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Warming planet already altering our climate system

There are fears that a warming planet is already fundamentally altering how the climate system operates. This is not only earlier than expected, but scientists are also unable to explain the recent temperature increases, says the Water, Peace and Security Quarterly Update.

According to researchers, the summer of 2023 was the hottest in 2,000 years. Scientists are worried that pronounced increases in air and ocean temperatures over the past year could signal a shift of the planet’s climate into overdrive. 

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This is especially concerning as we see deadly high temperatures across Asia throughout April and May 2024 affecting millions of people. According to one expert, thousands of records have fallen across at least a half dozen countries. In northern India temperatures of 52°C, have led to reports of heat-related deaths, water shortages and wildfires.

In addition, an ongoing deadly heatwave in Africa, including the highest temperature ever recorded, and continuing severe droughts have contributed to conflicts, according to the latest Water, Peace and Security (WPS) quarterly update

“In sub-Saharan Africa, we have seen increases in conflict, with six military coups in the last five years. This is not a coincidence: it has to do with the increasing pressure on resources caused by drought,” said WPS head Yasir Mohamed, IHE Delft Associate Professor of Water Resources Management.

“When we understand the drivers behind water-related conflicts, we can change the dynamic from violence into cooperation, leading to peacebuilding.”

Flooding after heaviest rainfall in 75 years

In Kenya, floods and landslides have killed 200 people since March and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. Sudan is also facing a risk of flooding due to high water levels and militia control of the Jebel Aulia dam. Central Sudan faces a high risk of food shortage as farmers flee conflict.

In 2020-2022, flooding triggered conflicts as local communities searched for higher ground. As a result, the WPS long-term forecast currently predicts ongoing conflict in all regions of Ethiopia and many regions of Kenya.  

The WPS partnership was formed in 2019 to mitigate potential water-related conflict in four regions: Mali, Iraq, Ethiopia and Kenya. Its impact, however, reaches beyond these countries. The partnership aims to turn cycles of water-related violent conflict into cycles of water-based peace and cooperation.

It does so by raising awareness and facilitating dialogue and helping people, institutions and countries develop capacity. 

The quarterly update, based on the findings of the WPS Global Early Warning Tool, highlights several areas of Africa, Asia and the Middle East to watch over the next 12 months for insecurity fuelled by climate and water challenges.

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