Tech90% of global population at risk. Amplified heatwaves and droughts threaten desiccating Earth

90% of global population at risk. Amplified heatwaves and droughts threaten desiccating Earth

The map shows a disturbance in the Earth's energy budget balance.
The map shows a disturbance in the Earth's energy budget balance.
Images source: © NASA

1:21 AM EST, January 17, 2024

This research, conducted at Oxford's School of Geography and featured in Nature Sustainability, suggests that nearly everyone could experience severe impacts from extreme heatwaves and drought. The scientists point to the ecological threats, like the reduced potential for atmospheric CO2 reduction, and social issues, such as widening social disparities.

According to the grimmest scenario, ongoing global warming could magnify these issues tenfold in the upcoming years. Record temperatures experienced in 2022 predict a further increase in global temperatures. Dr. Jiabo Yin of Wuhan University and Oxford's Professor Louise Slater argue that the combined effects of heatwaves and drought pose a greater threat to society and ecosystems than considering these factors separately.

The scientists warn that heatwaves and droughts will disproportionately affect rural communities and poorer societies, thereby exacerbating social inequalities. "Over 90% of the global population could be at risk from the effects of heatwaves and droughts, which could irreversibly alter the climate we're accustomed to," is the commentary on the research reports.

For the new studies, a vast collection of data was utilized, with artificial intelligence facilitating the analysis. This approach enabled verification of a much larger volume of data, leading to more credible findings. The designed model also accurately depicted "ecosystems' responses to factors such as extreme heatwaves and droughts."

Prof. Slater explains, "Understanding the escalating threats in a warming Earth is crucial for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG13, which aims to combat climate change and its impacts. By linking atmospheric and hydrological dynamics, we examine the role of water and energy budgets in causing these extremes."

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