Lethal heatwaves have broken records across Europe and Asia, and more than a 100 million people were under a severe heat warning in the US.
These are among the kinds of climactic events highlighted by a Christian Aid report which showed how the climate crisis is increasing the severity of drought in 10 of the world’s major cities.
Despite covering more than 70 per cent of the earth’s surface, only three per cent of the world’s water is suitable for drinking. Of this fresh water, 70 per cent is locked in glaciers and ice caps. Less than 0.01 per cent of all fresh water worldwide is available for human use in lakes, rivers and reservoirs.
Despite this, Christian Aid analysis shows global water use grew at more than twice the rate of population increase over the course of the 20th century.
This month saw the world’s hottest day, July 4, and scientists also announced that “we’ve just experienced world’s hottest June on record”. Heatwaves are currently gripping three continents. Along with Europe and North America, Asia is also battling record temperatures.
The highest temperature in China, 52.2C, was recorded on July 16, and follows heat records in India falling in February. It suffered from blistering temperatures in April which saw 11 people dying from heatstroke on a single day.
Even in the UK, London has experienced heatwaves in recent years and the CEO of the Environment Agency, James Bevan, warned that within 25 years London and the South East of England could run out of water. The cost of a severe drought to London’s economy is estimated by Thames Water to be 330m pounds per day, and would have severe economic, social and environmental consequences.
The Environment Agency has said that by 2050 some rivers will see 50 to 80 per cent less water during the summer months.
Christian Aid’s Climate Justice Policy Lead, Illari Aragon, said: “The heatwaves currently afflicting three different continents are a sign that we are already living in a climate crisis and there is worse to come if we don’t act faster to cut emissions and provide better support to vulnerable communities.
“For many in some of the poorest countries this level of heat is unbearable and they lack the resources and infrastructure to cope. Scientists have warned this kind of future was coming and it’s harrowing to see those predictions coming true. These record heatwaves need to be a wake-up call for the world that we cannot carry on as we have been.
“We need a radical shift to get off fossil fuels and get vital funds to people suffering on the frontline of climate breakdown.”
In 2018, after extended drought, Cape Town came within days of becoming the first major city in the world to run out of water. ‘Day Zero’, when the taps for four million inhabitants would be turned off, was averted after emergency measures were implemented to cut the city’s water usage by 50 per cent.
The 10 cities featured in the report are Sydney, Harare, Sao Paulo, Phoenix, Beijing, Kabul, New Delhi, Cape Town, Cairo and London. The danger of city droughts is only set to get worse without action to address climate change. Currently, 55 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, with this set to rise to 68 per cent by 2050.