Climate Change Impact And Adaptation Strategies On Water Resources
In recent years, the international community expresses the growing concern over the changes in the Earth’s climate. Today, it is widely recognized that climatic conditions change quickly both globally and regionally. The evident occurrence of major weather anomalies that are prevalent in recent years in large areas of the Earth is disturbing. Shrestha (2014) suggests “Although there are both natural and anthropogenic causes of climate change, yet the contribution of human factors has been identified as more remarkable” (p. 1). It can be said without exaggeration that the global warming problem assumes the character of one of the crucial threats to human survival. Global warming and associated climate change could create serious problems in the future. The interest in the causes and consequences of global climate change motivated the appearance of the enormous number of studies. The research interest includes the identification of adaptive properties of human, development of adjustment measures in different sectors of the economy, and neutralization of possible socio-economic changes in society. The most important study is the forecast of changes in water resources and hydrological characteristics of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Researchers affirm that because of the global warming and climate change around the world, people will experience problems with water resources. Therefore, many countries worldwide introduce the adaptation strategies on water resources today. The purpose of the current research paper is to study the problem of climate change and identify adaptation strategies for water resources.
Climate Change and its Impact on the Environment
Global anthropogenic influence on the climate system, which is reflected in the rapid increase of heat emissions and the carbon dioxide content, leads to the conclusion about the possibility of catastrophic global warming in the future (Brezina 2008). The author John Hardy (2009) states that “However, it is the rare trace gases, that is, carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone that have the greatest effect on our climate” (p. 3). The aforementioned are greenhouse gases. Many researchers consider the problem of climate change mainly in a tandem with the greenhouse effect. Liqiang Xu (2014) states that “Although the reasons for warming are sometimes debated, the theory of green house effect is overwhelming” (p. 1). Currently, global climate change caused by the greenhouse effect is the most important international and political problem (Doyle 2011). In general, global temperature has increased by about 0.3-0.6 degrees over the same period of time (Dessler 2011). In the book Introduction to Modern Climate Change, the author affirms that “The increase in daily minimum temperature is only 0.9 degrees, and it might be tempting to dismiss this as unimportant” (Dessler 2011, p. 5). However, the temperature factor is crucial. Prognostic estimates show that with a doubling of carbon dioxide by 2030-2040, the temperature will rise overall by 3-40 degrees – about 0.2 – 0.50 degrees per decade (Dessler 2011).
Climate changes will have an impact on natural ecosystems. The rate of change may be so high that some of them will not adapt to the new climatic conditions. Main vegetation zones will undergo significant changes. Liqiang Xu (2014) writes that “Climate change can significantly influence macrostructures of organisms, e.g. population size, foraging behavior, and reproductive strategy” (p. 2).
Climate Change and its Impact on Water Resources
Climate change and water resources are connected. “Changes in the hydrological cycle have a direct impact on droughts, floods, water resources, and ecosystem services” (Shrestha, Babel, & Pandey 2014, p. 21). Global climate change can lead to considerable after-effects for water resources. Some countries are already experiencing the challenges. In the near future, countries around the world will face the increased intensity and frequency of droughts and floods, processes of sedimentation and erosion, water scarcity, the rise of the sea-level, as well as reduced ice and snow cover (Fung, Lopez, & New 2009). The influence of climate change on water resources will have an effect on society, economy, and human health (Backlund 2009). The reason is that different sectors including tourism, agriculture, navigation, energy and hydropower, health, as well as the environment protection are directly dependent on water resources (Shrestha 2014). It is expected that in the future, the depletion of water resources caused by unfavorable weather conditions will be the reason for the decline in agricultural production in many countries around the world.
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Challenges to Predict Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources
The study of the causes and consequences of global climate change gave rise to the conduction of the colossal amount of researches. Scientists try to make a forecast how climate change will affect the Earth. In particular, scientists try to predict how these changes will affect the changes in water resources and hydrological characteristics of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. This forecast is the most difficult because researchers should take into account a large number of influencing factors and mechanisms of positive and negative connections (Letcher 2009). Thus, the increase in precipitation usually causes the increase in the runoff. Nevertheless, in some regions, even a significant increase of precipitation will not increase the flow due to evaporative losses. It is difficult to predict accurately regional changes in precipitation, and therefore, the runoff because the modeling of precipitation is known for its low quality. In such a way, it is possible only in general terms to predict the response of natural and manned river systems on the various scenarios of climate change. However, this forecast is of special importance (Bergkamp, Orlando & Burton 2003). Without knowledge of the upcoming changes in hydrological characteristics, it is impossible to forecast the state of water management and the development of preventive measures for adaptation.
