Select Page


DATE: October 24, 2017

SNIP: It is by now a familiar story: The storm hits, the cities flood, dramatic rescues ensue to save people from the rising waters, followed by the arduous and expensive cleanup.

But chances are you’ve thought less about the deadly and economically destructive consequences of a slower-moving culprit: drought.

Repeated droughts around the world are destroying enough farm produce to feed 81 million people for a year and are four times more costly for economies than floods, the World Bank found in a new study. Beyond hindering food production, erratic rainfall patterns and longer droughts as the climate changes are causing a host of problems for cities, including businesses.

“There are many, many parts of the globe where the one-in-50 year ‘dry shock’ appears in six out of the last 10 years for which we have data,” he said. “There are other parts of the world where these dry shocks have emerged for seven or eight of the last 10 years. This is not a problem for the future — it’s a problem for the here and now.”

Dwindling supply makes it more likely that water becomes stagnant or contaminated. People may wash their hands less if they are conserving, leading to disease. And children may fail to grow normally, stunting development and raising health costs, Damania said.

On farms, the consequences are also grim for the food supply and the planet, the study found. Below-average rainfall over years hurts crop yields and pushes farmers into forests, cutting down a natural “climate stabilizer.” That leads to more drought, exacerbating the problem.

Other research predicts food shortages and price increases may triple by 2040 because of extreme and erratic weather brought on by climate change.