landscapes. They might be able to Take advantage of landscape heterogeneity strategies — varieties of crops and patches of non-cultivated land — that allow bees and pollinators to thrive. After wildfires, funding and policies could be redesigned. Trees and vegetation are a great way to accelerate restorationFor wind breaks, and encourage farmers to plant drought-tolerant food plants.

It is possible to assess the impact of climate events, such as drought, flood, fire, and their potential consequences before they occur. This allows you to determine the appropriate division between public and private responsibilities when preventing, planning for, and responding.

Groundwater tipping point

While incremental adaptation is important, larger systemic or transformational changes may be required to address climate risk. These adaptations could include the development and implementation of water storage technologies, changes in grazing and farming practices to preserve soil, and behavioral changes to reduce water consumption.

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There may also be residual risks that adaptation can’t address, as well as maladaptation — actions that unintentionally increase the risk of adverse outcomes due to climate change. For example, Groundwater is a source for irrigation in many parts the world. Its depletion could have reached a tipping point, where it cannot be replenished with precipitation..

In water-scarce zones, Farmers might use low-quality water resources (referred to as marginal quality waters).For irrigation purposes, farmers may need to use water (e.g., wastewater or drainage water) that is high-sodium, pathogenous, or heavy metals. This can lead salt accumulation in the soil. This can make the land inaccessible for agricultureThis can then be used to create a new type of. consequences for food security.

At a cost estimated at US$3 billion, India is projected to lose 3.5 million hectares of land by 2050. The global economic losses from salt-induced soil degradation are estimated to be at Annually, US$27.3 Billion. California’s drought could be caused by a lack irrigation water Food prices globally to rise.

While the world’s governments consider ways to reduce emissions to limit global warming, adaptation and resilience must remain high on their list of priorities. These policies are becoming increasingly important as the world continues to exceed its climate targets.

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