Western South Africa is normally arid. The Kalahari and Namib deserts cover much of it.
In October 2017, after nearly four years of below-average rainfall intensified by 2015–2017’s extraordinarily powerful El Niño, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille announced that her city of half a million people, perched between the ocean and that arid land, would run out of water in five months—an event she called “Day Zero.”
Her warning made global headlines and sparked fears of similar situations in cities around the world. Mission-minded Christians, who recognize the tie between environmental stresses like water shortage and poverty, were naturally concerned.
Since then, I have regularly received social media forwards with infographics about an impending “Day Zero” in this city or that. Two of the most popular causes the media blame are climate change and overpopulation.
It’s easy, and tempting, to blame climate change for natural disasters. Not surprisingly, mainstream media did so with “Day Zero.”
However, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change has not caused any measurable increase in extreme weather events like drought.
Even if climate change could influence extreme weather events, there has not been enough of it to increase the frequency or severity of droughts.
Climate change has caused no drastic or dangerous increase in global temperature during the past 20 years. Satellite temperature measurements, measurements from remote sensing systems, and those from rural weather stations have shown hardly any significant increase over the period. In all likelihood, this means there has been no drastic change in the behavior of weather patterns across Cape Town, at least not due to increased global temperature.
This doesn’t mean natural cycles like El Niño can’t cause periodic droughts. They can. But they aren’t climate change, which the IPCC defines as human-induced global warming.
So if we rule out climate change, the only other major cause of water stress is increased demand. Are we running out of water because of increased demand and overpopulation? Are people finding it more and more difficult to access quality drinking water?
People often assume that population growth is bad for natural resources. They think meeting the needs of a growing population will use up resources. But a simple analysis of resource use in the past 2000 years shows otherwise.
Human beings are amazingly good at discovering natural resources. Their ingenuity leads to new technologies that channel, extract, and use water resources more efficiently. The agricultural, industrial, and residential sectors are all testaments to this.
From drip irrigation to desalination to low-flow shower heads and waterless urinals to sewage water purification, new technologies enable us to get more water, reuse much of what we get, and achieve more with each use.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Vijay Jayaraj with E. Calvin Beisner