Rising Sea Levels Are Bad, But Drought Could Be Much Worse

Both are being exacerbated by climate change, but the threat to civilization caused by drought is more immediate, with one study suggesting that it may have influenced current Middle East unrest.

What's the Latest Development?

While recent reports of climate change impacts involve too much water -- as in rising sea levels and stronger storms -- many researchers say that the more immediate threat to civilization is drought. A new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research published this week predicts that up to 500 million people will experience water scarcity by 2100...and that's a best-case scenario. In a worse case, that number could double, with most of those affected living in North Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

What's the Big Idea?

Meteorologist Jeff Masters says stories about droughts "[aren't] as exciting; people don't run away from giant droughts like they do with hurricanes." However, he also notes that throughout history, drought has helped cause the demise of many civilizations. Some researchers, such as Francesco Femia of the Center for Climate and Security, have formed a possible link between water scarcity and recent Middle East instability. A drought that was blamed on climate change destroyed nearly 75 percent of Syria's crops and forced over a million people from rural areas into the cities, a migration that may have helped contribute to the unrest happening now.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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