Catastrophic drinking water shortages expected in Asia

Natural Climate Change: Climate Change Will Cause Freshwater Shortages in Asia

Catastrophic drinking water shortages expected in Asia

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas and Tsinghua University have concluded that climate change will lead to catastrophic freshwater shortages in Central Asia by the middle of this century. The catastrophic water situation, which will affect Afghanistan, northern India, Kashmir and Pakistan, will be caused by the melting of snow and ice on the Tibetan Plateau, which supplies water to an estimated 2 billion people. This was reported in an article published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The researchers analyzed satellite data on the amount of water from glaciers, lakes and groundwater sources in Tibet over the past 20 years and projected changes over the next four decades. With the help of machine learning, the observed changes in water storage can be linked to key climate variables, including temperature, precipitation, humidity, cloudiness and sunlight input.

It has been proven that climate change in recent decades has led to severe depletion of water supplies in some areas of Tibet, depleting 158 tons per year. At the same time, water reserves in other regions have increased slightly (5.6 billion tons), probably due to the competing effects of glacial retreat, permafrost degradation and the expansion of meltwater-bearing lakes.

With the failure of humans to significantly reduce fossil fuel combustion, we can expect the loss of available water in Asia to approach 100%. With moderate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the deficit remains large. In general, by the middle of the twenty-first century (2031-2060), Tibet could lose about 230 billion tons, which would affect the full flow of the Amu Darya River, which supplies water to Central Asia, and the Indus River, on which North India, Kashmir and Pakistan depend.

Despite significant changes in climate policy that could limit further warming and associated climate change, major losses in freshwater supplies remain inevitable, although they may prevent the worst-case scenario.