Rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers from climate change in parts of India, Nepal, and China will cause flooding and avalanches.
©CI/Photo by Russ Mittermeier
Climate change's impacts on freshwater resources pose an enormous challenge for sustaining life on Earth. In many places, such as those where glaciers are melting quickly and rainfall patterns are changing, water may no longer be available when it is needed, worsening existing problems of water scarcity and decreased agricultural productivity.
In other places, there will be too much water, increasing the incidence of water-borne diseases and floods. This is particularly true in the biodiversity hotspots, where many unique species are already under threat and some 500 million people are now exposed to an increased flooding risk because of the combined effects of deforestation and climate change.
Rising water temperatures and the drying out of existing habitats may also lead to catastrophic losses for freshwater ecosystems.
Freshwater biodiversity is particularly threatened under most climate change scenarios because species tend to be highly concentrated in fairly small areas and are also limited in their ability to relocate to more favorable habitats.
The impacts of climate change on freshwater systems will present a set of new conditions to which humans and other species must adapt. Conservation and development agencies must join together to ensure that climate change does not undo gains made in water quality and availability, sanitation or biodiversity conservation.