Scientists predict more floods, droughts

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Scientists predicted Thursday that climate change in coming decades will cause more flooding in the Northern Hemisphere and droughts in some southern and arid zones.
In addition, they said that some areas around the Mediterranean, parts of southern Africa, northeastern Brazil and the western U.S. region will likely suffer water shortages.

Rajendra Pachauri, the chief U.N. climate scientist, said at the end of a meeting in Budapest that the rising frequency and intensity of floods and droughts could lead to a food crisis.

“We may see a decline in agriculture production,” said Pachauri, who is also chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared last year’s Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.

An IPCC report presented at the meeting said the decline of water quantity and quality would lead to shortages of water for drinking and agriculture.

Millions of Africans could be afflicted by such water problems by 2020, unless action is taken to mitigate climate change, experts said.

While the proportion of heavy rainfalls will very likely increase, so will the areas simultaneously affected by extreme droughts.

One of the co-authors of the IPCC report said water issues would be one of the main problems of climate change.

“Everybody pretty much agrees that water is central to the way climate change is going to affect ecosystems and every human being,” said Kathleen Miller, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Miller mentioned deltas of major rivers in Asia, such as the Mekong, as one of the areas where floods were an increasing concern.

“Those places will be much more vulnerable,” Miller said.

She said that in the U.S. “there’s a high likelihood of the west getting drier.”

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AP science writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this report from Washington D.C.

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