Challenges to Implement Climate Change Adaption Strategies on Water Resources
Adaptation issues to climate change are vitally important. They are inseparable from the issues of the sustainable development. It is necessary to develop a whole range of measures to adapt to climate changes. However, nowadays, many countries experience various challenges to implement climate change adaptation strategies on water resources (Birch 2009). First of all, this situation is associated with poor financing. In a survey of adaptation actions in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, it is noted that countries are not sure what actions should be taken in the area of costs. Moreover, most countries are considering the state budget as the only source of funding. Only in a few countries of the region, the interested parties are involved in the financing of adaptation measures. The experience of many countries in the area of financing of adaptation of water management to climate change is limited (OECD 2013). In such a way, one of the main challenges is insufficient financing.
A specific challenge to water management is associated with the fact that almost on half of the surface area of the Earth, runoff is implemented by international river basins. Moreover, the numerous underground water resources are also cross-bordered. This character of water resources creates the economic, social, and hydrological relationship between countries. This situation gives the international character to the adaptation to climate change (United Nations 2009). It can lead to obvious security implications – the increased risk of the emergence of the conflict as a result of the competing use of water resources leading to depletion. There is also a risk that countries will adopt unilateral measures with possible negative consequences for the riparian countries. Thus, apart from the uncertainty of climate impacts and insufficient funding, countries are faced with the uncertainty of the reactions of neighbors. Cross-border cooperation is needed to prevent the negative impact of unilateral measures and coordination of adaptation efforts at the level of the river basin (United Nations 2009). It makes the management of transboundary water resources one of the most important issues today and in the future.
Ways to Overcome the Challenges on Climate Change Prediction on Water Resources
Nowadays, scientists make various predictions on the consequences of climate change in the future. “The IPCC and scientists agree that mistakes that oversights are unacceptable” (Ray 2011, p. 4). IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios contains projections of increasing of global GHG emissions by 25-90% between 2000 and 2030 while maintaining dominant position of fossil fuels in the global energy mix by 2030 and beyond (Ray 2011). Emissions of greenhouse gases would cause further warming. In the future, they would result in many changes in the global climate system including changes in water resources. The area of snow cover will decrease. The depth of thawing in most areas of permafrost will increase. In some projections using SRES scenarios, Arctic sea ice will completely disappear by the end of the XXI century. Precipitation increase in high latitudes is highly probable. However, their number will likely decrease in most subtropical land regions, as evidenced by the nature of the observed changes in the latest trends (Ray 2011).
Despite the fact that scientists cannot fully predict the influence of climate change on water resources, the results of climate projections and meteorological data provide reasonable grounds to believe that water resources are highly vulnerable to climate change and may be subjected to serious impacts with huge consequences for ecosystems and society. The fact that many countries are already experiencing the negative consequences of climate change gives reason to believe that these consequences will only increase in the future (Shaw, Pulhin & Pereira, 2010). They include the growing problems of water scarcity, increasing the frequency of droughts and floods, rising sea levels, the reduction of the ice and snow cover, and others.
Ways to Overcome the Challenges on Climate Change Adaption Strategies on Water Resource
Adaptation of water resources to global climate change against the background of the general trend of increasing water consumption can only be achieved through the more efficient use of fresh water and the simultaneous expansion of the water protection activities. A greater effect can be achieved if people change their attitude toward water use (Younos & Grady 2014). Also, the municipal authorities should reconsider their policy of planning and management of water resources. First of all, people should change established habits of water use and overuse. However, the measures, especially the education of the population, do not give quick results. Their effect is manifested only after some time. Nevertheless, some of the strategies can be used directly during extreme weather conditions (Alvarez, Rossi, Vagliasindi, & Mayorga 2005). While planning to reduce the pressure of the water supply or reduce its scope, it is necessary to take into account the location and needs of vulnerable groups, or spheres of activity. For example, all buildings require a minimum amount of water for domestic use and drinking. It is undesirable to cut the water supply to medical institutions and certain categories of the population (Filho 2011).
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Climate change adaptation strategies on water resources include improvement of the rational use of water resources, the introduction of economic incentives for efficient water use, rehabilitation of existing and construction of new water installations, and preservation of the runoff formation zone of the rivers – the restoration and planting of forest plantations, observance of the regime of water protection zones of water bodies (Stucker & Lopez-Gunn 2014). Adaptation strategies also include restoration and maintenance of the system for monitoring after climatic parameters, raise awareness of the qualitative and quantitative state of water resources, strengthening of international cooperation in the conservation and use of transboundary water bodies, as well as increase public awareness. Transition countries are more vulnerable against the adverse effects of climate change (Filho 2011). Therefore, the implementation of plans for adaptation to climate change will require large financial investments.
Most researchers affirm that water resources can be under threat in the near future. The potential danger is associated with the global climate change of the planet. It will have great consequences for the ecosystem and humanity. Some countries have already developed adaptation strategies for the water resources. Adjustment to climate change is an economic, social, and moral necessity. People should change their water habits and act now. Many countries are already experiencing some of the consequences of climate change and pay in social and economic terms for it. Thus, management of water resources should be a principal element in the adaptation strategy of any country.