UN Sustainable Development Goals: Climate Action
Updated: Jul 1
Climate Action is an essential part of the conversation towards a Water safe future. Not only in regards to environmental change but rather the impact that it leaves on the future of humankind. We now must worry if where we want to live in 30 years will be submerged due to rising sea levels. For those not given the luxury of choice, their home will drown, whereas some of those homeowners are already in danger. We quickly have to worry about environmental migrants, those who cannot live in their homes due to the increased risk of climate change. In the same vein, these same people do not have Water security. The Arctic region is facing warming like never before, leaving the polar bears swimming for weeks at a time without their normal icy biosphere. These issues between Water and climate are interconnected. However, they deserve separate attention.
Time is running out for us to reverse the impact of our actions on our climate. Weather and Water are key to this conversation. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), “Climate change manifests itself primarily through changes in the Water cycle. As climate changes, droughts, floods, melting glaciers, sea-level rise and storms intensify or alter, often with severe consequences” (IUCN). These manifestations are causing increased harm for environmental migrants, who can no longer live in their homes due to rising sea levels, dangerous weather patterns, and drought. These torrential disasters are causing us to look at solutions that can help curb the effects of our anthropocentric lifestyles. According to Brookings, there will be “intensifying intra- and inter-state competition for Food, Water, and other resources, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, increased frequency and severity of disease outbreaks and increased U.S. border stress due to the severe effects of climate change in parts of Central America (Podesta, 2019). These issues only scratch the surface of the plight that our world will face from now on.
Thus far, we have seen how climate change directly impacts humanity. However, the rapidly changing Water cycle is contributing to these disastrous effects. Climate change has impacted the Water cycle by dictating where, how much, and when, rain falls. A consequence of this also leads to more severe weather events. Further increased global temperatures cause higher evaporation rates leading to high levels of atmospheric Water vapor and thus more intense heavy rains in the years to come. Climate scientists predict that these changes will cause more flooding as more Water will fall than vegetation and soil can absorb. National Geographic further states, “the remaining Water, or runoff, drains into nearby Waterways, picking up contaminants like fertilizer on the way. Excess runoff eventually travels to larger bodies of Water like lakes, estuaries, and the ocean, polluting the Water supply and limiting Water access for humans and ecosystems” (National Geographic, 2019). This problem translates to increased ocean warming, causing glacial melting and, in turn, rising sea levels.
Yet, we have only touched upon the Water cycle and climate change. Ocean acidification through carbon dioxide entering the ocean in large amounts has caused the ocean to absorb 29% of this additional carbon (UCS, 2019) caused by anthropocentric emissions. This acidification throws off the balance of the ocean. It makes it harder for the ocean to absorb the additional CO2 in the atmosphere. The Union of Concerned Scientists states that Surface Waters are now 30 percent more acidic than they were at the start of the industrial era. Ocean acidification is now happening faster than at any point in the last 66 million years, and possibly in the previous 300 million years. The ocean is one of our largest carbon sinks. If the oceans cannot absorb carbon due to acidification, being resilient in the face of climate disaster will be a nearly impossible task.
Water is crucial to solving this disaster. If we continue to view climate and Water as separate issues, we will not create integrated solutions. When one is helped, the other will be as well. COP26 introduced the Water Tracker for National Climate Planning, which ensures that Water is central to climate resilience plans. We must begin to explore new technologies like desalination as our freshwater sources are dwindling. We must start to recognize the innate connectedness in all life’s beauty, including Water, climate, and humanity. When this connectedness is identified, we will build a Water safe, climate-safe, and humanity-safe future hinged on our recognition that all life deserves equal importance.