Oft Overlooked Challenge of the Future: Droughts

Peter B. deMenocal, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University, writes in Orion Magazine:

…most climate scientists today agree that Earth’s climate is warming and changing as a result of human activity, and that the projected changes in coming decades will affect nearly all parts of the globe. This combination of exceptional risk and uncertainty has led to a lack of clear consensus among policy makers on how to address the global warming crisis. National-level planning and preparation for current and future climate change remain mired in dysfunction and polarized along a scientific/political divide. There are those who are convinced that there is a big problem and those who would make the case that there is no problem at all. A path of least resistance has led to a cul-de-sac of inaction…

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to society, however, and one often overlooked, is the likelihood of drought events more severe than any we have experienced. The continental interiors, home to the breadbaskets of North America and Eurasia, are projected to become markedly drier in future decades, leading to a greater frequency of protracted regional drought. How a modern, urbanized society of today might respond to a period of pervasive, extended drought is yet to be seen, but climate history may offer some lessons in at least understanding the effects of this aspect of our climatically uncertain future.

More here.