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Climate change must include water scarcity on its agenda. These are the causes.

Most people are unaware that freshwater availability is changing rapidly over the world. The tropics, which are already moist, are becoming wetter, while the mid-latitudes, which are already dry, are becoming dryer.

The northern high latitudes are experiencing some of the most dramatic shifts. Warming at up to four times the world average pace, for example, is melting glaciers, permafrost, and snowpack in northern Canada and Russia. As a result, local hydrology is being altered dramatically, while critical regional water supplies are reduced.

Geographical hotspots of excessive or insufficient water, caused by different levels of flooding and drought as well as by the widespread decline of groundwater, make worse this broad global pattern.

Trends in total water storage from the NASA GRACE and GRACE Follow-On Missions from 2002-2022. Red areas have lost water over the last 20 years, while blue areas have gained water. Image: Map updated from Rodell, Famiglietti, et al. 2018 by Chandanpurkar et al, 2022

Groundwater losses are greater than replenishment rates.

More than fifty percent of the world's major aquifers are fast being depleted because groundwater removal rates substantially outpace recharge rates. When the cumulative effects of geographical increases and decreases of fresh water are analyzed globally, three stunning truths emerge:

First, with the exception of Greenland and Antarctica, the continents are drying out. Water for all uses, including people, the environment, food and energy creation, industry, and economic growth, is becoming increasingly limited as regional supplies disappear or are depleted.

Second, rainfall is becoming considerably more erratic, with protracted periods of drought interspersed by more powerful storms, making it more difficult to manage water supplies.

Third, as climate change drivers and poor groundwater managers, we - humans - are exclusively accountable for all of these changes.

The message of climate change is water.

Water is the covert courier who brings the terrible news about climate change to your town, your neighborhood, and your front door as rising carbon dioxide concentrations continue to fuel global warming.

It is our responsibility to adapt and, to the extent possible, correct our broken water cycle since we are the only ones responsible for climate change. The response of society to the water-related parts of the climate disaster has lagged behind that of carbon, though. Simply said, it hasn't progressed at the rate and scale that the urgency of the water and climate problem demands.

They must place water scarcity on the climate change agenda.

This situation must be rectified promptly. Water should be the next item on the global climate change agenda. However, because the industry and its supply networks, particularly the food industry, account for 80% of global water withdrawals, we cannot move the needle on global water security without significant corporate engagement.

We urge the industry to collaborate with the public sector, non-profits, and academia to provide the global leadership required for responding to climate-water risk and accelerating adaptation to our rapidly changing water cycle.

The Global Assessment of Private Sector Impacts on Water report, published recently by the Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS) at the University of Saskatchewan and the sustainability non-profit Ceres, makes many time-critical recommendations to industry.

The report emphasizes the two-way nature of water risk and water materiality: the industry is increasingly threatened by accelerating changes in flooding, drought, and water availability; however, it also has a long history and dubious distinction as the major polluter of our precious surface and groundwaters, as shown in the table below.

Both sides of this dual materiality must be appropriately valued, as investors and entities such as the CDP, the U.S. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, and the newly formed Task Force on Nature-Related Climate Disclosures, to account for and rigorously disclose its link with water, as it has with carbon.

The business sector has shown its commitment to carbon accounting and management, but this is just half the battle. The time has come for industry to take the lead on climate-water risk.


Water shortages must be placed on the climate-change agenda. This is why

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