Droughts have always existed, but they are becoming more frequent and severe. In the last two decades they have affected 1.4 billion people in the world and have increased in number and duration almost 30% since 2000. Although Africa is experiencing the greatest increase in the severity and frequency of this phenomenon, it is gradually affecting all continents, from Asia and the Pacific to Europe.
It is estimated that by 2050 more than three quarters of the world’s population could be affected by drought and 216 million people could be forced to migrate. If things don’t change, we’re heading for a world where fresh water and rich, fertile soil are just a dream, not for millions of people, but for billions of people. This is likely to lead to tensions, famines and huge economic losses that affect us all in this globally connected world and will hamper progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, including Zero Hunger (Goal 2) and Clean Water and Sanitation (Goal 2). 6).
However, there is hope. Unlike many other natural and man-made hazards, droughts are highly predictable and occur slowly and cyclically. That means we’re ahead of them, which is crucial. They don’t have to turn into disasters.
The solution lies in massive knowledge sharing, training, good governance and adequate funding. All communities feeling the impact of the climate crisis need support to adapt their farming and land management practices, restore degraded land and build the resilience to recover.
Unlike many other natural and man-made hazards, droughts are highly predictable and occur slowly and cyclically
Forests play a key role in this: deforestation and forest degradation reinforce the conditions for drought to become catastrophic and for floods, forest fires and sandstorms to have devastating consequences. Restoring the green masses that have been depleted in recent decades will drastically reduce the impact of droughts.
Enormous efforts are being made to protect the world from these phenomena and progress is being made; Perhaps the most impressive is the African Great Green Wall initiative. By 2030, this measure aims to restore 100 million hectares on this continent alone, while the Initiative to restore African forests (AFR100) indicates a total of another 100 million hectares. In addition, another 200 million hectares are planned as part of the Pan-African Agenda for Ecosystem Restoration. through the Action against desertificationThe Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) developed an innovative large-scale model, and since 2014 the project has restored 70,000 hectares in 11 countries.
As encouraging as these achievements are and how today marks them World Day to Combat Desertification and Droughtwe must recognize that we are only approaching the problem when in fact we urgently need to solve it.
Why are we in this situation?
What is needed is truly determined political will to deliver on commitments of the kind made by more than 140 countries at the Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 in Glasgow last year stop and turn back Forest loss and land degradation by 2030.
The agreements and targets laid down in recent years are not legally binding, which makes them little more than air unless governments make them a priority. Governments need to show they mean business and put systems and policies in place to bring about the changes we need at scale. They need to ensure that all stakeholders are involved and, most importantly, they need to get the funding they need to make it all happen.
It is wrong economics not to invest enough now to do what is necessary to meet the goals we have set for 2030 and beyond. Between 1998 and 2017, droughts caused around $124,000 million (€119,000 million) in economic damage worldwide. If global warming reaches the predicted 3 degrees Celsius by 2100, the damage caused could be five times what it is today.
Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, along with improved water management practices and land regeneration, is expected to significantly reduce the likelihood of extreme drought events.
It is well known that every US dollar is invested in restoring the earth has the potential to generate $7 to $30, but governments seem to have trouble justifying investment in prevention rather than cure. Flagship of last month’s FAO publication, The state of the world’s forests, stressed that restoration is one of the top three ways to prevent environmental degradation while increasing resilience and transforming the economy. And it’s in progress too United Nations Decade for Ecosystem Restoration.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown in a very painful way what happens if we don’t invest to prepare for the disasters we know will happen. We have to think about the world we want to leave behind for future generations and act decisively.