Water is a vital necessity for life on earth. This applies regardless of whether they are plants and trees or mammals and humans. In a climate of balance, where the changes take place over a long period of time, nature is able to adapt along the way both by moving and by becoming resilient to the threats the changes bring.
The problems arise only when the changes go too fast, and adaptation is not possible in the traditional way. This is exactly where we currently see the greatest risks of climate change going on in our time. The threats that water causes us are linked to both too much water and too little water – and both are problems for nature and thus for man.
The nature and the Earth will survive. There will probably be major changes in the composition of the species, but when some species die out, others will come. This is how it happened throughout the life of Earth. Therefore, our concern is almost exclusively focused on our own existence – that is, human existence on Earth. We have made it difficult for ourselves.
Sudden incidents in the form of heavy rainfall create floods. At present, we see it in northeastern Australia, where the authorities were forced to release water out of a dam reservoir because there was a risk of damburst. It created great floods in the town of Townsville, where the nearby river’s animals like crocodiles and snakes could freely swim around in the city streets.
Another type of threat is the longer term. A new report on the massive ice masses in the Himalayas tells the story of the melting that is in progress and which only increases in pace as the temperature rise. That is not surprising in itself, but the consequences are now described in this report. For the approx. two billion people living in the area the melting is a coming disaster. Initially, an increased meltdown could cause flooding – not least if glacial lakes suddenly break through natural barriers. In the longer term, the drought threatens when the glaciers are gone. In the long-term perspective, it is possible to counter some of the consequences with better infrastructure such as water reservoirs, but it will be expensive.
It may well be that in Europe we can protect ourselves against cloudbursts and the relatively modest floods we see, but the world’s poor countries with very vulnerable populations need help.
In Somalia, prolonged drought gave rise to famine. When the rain came, it caused great flooding because the soil after the drought was unable to absorb the water. Somalia is an example of the great extremes we are experiencing in these years.
So water from above, water from below with rising groundwater and water from the side from rising water levels must give thoughts to both politicians and populations. We need to stabilize the climate while recognizing the size of the problem. Without such recognition, it will be impossible to do anything efficiently.