Blog.Mar 24, 2020

The climate crisis is a water crisis

The climate crisis is a water crisis. It is only when we realise this that we can come up with solutions that are effective enough to make a real difference, Torgny Holgren writes.

When temperatures rise, the water cycle gets more and more impacted, with increasingly dramatic consequences for nature and humans. To tackle this, we must change the way we think about global warming and start treating it as the water crisis it is.

To win the climate race, we need a new approach – water

The climate crisis has hit faster and harder than scientists predicted, meaning that we now only have time for the most effective solutions. To keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the global community needs to upgrade its climate commitments fivefold in the coming decade.

All countries will need to make water a top priority in their nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement, since the most disastrous consequences of the climate crisis are linked to impacts on the water cycle, with more unpredictable rainfalls and a growing number of floods and droughts. Water solutions can both reduce emissions and make nature and societies better able to cope with the unavoidable temperature rise.

“We must use this opportunity to set the world on a new course, where water is at the core of climate policy. ”

Torgny Holgren, SIWI Executive Director

Good water governance is tomorrow’s biggest challenge

Competition over dwindling water resources could get more and more fierce as the global population increases, the climate crisis escalates and civil strife soars. How water is managed will be a question of life and death for individuals, societies and nature.

Since hardly any human activity is possible without water, different groups and interests could easily become pitted against each other, with potentially disastrous consequences for social stability, equality and our chances to combat global warming.

Good water governance is crucial, since it recognises the true value of water, encourages innovation, tackles pollution and waste, and ensures that both humans and nature get their fair share of limited water resources.

Using the climate crisis to unleash a new era of innovation

We may be on the cusp of a promising new era of social and environmental innovation. Thanks to important advances in Earth monitoring, we have a much better understanding of how different natural processes and ecosystems are connected.

This knowledge, coupled with new digital tools, makes it possible to develop industry, energy and agriculture in a much more sustainable direction, with less water and energy input.

We must use this opportunity to set the world on a new course, where water is at the core of climate policy.