• Underestimated impact of global warming on the water cycle

    Picture: Nimai Chandra Ghosh

    Report on the Nature News blog on a Science publication (here is the link to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory page).

    Perhaps the most inconvenient thing about global warming is that mainly the poor will have to carry the can. While, for example, the amount of rainfall at wealthy and relatively freshwater-blessed mid and high latitudes is likely to increase as the climate warms, drought-prone regions such as the Sahel zone will likely get even drier.
    Computer models used to simulate the effects of rising global temperature on the climate system at large do predict changes in the global water cycle whereby, metaphorically, the ‘rich get richer’ and the ‘poor get poorer’. An analysis published in the journal Science today of 50 years of ocean salinity data – an excellent indicator of a changing hydrological cycle – finds that existing models strongly underestimate the magnitude of the changes.

    In line with the conclusions from the 2010 World Development Report on Development and Climate Change, this is yet another reason why impacts of global warming may be stronger for more destitute regions and population, calling for renewed efforts to design more appropriate policy answers.

    Today’s enormous development challenges are complicated by the reality of climate change—the two are inextricably linked and together demand immediate attention. Climate change threatens all countries, but particularly developing ones. Understanding what climate change means for development policy is the central aim of the World Development Report 2010. It explores how public policy can change to better help people cope with new or worsened risks, how land and water management must adapt to better protect a threatened natural environment while feeding an expanding and more prosperous population, and how energy systems will need to be transformed. The report is an urgent call for action, both for developing countries who are striving to ensure policies are adapted to the realities and dangers of a hotter planet, and for high-income countries who need to undertake ambitious mitigation while supporting developing countries efforts. A climate-smart world is within reach if we act now to tackle the substantial inertia in the climate, in infrastructure, and in behaviors and institutions; if we act together to reconcile needed growth with prudent and affordable development choices; and if we act differently by investing in the needed energy revolution and taking the steps required to adapt to a rapidly changing planet.

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