Drought Clobbers the World
by Robert Hunziker
[This article was first published in CounterPunch on August 27, 2021.]
According to SPEI Global Drought Monitor, no continent is spared the ravages of severe drought, except for Antarctica. This is happening at a global temperature of 1.2°C above baseline, not 1.5°C above baseline which climate scientists agree is locked in. This article explores the countrywide impact of 1.2°C above baseline for the most vulnerable as well as the most privileged. The journey starts in Glasgow.
The world’s political leaders need to pay special attention to the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference scheduled for October 31st-12th in Glasgow as scientists of the world meet to present the latest info on climate change/global warming.
Those world leaders need to hone in on the most far-reaching, most effective, most promising ideas to fix the climate, tame global warming, and stop fossil fuels by doing whatever it takes to halt carbon emissions (Biden’s plan won’t do it).
Climatically, how much longer can the planet hang in there?
The world is coming apart at the seams as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from factories, utilities, cars, planes, trains, agriculture, and a horrifying meltdown of permafrost in the farthest northern latitudes, spiked by Biblical fires, and soon the rainforests will kick in as tipping points trigger, thus reversing the world’s greatest carbon sinks to carbon emission sources in competition with cars, trains, and planes. The entire planet is trapped in a drought that’s so severe that it’s difficult to quantify. It’s that pervasive.
By ignoring science for far too long, leaders of the world have failed their own people. To that end, if the world’s leaders cannot figure out what’s happening to the climate system as fire, drought, and floods strike like never before (explained in more detail herein) then they should be tossed out of office. Weak leaders beget feeble solutions.
After all, there is little room for error for society at large. Climate change has backed them into a corner from which they can barely escape, maybe not at all. Soon, there will be no choice other than outright revolution, forcing the world’s leaders out, similar to the French Revolution of the late 18th century when aristocracy and royalty, the one percent (1%) of the era, holding onto their heads for dear life, fled Paris by the thousands, many fleeing to England (See: Ninety-Three, by Victor Hugo, 1874 publication detailing The Great Terror)
Throughout history, when the masses are harmed or abused beyond some undefined incongruous limit, but enough to seek recompense, they follow the money, similar to The Revolutions of 1848 and actually witnessed in person by aristocrats in the streets, holding their breath whilst horrified by the Storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789.
As it happens, ubiquitous drought conditions know no boundaries. A Middle East water crisis is threatening millions of people to the precipice of famine. According to a recent AP article, Aid Groups: Millions in Syria, Iraq Losing Access to Water d/d August 23, 2021, it is a dire situation that, by default, could lead to desperate open warfare and massive human tragedy.
In the face of extreme heat, millions of people in Syria and Iraq and Lebanon are at risk of losing access to essentials for life: (1) water (2) electricity (3) food. Similar to America’s West, water resources are at record lows due to little rainfall and drought conditions caused by global warming now widely recognized as an anthropogenic affair, meaning “human-caused” for the benefit of those who’ve missed class.
More than 12 million people in those countries are at risk, today, right now. And, making matters much worse, two dams in northern Syria that supply power to 3 million people face “imminent closure” because of low water levels (a new phenomena starting to appear throughout the world). Moreover, drought conditions are spreading water-borne diseases throughout displacement settlements. Alas, the Middle East crisis stands above all crises.
What will the people do? Will they fight for survival? Indeed, the situation is fraught with danger. It’s a time bomb that’s already ticking.
In Lebanon, 4 million people face severe water shortage. Not only that but making matters equally bad, in addition to severe drought, the Litani River is overloaded with sewage and waste and polluted nearly beyond recognition. It is the country’s longest river and major source for water supply, irrigation, and hydropower.
The planet is aching, crying out for relief. It’s truly a worldwide crisis. Global warming is strutting its stuff whilst greenhouse gases increase beyond all-time record levels, never decreasing, heating up the planet more and more to the breaking point at the global temperature of 1.2°C above baseline, not 1.5°C above, not 2.0°C above.
