Climate change to make droughts longer, more common, says UN

FILE - Herders supply water from a borehole to give to their camels during a drought near Kuruti, in Garissa County, Kenya on Oct. 27, 2021. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Herders supply water from a borehole to give to their camels during a drought near Kuruti, in Garissa County, Kenya on Oct. 27, 2021. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday

The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday.

The U.N. desertification agency, which is currently hosting a conference of parties in Abidjan in Ivory Coast, estimates that roughly one third of the world's population — 2.3 billion people — is already facing water scarcity, with that number expected to double by 2050.

Although no region is spared from drought, the report noted that Africa is the hardest hit continent, with the Americas, India and Australia also highlighted as areas of particular current and future concern.

The ongoing debilitating drought in the east and Horn of Africa was highlighted as one of the "dramatic consequences" of climate change by the U.N. agency. The continent suffered 134 recorded droughts in the past century, with over half occurring in east Africa.

“We used to be able to grow enough tomatoes that we could stay fed for 8 months,” said Kenyan farmer Kheira Osman Yusuf, whose crops have been without rain for over a year. “We used to have luscious mango trees and papaya trees.” She added that food sources have become incredibly scarce and the drinking water supply has also greatly suffered. She explained they sometimes had to resort to drinking from the livestock reservoir, running the risk of getting sick from contamination.

The agency’s lead scientist Barron Orr told the Associated Press that the world needs to be more proactive rather than reactive when it comes to dealing with drought-related disasters. Orr said the next step for hardest-hit Africa is to “direct investments to build resilience, so as to bounce back from drought.”

India saw a drought-related shrink of 5% to its gross domestic product between 1998 and 2017 and Australia's agricultural productivity slumped 18% between 2002 and 2010 due to drought. The country can also expect more wildfires like those in late 2019 and early 2020 which were spurred by a lack of rainfall, the report warned.

The same is true for the Amazon, the U.N. said, with three droughts occurring since the turn of the century and triggering forest fires, with climate change and deforestation also to blame. The agency estimates that 16% of the region's remaining forests will burn by 2050 if deforestation continues at its current rate.

But with the right adaptation measures, water scarcity across the globe can be limited, the report said. It suggests smarter agricultural techniques which use less water while producing more food, drought action plans and greater investment in soil health, new technologies and early warning systems can all help curtail food and water shortages.

“We need to steer towards the solutions rather than continuing with destructive actions," Ibrahim Thiaw, the executive secretary of the desertification agency, said. “We must build and rebuild our landscapes better, mimicking nature wherever possible and creating functional ecological systems.”

___

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP's climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Activists protest the Australian government's response to wildfires in Australia, outside the Australian consulate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Jan. 10, 2020. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)

Credit: Silvia Izquierdo

FILE - Activists protest the Australian government's response to wildfires in Australia, outside the Australian consulate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Jan. 10, 2020. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)

Credit: Silvia Izquierdo

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Activists protest the Australian government's response to wildfires in Australia, outside the Australian consulate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Jan. 10, 2020. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)

Credit: Silvia Izquierdo

Credit: Silvia Izquierdo

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Fire consumes land recently deforested by cattle farmers near Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil on Aug. 23, 2020. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

Credit: Andre Penner

FILE - Fire consumes land recently deforested by cattle farmers near Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil on Aug. 23, 2020. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

Credit: Andre Penner

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Fire consumes land recently deforested by cattle farmers near Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil on Aug. 23, 2020. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

Credit: Andre Penner

Credit: Andre Penner

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Boolo Aadan, 63, who fled drought-stricken areas, holds her 9 month old grandchild outside the tent where they now live at a makeshift camp on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu, Somalia on Feb. 4, 2022. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File)

Credit: Farah Abdi Warsameh

FILE - Boolo Aadan, 63, who fled drought-stricken areas, holds her 9 month old grandchild outside the tent where they now live at a makeshift camp on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu, Somalia on Feb. 4, 2022. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File)

Credit: Farah Abdi Warsameh

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Boolo Aadan, 63, who fled drought-stricken areas, holds her 9 month old grandchild outside the tent where they now live at a makeshift camp on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu, Somalia on Feb. 4, 2022. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File)

Credit: Farah Abdi Warsameh

Credit: Farah Abdi Warsameh

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Firefighters battle the Morton Fire as it burns a home near Bundanoon, Australia on Jan. 23, 2020. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Credit: Noah Berger

FILE - Firefighters battle the Morton Fire as it burns a home near Bundanoon, Australia on Jan. 23, 2020. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Credit: Noah Berger

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Firefighters battle the Morton Fire as it burns a home near Bundanoon, Australia on Jan. 23, 2020. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Credit: Noah Berger

Credit: Noah Berger

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Mohamed Mohamud, a ranger from the Sabuli Wildlife Conservancy, looks at the carcass of a giraffe that died of hunger near Matana Village, Wajir County, Kenya on Oct. 25, 2021. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

Credit: Brian Inganga

FILE - Mohamed Mohamud, a ranger from the Sabuli Wildlife Conservancy, looks at the carcass of a giraffe that died of hunger near Matana Village, Wajir County, Kenya on Oct. 25, 2021. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

Credit: Brian Inganga

caption arrowCaption
FILE - Mohamed Mohamud, a ranger from the Sabuli Wildlife Conservancy, looks at the carcass of a giraffe that died of hunger near Matana Village, Wajir County, Kenya on Oct. 25, 2021. The frequency and duration of droughts will continue to increase due to human-caused climate change, with water scarcity already affecting billions of people across the world, the United Nations warned in a report Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

Credit: Brian Inganga

Credit: Brian Inganga