A new study says that over a quarter of the world’s population could live in a state of permanent drought by 2050 if the goals of the Paris climate agreement are not met.
The authors of the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, warn that if Earth’s temperature goes up by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, more than 25% of the world would live in a state of drought.
“Our research predicts that aridification [the drying of the planet] would emerge over about 20-30 percent of the world’s land surface by the time the global mean temperature change reaches 2ºC,” says Manoj Joshi, one of lead researchers of the study.
Joshi says that the only way to avoid these intense drought, linked to human-caused climate change, is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Unfortunately, “the world has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius,” says Dr. Su-Jong Jeong, a researcher from China’s Southern University of Science and Technology and a participant in the study. “But by reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere in order to keep global warming under 1.5ºC or 2ºC could reduce the likelihood of significant aridification emerging in many parts of the world.”
Specific areas of the world that would be hurt the worst are much of Central America, Southeast Asia, Southern Europe, Southern Africa and Southern Australia, which together represent more than 20 percent of the world’s population.
The Paris climate agreement’s goal is to make sure global average temperatures don’t rise 2 degrees Celsius by reducing greenhouse gases from fossil fuel use.
The agreement’s goals have been criticized by environmentalists and researchers as not being strict enough to adequately curb climate change. But the authors of the study say that the agreement’s central objective of keeping global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius would substantially “constrain” the spread of the drought.
So far every nation in the world has joined the agreement, although the United States is the sole country that plans to pull out. President Trump claims that the deal was “unfair at the highest level to the United States.”
However, many U.S. cities and states have pledged to honor the guidelines.