Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Climate change will hit water supply hardest in developing countries

Liz Kalaugher in Environmental Research Web: Climate change is predicted to have a big impact on water supply, but to date there have been few estimates of the total cost of adaptation for the water sector worldwide. Now a team from the Netherlands, US and UK has found that by 2050 adapting the supply of raw industrial and domestic water to climate change could cost $12 billion per year, with the bulk of this amount – up to 90% – needed in developing countries.

"Many studies have already shown that the developing world is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change," Philip Ward of the VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands told environmentalresearchweb. "In this study we show that the costs of adaptation to climate change in the industrial and municipal water supply sector are also greater for developing countries than for developed countries, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP."

The highest climate adaptation costs were for sub-Saharan Africa, where western Central Africa is projected to dry, followed by Latin America, which is likely to see increased seasonal and interannual rainfall variability in eastern Brazil.

To come up with the figures, the team first analysed the cost of meeting existing and future demand for water by 2050 without the effects of climate change, in what they called the baseline scenario. "Since present-day demand is not yet met, baseline costs cover both the elimination of any development deficit, and the consequences of socioeconomic development without climate change," explained Ward. The researchers then analysed the effect of adaptation to climate change over and above this baseline, using one emissions scenario and two global climate models to project the effects of climate on water supply.

"We found that in most regions the baseline costs far exceed adaptation costs," said Ward. "This supports the notion of mainstreaming climate-change adaptation, and current and future climate vulnerability, into broader policy aims. It raises the question of 'how much climate change adaptation should be factored into the current design of water supply systems?' "…

The Gabrun oasis, with date palms, shot by Franzfoto, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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