Over a quarter of the world’s land will dry up if the atmospheric temperature rises by two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in the next three decades, the upper limit for the global average temperature rise set by nations under the Paris Climate Change Agreement, says a new study in Nature Climate Change journal.
The regions that stand to be affected the most from desertification as a result of two degree rise in average temperatures include southeast Asia, southern Europe, southern Africa, central America, and, coastal Australia. Based on the bias-corrected projections done by the scientists, the stretch of land from the western frontier of India all the way to the western coast of Africa stands out as the largest contiguous region most likely to affected by desertification from climate change. This includes some of the most populated areas in Pakistan.
Keeping Global Warming within 1.5°C Constrains Emergence of Aridification is an outcome of collaborative research by an international team of scientists.
Read more: The Perils of Inaction on Climate Change
The study argues that large scale aridification in many regions of the world can only be avoided if the global average temperature rise is limited to 1.5 C. Based on projections derived from 27 different models for climate change, the research suggests that in the worst case scenario a temperature rise of up to two degree Celsius will lead to desertification in about 32 percent of Earth’s landmass.
An article published by the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change cites the study and says that increased desertification will cause more droughts and wildfires, severely affecting agriculture and global food production and impacting rural lives and livelihoods.
It calls upon the nations party to the Paris Accord to take stronger and faster climate action to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. “Such measures can be crucial to preventing the aridification crisis,” it says.
In December last year, a study published in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, had argued that adaptation measures like planting trees alone would no longer suffice to keep global warming to well below two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels. To ensure that Paris Accord are met, the signatories to the agreement needed to undertake aggressive mitigation measures to reduce emission of greenhouse gases, the study suggested.
Under the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, 172 countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to limit the rise of global average temperatures to well below two degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 C. The UNFCCC article cautions that one degree Celsius of that rise has already occurred, stressing that there is little time to act.