Climate change is just that -- a shift of weather patterns. It doesn't actually matter whether patterns change because of human activities or because of changes in solar flares or shifts in the magnetic core of the planet. It is thoroughly documented that the global ocean temperature is rising and photographs indicate an increasing loss of glaciers in polar regions as well as high mountain ranges.
Humans have survived over the years because they are great at adapting to different living conditions. Humans can adapt to the current climate change if necessary. The problem with the current shift is that (in geologic terms) it seems to be happening so quickly. Effects are being noticed within a single lifetime rather than after generations. One serious problem that is arising is that of water distribution.
Water distribution is very important for crop growth, animal husbandry, and basic survival. Politicians may hold snowballs for dramatic effect but, for every snowstorm, there is also a new heat wave and drought. It is likely that crops that have required a certain mixture of days of sunshine and amount of water will no longer have the conditions they require in that same region. So, shifts in climate brings along a need to change crop management and decisions as to what to plant.
Problems of water distribution can be classified into five categories:
- Storage. Much of our fresh water is stored in snowpacks and glaciers. During the spring, summer, and fall, they melt and provide new water supplies when rain is not present. As the glaciers of the Himalayas, Sierras, polar regions, and other ranges disappear, they will not be able to continue to provide fresh water supplies. Alternate means of storage are necessary. Huge reservoirs will be needed to take the place of the snowpacks and glaciers.
- Rising Sea Levels. The amount of rising sea levels is unknown. If all of the snowpacks melt (including all of Antarctica) then a rise of over 200 feet is possible. This will drastically change our coastlines and many of our most populous cities are near the coastline. People will not just lose their beachfront properties but entire states and islands could vanish beneath the sea. These people will need to be relocated.
- Redistribution. There may be as much total precipitation as ever. However, the locations where it comes down (as rain or snow) will change -- weather patterns and local climates will change. As mentioned above, this will require shifts in crop plantings (note that some areas will receive more rain while others receive less) as well as general harvesting and crop planning. Denser areas of human population will also be affected with needs of water transport and storage.
- Aquifers. Much water is stored within layers of soil called aquifers. As droughts occur, or human population increases, water is removed from aquifers. This works fine as long as the amount removed is the same as that which filters back into the aquifers. In prolonged drought conditions, the levels of aquifers lower and lower. Wells run dry, deep rooted plants die, and the ability to bring the water levels back up start entering spans of decades. Aquifers are renewable but require management and continued rainfall.
- Waste. In many areas of the world, fresh water is in abundance. In other areas, it has always been scarce. These areas will change and waste of water in formerly abundant areas will need to be greatly reduced. Three to five minute showers will be needed. Ground cover that survive with existing moisture will be needed.
There is time to start planning for these needs and some may not be needed for decades but it is good to start the planning sooner rather than later.