The Human Face of Climate Change

Sometimes the climate change debate looks very complicated – technical fixes proliferate, and experts argue about carbon pricing and appropriate discount rates. Yet, within the complexity, there is a very simple truth: for a decade or more, we have known that it was risky to go on emitting greenhouse gases, yet we have utterly failed to take credible steps to stop.

A clever new gadget was described in a newspaper a few weeks ago. It pulls water out of the atmosphere and delivers you a glass of clean, chilled H2O. It’s wonderful what technology can offer for the wealthy.

But there is no such luck for millions of Africans who face disruption to the rainfall on which their crops, livestock, and families depend. For them, climate change can be expected to bring more erratic and uncertain storms, with no guarantee of water in the well, bucket, and field.

Water lies at the heart of life, whether for drinking and washing, irrigating crops, watering cattle, or generating power. Those of us who live with wet weather tend to curse it, but if we faced week after week of blistering sun with no prospect of clouds in sight, we would be in real trouble. Nearly a billion people on the planet manage their lives with serious water shortages, and their circumstances are only likely to worsen with climate change and rapid urbanization.

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