Enjoy it while you can. If the National Center for Atmospheric Research is right, the ecological future for the United States and other heavily populated countries is grim. In a study published on Tuesday, NCAR warns that coming decades will be marked by increasing drought conditions capped off by warming temperatures that reach levels by the end of the century "rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times."
"We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community," according to NCAR) scientist and study team member Aiguo Dai. "If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous."
But before booking a one-way ticket to Mars, a note of caution. The study's estimate is pegged to guestimates of future emissions rates for greenhouse gases. To be sure, things may turn out to be as bad as the report suggests. Then again, countries are working hard to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas production and if they are successful, the NCAR doomsday scenario will wind up on the shelves next to a volume of Malthus.
According to the study, the western two-thirds of the United States will be hardest hit and likely turn significantly drier by the 2030s. Other potential problem regions include:
- Latin America, including large sections of Mexico and Brazil
Regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea
Large parts of Southwest Asia
- Most of Africa and Australia, with particularly dry conditions in regions of Africa Southeast Asia, including parts of China and neighboring countries
On the plus side, the study predicts reduced drought risk for much of Northern Europe, Russia, Canada, and Alaska.