05 November 2010

Drought Will Be The Norm Without Emissions Reductions

by: GinaMarie Cheeseman

Climate change will likely cause warming temperatures that lead to widespread drought around the world in the next 30 years, according to a National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) study. Most of the western two-thirds of the U.S. will be much drier by the 2030s. Most of the Western Hemisphere, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia will be at risk of extreme drought this century.

"We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community," said Dr. Aiguo Dai, the NCAR atmospheric scientist who authored the study.

“As Dai emphasizes here, vast swaths of the subtropics and the midlatitude continents face a future with drier soils and less surface water as a result of reducing rainfall and increasing evaporation driven by a warming atmosphere,” Richard Seager of Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory said of the study.

The projections in the study are based on current projections of greenhouse gas emissions. "If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous,” Dai said.

Given that the study’s projections are based on projections of GHG emissions, there is still the opportunity to avoid the proverbial worst care scenario. Greenpeace’s report, Energy Revolution offers a plan to reduce GHG emissions. Under the Energy Revolution plan, global carbon emissions would peak in 2015 and decrease there after.

The Energy Revolution Plan requires the U.S., EU, and Australia to reduce their carbon emissions by up to 30 percent below 1990 levels. Developing countries’ carbon emissions would peak by 2025 and then they would start reducing them by 2030.

The Energy Revolution plan calls for government leaders to agree to:

Phase out all subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy
Internalize the external (social and environmental) costs of energy production through “cap and trade” emissions trading
Mandate strict efficiency standards for all energy consuming appliances, buildings and vehicles
Establish legally binding targets for renewable energy and combined heat and power generation
Reform the electricity markets by guaranteeing priority access to the grid for renewable power generators
Provide defined and stable returns for investors, for example by feed-in tariff programs
Increase research and development budgets for renewable energy and energy efficiency

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