Water is at the heart of the climate crisis, with an increasingly dire carousel of droughts, floods and sea level rise felt “making our planet uninhabitable” the secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, has warned.
On the second day of the first UN water conference in almost half a century, countries lined up to describe how they are suffering from water disasters linked to human-made global heating. “We seem to either have too much water, or too little,” said Senzo Mchunu, South Africa’s water minister. “We will fail on climate change if we fail on water.”
Last year more than 40,000 people, half of them children, died from drought in Somalia while a third of Pakistan was inundated after catastrophic floods. Agricultural yields have fallen sharply in parts of Europe and China after a string of drought years, and last month Cyclone Freddy brought catastrophic floods to southern Africa.
“Humanity faces a difficult truth – climate change is making our planet uninhabitable,” said Guterres on Thursday. “As countries hurtle past the 1.5C limit (2.7F), climate change is intensifying heatwaves, droughts, flooding, wildfires and famines, while threatening to submerge low-lying countries and cities and drive more species to extinction.”
The conference is expected to culminate on Friday in the Water Action Agenda – a non-binding collection of commitments that advocates hope will snowball into binding agreements at Cop28.