IPCC report on climate change
Today’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a stark picture of our climatic future.
Earth’s climate system is changing across the entire planet and human activities are worsening its effects which are “widespread, rapid and intensifying”.
The report provides evidence that “unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5 degrees or even 2 degrees will be beyond reach”.
Specifically for the water sector, the report’s headline statements says that “Continued global warming is projected to further intensify the global water cycle, including its variability, global monsoon precipitation and the severity of wet and dry events.”
The IPCC report goes on to state that climate change is bringing multiple changes beyond temperature rise, citing the following examples:
- it “is intensifying the water cycle” bringing more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions
- In high latitudes, rainfall is likely to increase while it is projected to decrease in the subtropics
- Coastal areas will see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by 2100
- Further warming will amplify permafrost thawing, loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and loss of summer Arctic sea ice
- Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels have been clearly linked to human influence. These changes affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them, and they will continue throughout at least the rest of this century
- For cities, climate change impacts may be amplified, including heat (since urban areas are usually warmer than their surroundings), flooding from heavy precipitation events and sea level rise in coastal cities.
We are very aware that climate change will directly and significantly affect water service providers in most parts of Europe, resulting in more frequent or intense periods of drought, heat waves or rain storms, and in more places. Our response should encompass mitigation and adaptation measures. Our briefing note focuses on how climate change will impact on us all and how we are adapting to and mitigating these changes.
Climate change will have many direct and indirect effects on the quality and quantity of available water and will therefore impact on water services. It is critical that water operators analyse their individual situation comprehensively to identify suitable adaptation measures and integrate the findings into their planning and decision making processes.
Water service providers are not the only ones who should be reacting. Policy makers need to be made aware of and support favourable framework conditions, for example: putting in place clear governance structures, prioritising drinking water supply before all other uses, granting priority to public water supply in the case of uncertain power supply and developing holistic strategies to prevent floods and prevent Combined Sewer Overflows.