Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water, and energy. We need to move away from a piecemeal, crisis-driven approach and develop integrated risk-based national drought policies.
WMO has joined with the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and other U.N. partners to warn global leaders that an inter-connected world needs integrated drought planning rather than the current piecemeal approach.
Drought in the U.S. and parts of Canada has destroyed grain crops and wiped out hay production. The National Climatic Data Center is calling it the worst drought since 1956, affecting 62.9 percent of the contiguous U.S.
In Africa, Michael Zamba describes a drive across drought-stricken regions of Mauritania where he witnessed a stark and barren landscape:
[T]he desert is punctuated by slowly decaying animal carcasses among the thorn trees and leafless baobabs. Each carcass represents a piece of the calamity for rural communities in this West African nation, which depend on livestock to generate income.
Meanwhile, England is losing its reputation as a water-logged country. Several years of dry winters have emptied rivers and lowered water flow. Sarah Vrba wrote in April:
The vast majority of England has been recently classified as experiencing official drought conditions, according to The Guardian. This means that water supply companies can choose to apply restrictions on residential and business water usage.
The list goes on. India, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Mexico are all suffering significant drought. While fields burn, crops wither, livestock suffer, and water sources shrink, government and business leaders continue to focus on self-interest, concentrating more on elections and profits than the fate of the planet.
In an attempt to form consensus on drought action that will cut across political jurisdictions, WMO, UNCDD and other U.N. partners are planning a High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy for March 11-15, 2013. Whether the meeting in Geneva will be more successful than previous attempts at creating consensus around critical issues is yet to be seen.
What is certain is that without a willingness to embrace coordinated action, we are all on the same train, pulled by an engine headed toward a cliff. The time for playing the you-first game has long passed.
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Photo of Horn of Africa drought via Wikimedia Commons
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