Droughts occurring at the same time across different regions of the planet could place an unprecedented strain on the global agricultural system and threaten the water security of millions of people, according to a new study in Nature Climate Change.
A Washington State University-led research team analyzed climate, agricultural and population growth data to show continuing fossil fuel dependence will increase the probability of co-occurring droughts 40% by the mid-21st century and 60% by the late 21st century, relative to the late-20th century. That comes out to an approximately ninefold increase in agricultural and human population exposure to severe co-occurring droughts unless steps are taken to lower carbon emissions.
“While technology and other circumstances today are a lot different than they were in the late 19th century, crop failures in multiple breadbasket regions still have the potential to affect global food availability,” said study coauthor Deepti Singh, an assistant professor in the WSU School of the Environment. “This could in turn increase volatility in global food prices, affecting food access and exacerbating food insecurity, particularly in regions that are already vulnerable to environmental shocks such as droughts.”
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