The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the key findings of the Working Group I (WGI) contribution to the IPCC’s ‘Sixth Assessment Report’ on 9 August, and its message is clearer than ever. Climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying.
When we talk about climate change, we mostly refer to global warming. However, we cannot ignore that water is involved in every possible way. Either there is an unexpected amount of unmanageable water or there is no access to water at all – both options are occurring more often and more severely. Sometimes this unbalanced distribution of water happens in different places, but both extremes can also occur in the same location.
The report presents the WGI’s key findings on the physical science of climate change, and emphasises that climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions. Mitigation and adaptation efforts need to increase everywhere.
From a water perspective, mitigation is about preventive measures and the smart management of the existing water resources. Adaptation refers to dealing with higher sea and riverine levels and flash floods – the latter being one of the most tangible aspects given the world’s floods this summer. But adaptation also comprises the smarter use of water, especially in places where there is a lack of water or its availability is very seasonal.
Nowadays solutions never focus on a single problem – climate change challenges us to find integrated solutions. Water or the lack of it is inherent in every single aspect of climate change, and in almost every aspect of our lives, and hence it needs to be part of an integrated solution.
For the first time, the ‘Sixth Assessment Report’ assesses the regional impacts of climate change in greater detail. This regional information can be explored in detail in the newly developed Interactive Atlas. The regional teams of the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) tell us their main take-aways.
Africa & the Middle East
The challenges described in the latest IPCC report will affect the Africa and Middle East region immensely. ‘It is very likely that temperatures will rise in all future emission scenarios and all regions of Africa. By the end of the century, all African regions will very likely experience a warming higher than 3°C’, reads the report. Meanwhile, the Sahara and parts of the Sahel are projected to have increases in heavy precipitation and pluvial flooding. The devastating effects of climate change in the region mean:
NWP, its partners and members are actively involved in tackling the water challenges in the Africa and Middle East region through several programmes and activities. One of the main initiatives being conducted in the region is the Water Support Programme, which emphasizes sustainable development in the partner countries (Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Yemen) and the value of building sustainable relationships between Dutch companies and key stakeholders in focus countries.
The IPCC report predicts particularly strong consequences for Southeast Asia, one of the planet’s regions most vulnerable to climate change. The archipelagic regional bloc will be hit by rising sea levels, heat waves, drought, and more intense and frequent bouts of rain. Known as ‘rain bombs’, heavy precipitation events are projected to intensify by about seven percent for each degree Celsius of global warming.
Although Southeast Asia is projected to warm slightly less than the global average, sea levels are rising faster than elsewhere, and shorelines are retreating in coastal areas where 450 million people live. Rising waters are projected to cost Asia’s major cities billions in damage this decade, and the impact is amplified by tectonic shifts and the effects of groundwater withdrawal.
Nineteen of the 25 cities most exposed to a one-metre sea-level rise are in Asia, seven in the Philippines alone. But sea levels could rise by much more if the polar ice sheets melt, a catastrophic climatic phenomenon known as a tipping point, which will set off a domino effect of other climate events.
Central and South America
The IPCC report identifies Central and South America as a critical region due to its unique ecosystems, high levels of biodiversity, and it being home to the largest tropical rainforest on the planet. It was reported that this region is currently facing intense environmental degradation, an increase in temperatures – higher than the global mean – leading to extreme aridity and droughts, precipitation changes leading to floods and increasing sea levels with consequent coastal flooding and shoreline retreat along most sandy coasts. Furthermore, the report states that under the greenhouse emissions scenarios, glacier volume loss will continue in the Andes Cordillera. This will have a particularly devastating impact on already vulnerable populations by threatening food security and local livelihoods.
An inclusive approach to adaptation and mitigation, especially with nature-based solutions at its centre, may alleviate the region’s vulnerability in a way that simultaneously fosters development. NWP, understanding the urgency to take action now, is fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing between the Latin American and the Dutch water sectors to catalyse concrete action.
The IPCC report states that ‘climate change is already affecting every inhabited region across the globe with human influence contributing to many observed changes in weather and climate extremes’. In Europe, the document presents an observed change in hot extremes, heavy precipitation, and agricultural and ecological droughts. Confidence in the human contribution to these changes is high, especially in high temperature extremes, and heavy precipitation in Northern Europe in particular.
The European Commission has adopted the European Green Deal – a package of measures to enable Europe to be the first climate neutral continent. Sustainable and integrated water resources management play an enabling role in the implementation of the Green Deal’s objectives on the European continent. NWP supports the Dutch water sector in their climate friendly aspirations by creating partnerships and synergies for a sustainable future in Europe.
The IPCC report finds that North America is under increasing stress from climate-related phenomena. The region suffers from severe heat, heavy precipitation, and other extreme weather events which are predicted to increase in frequency as global temperatures rise above two degrees Celsius. The impacts on the climate-vulnerable water sector may be severe, with many North American regions projected to witness decreases in water quality, water supply, and water security in the 21st century.
For North America, NWP continues to engage via the Dutch embassies and consulates with partners interested in connecting with Dutch expertise and technologies. The focus lies on technological innovations for climate mitigation and adaptation, as well as on nature-based solutions.
Climate change impact and climate change adaptation are extremely important cross-cutting themes to ensure sustainable development. We see climate change impacting all the work of the international water sector – from water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to integrated water resource management (IWRM), to efficient water use. NWP, its members, partners, and network, remain committed to a water driven future and will continue strengthening the case for sustainable water management in the sector and universal access to affordable, clean, reliable, sustainable water services and facilities for all.
Download the full report here.