More than five billion people could have difficulty accessing water in 2050, the United Nations warned Tuesday, urging leaders to seize the initiative at the COP26 summit.
Already in 2018, 3.6 billion people had inadequate access to water for at least one month per year, said a new report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.
“We need to wake up to the looming water crisis,” said WMO chief Petteri Taalas.
“The State of Climate Services 2021: Water” report comes just weeks before COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.
The WMO stressed that over the last 20 years, the levels of water stored on land — on the surface, in the subsurface, in snow and ice — had dropped at a rate of one centimetre per year.
The biggest losses are in Antarctica and Greenland, but many highly-populated lower latitude locations are experiencing significant water losses in areas that traditionally provide water supply, said the WMO.
The agency said there were major ramifications for water security, as only 0.5% of water on Earth is useable and available freshwater.
“Increasing temperatures are resulting in global and regional precipitation changes, leading to shifts in rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, with a major impact on food security and human health and well-being,” said Taalas.
He said the top priority at COP26 was stepping up ambition levels in climate mitigation, but more work was also needed on climate adaptations, as the negative trend in weather patterns will continue for the coming decades, and the coming centuries when it comes to the melting of glaciers and sea levels rising.