What of 1.5°C (IPCC’s top end preference) or 2.0°C above baseline as discussed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, levels that should not be exceeded? Yet, uh-oh, the planet is already in trouble at 1.2°C above baseline. Indeed, it’s an open secret that the climate system is struggling; it’s in trouble.
“The climate in trouble” resonates far and wide, e.g., Fridays for Future, started in 2018 by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, which is a very popular org for young activists, is openly critical of the outright stupidity and blatant ignorance of adults. “How Dare You!” blurted Greta Thunberg age 16 at the UN Climate Summit in NY in 2019, as she addressed an imperial body of climate intellects.
Droughts take no prisoners, as the entire Mediterranean region has been hit hard. Turkey faces its most severe drought in a decade. Istanbul is dangerously close to losing its water supply. Dr. Akgun Ilhan, a Turkish water management expert told Euronews: “The natural water cycle is already interrupted by climate change,” but Dr. İlhan suggests it’s also affected by urban surfaces that are sealed with asphalt and concrete (the human footprint) “leaving very little green spaces where water can meet soil and fill groundwater resources.”
Worldwide, wetlands are down 87% over the past 200+ years, only 13% remains as they’re plowed under or covered over with no green spaces for water to meet soil or fill groundwater resources. It is significant that wetlands are the primary source for replenishment of aquifers.
Alas, with 87% of wetland hydrologic systems gone, massive destructive floods precede ironic losses of aquifer resources. With wetlands gone, water goes to where the people live (think Germany or China) and not through nature’s wetlands for distribution via the natural hydrology network. Meantime, according to NASA, one-third of the world’s largest aquifers are “stressed” because of the loss of wetland feeder systems. This is an invisible monumental festering problem.
In the United States, nearly one-half of the country is currently afflicted by drought. Worse yet, the West is experiencing ultra dire conditions, the worst in 1,200 years, with several small outlying communities suffering complete (100%) loss of water. Arizona is already calculating what industries will be forced to cut water in the near future as the Colorado River is already overly stressed and overly depleted, unable to meet heavy demand.
Brazil’s drought is the worst ever recorded. Hydroelectric plants can’t fully operate because of low reservoir levels. Chile has endured a mega drought for years. According to a recent Reuters report: 400,000 people who live in rural areas of Chile today receive water via tanker trucks. Chile’s spectacular “Mediterranean climate” in the central region, home to vineyards and farms, has taken a big hit. Scientists doubt it’ll ever recover its spectacular climate zone.
Even Israel, which invested $500 million in the world’s largest desalination plant, supplying 20% of its water needs, is warning citizens that the drought/water crisis is so severe that it will “struggle” to provide all residents with enough water to meet basic needs by next summer.
In Russia, some agricultural regions are at risk of losing up to one-half of their harvest because of punishing drought. Russia’s famous Black Earth Region, nicknamed as such because of its world famous high soil moisture content is now a bleak greyish color. Meanwhile, drought in Madagascar has pushed the country to the edge of famine.
A recent major research report claims that since 2014 Europe has experienced the most extreme series of droughts and heat waves in more than 2,000 years. (Source: Recent European Drought Extremes Beyond Common Era Background Variability, Nature Geoscience, March 15, 2021)
According to BBC News, in Taiwan, considered one of the “rainiest places in the world,” many reservoirs are at less than 20% of capacity and some below 10%. At the primary water source for Taiwan’s $100B semiconductor industry, the water at Baoshan No. 2 Reservoir is at 7%. This has serious international business ramifications.
The list of drought conditions hitting every continent, except Antarctica, is overwhelming. Indeed, the worldwide drought should be categorized as a triple-extra-alarm emergency with all hands on deck. Will it be?
Will world leaders convene to stop fossil fuel destruction of the planet?
Or, will a neglected broken climate system force people to fight for survival, and what does that imply?
Based in Los Angeles, Robert Hunziker is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and published in over 50 journals, magazines and sites worldwide.