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Continental and global effects of different ΔTg levels

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posted on 2013-09-12, 00:00 authored by Dieter Gerten, Rachel Warren, Johann Rastgooy, Zbigniew W Kundzewicz, Holger Kreft, Martin Kowarsch, Jens Heinke, Sebastian Ostberg, Wolfgang Lucht, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

Table 1.  Continental and global effects of different ΔTg levels. Top: millions of people living in river basins characterized by chronic water scarcity (<1000 m3 cap−1 yr−1) (cases (2) and (4)), either with or without B1 and A2r future population change. People in water-scarce basins that show an aggravation of scarcity according to case (1) (see figure 3(a)) are not counted here. Numbers in brackets denote the changes (relative to the present) that are solely due to climate change. Bottom: number of unique biogeographic regions (out of 90) exposed to severe biogeochemical or vegetation structural shifts. All values refer to changes with >50% confidence, simulated under at least 10 of the 19 GCM patterns.


This modelling study demonstrates at what level of global mean temperature rise (ΔTg) regions will be exposed to significant decreases of freshwater availability and changes to terrestrial ecosystems. Projections are based on a new, consistent set of 152 climate scenarios (eight ΔTg trajectories reaching 1.5–5 ° C above pre-industrial levels by 2100, each scaled with spatial patterns from 19 general circulation models). The results suggest that already at a ΔTg of 2 ° C and mainly in the subtropics, higher water scarcity would occur in >50% out of the 19 climate scenarios. Substantial biogeochemical and vegetation structural changes would also occur at 2 ° C, but mainly in subpolar and semiarid ecosystems. Other regions would be affected at higher ΔTg levels, with lower intensity or with lower confidence. In total, mean global warming levels of 2 ° C, 3.5 ° C and 5 ° C are simulated to expose an additional 8%, 11% and 13% of the world population to new or aggravated water scarcity, respectively, with >50% confidence (while ~1.3 billion people already live in water-scarce regions). Concurrently, substantial habitat transformations would occur in biogeographic regions that contain 1% (in zones affected at 2 ° C), 10% (3.5 ° C) and 74% (5 ° C) of present endemism-weighted vascular plant species, respectively. The results suggest nonlinear growth of impacts along with ΔTg and highlight regional disparities in impact magnitudes and critical ΔTg levels.