Global Water Shortage
The UN summit on climate change that took place in Copenhagen last month was never going to be a roaring success, but the outcome was below even Barack Obama's slim hopes for the conference.
In the lead up to COP15 The US President repeatedly said he did not expect a comprehensive global deal to be reached, but world leaders left the Danish capital with perhaps even more obstacles than existed before the talks began. At the top of the agenda was global cooperation in developing renewable energy sources that could help to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, with negotiations focused on financing this development. However, water provides a thread which connects the different impacts of climate change.
Global pressure on freshwater resources
As argued for some time by the WWF global pressure on freshwater resources is increasing, mainly through changes in global population and income levels, which have led to an increase in demand for water intensive products such as meat, sugar and cotton.
It's easy to take for granted how much water it takes to produce some of the world's most consumed products. For example, for just a kilogram of rice over 3000 litres of water must be used and for one litre of milk it takes almost 1000 litres.
The world's apparent warming climate has caused fresh water reserves to fall across the globe consequently waking people up to the importance of our "water footprint".
The water footprint is an indicator of water use that looks at both direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer. The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business, as described by WaterFootPrint.org.
60% of the world in danger
The science behind climate change remains complex and confusing to much of the global population, but what cannot be argued is that increasing population, industry, economic growth and urbanisation put additional stress on the provision of clean water from dwindling reserves.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that by the year 2050 around 60 percent of the world's population will experience severe water shortages, with 33 percent thought to be already under water stress.
But a lack of access to water is likely to change the economic environment irreparably and also has a vital role to play in the power and energy sector as water is required for many of the power sources vital to both our present and our future. Boiling water can be used to drive turbines, supply coolant for nuclear power and even in oil production.
The socio-economic implications of a severe global water shortage are huge and are closer than ever to becoming a reality. Never mind peak oil, peak water could prove even more devastating to the world and conflicts over resources could even lead to wars being fought.
The accompanying infographic gives a breakdown of the peril the world is facing as a result of the global water shortage.
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