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Climate change, not population growth, plays the main role in predicting extreme droughts, study reveals

Date:
June 13, 2016
Source:
Stony Brook University
Summary:
Common belief states that the dominant factor determining water scarcity in the next few decades will be population growth. However, according to a new study, it's climate change -- not population growth – that plays the main role in predicting future exposure to extreme droughts.
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L to R: Dean and Director of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Minghua Zhang, Associate Professor of Political Science Oleg Smirnov, and Graduate Student Tingyin Xiao.
Credit: Stony Brook University

Common belief states that the dominant factor determining water scarcity in the next few decades will be population growth. However, according to a new study by Stony Brook University, it's climate change -- not population growth -- that plays the main role in predicting future exposure to extreme droughts.

The study published in Climatic Change: "The relative importance of climate change and population growth for exposure to future extreme droughts," looks at the future global and national populations' exposure to extreme drought, based on an ensemble of 16 climate models and UN population growth projections.

The results imply that cutting greenhouse gas emissions should be the primary policy response for decreasing the number of people exposed to future extreme droughts. Population growth, while playing an important role for populations' drought exposure in some countries, is a less significant force, one for which developing nations should not be held responsible.

Among the highlights:

•By the end of the century (2081-2100), the number of people exposed to extreme drought will increase by 426.6% relative to the present, under the business-as-usual emissions.

•Climate change alone is responsible for 59.5% of the increase.

•Population growth alone is responsible for 9.2% of the increase.

•Climate change and population growth combined effect (technically, "interaction") is responsible for 31.4%.

•129 countries will experience increase in drought exposure mainly due to climate change alone.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Stony Brook University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Oleg Smirnov, Minghua Zhang, Tingyin Xiao, John Orbell, Amy Lobben, Josef Gordon. The relative importance of climate change and population growth for exposure to future extreme droughts. Climatic Change, 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s10584-016-1716-z

Cite This Page:

Stony Brook University. "Climate change, not population growth, plays the main role in predicting extreme droughts, study reveals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 June 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160613165159.htm>.
Stony Brook University. (2016, June 13). Climate change, not population growth, plays the main role in predicting extreme droughts, study reveals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160613165159.htm
Stony Brook University. "Climate change, not population growth, plays the main role in predicting extreme droughts, study reveals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160613165159.htm (accessed May 24, 2017).

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