In the media
A study finds high risk of severe water stress in Asia by 2050

MIT News interviewed UNU-WIDER’s Research Fellow Channing Arndt for an article about a recent study that estimates a “high risk of severe water stress” in the next 35 years in Asia.

The study, published in the Journal PLOS One on 30 March, suggests economic and population growth on top of climate change could lead to serious water shortages across a broad swath of Asia by the year 2050. This is particularly worrying as Asia is home to roughly half the world’s population.

Industrial expansion and population growth may exacerbate water-access problems

The study used a unique approach by isolating the effects of socioeconomic growth from the effects of climate change in order to identify the primary drivers of stress on water resources. This novel approach gave the researchers an ability to tease out the human and environmental factors leading to water shortages and to assess their relative significance. While climate change is expected to have serious effects on the water supply in many parts of the world, the study underscores the extent to which industrial expansion and population growth may by themselves exacerbate water-access problems.

UNU-WIDER’s Senior Research Fellow Channing Arndt, who was interviewed for MIT’s article about the study, says the research makes a valuable contribution to the field. According to Arndt, the ambitious scope of the study, and the way it evaluates the effects of climate change as well as economic and population growth, is a worthwhile approach. “Doing it in this integrated way is the right way to go about it,” he says.

Research on climate change to inform policy - UNU-WIDER and MIT collaboration

UNU-WIDER and MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change have been collaborating extensively with the climate change theme during the past few years. Currently the two institutes conduct joint research on Africa's energy futures project which provides substantial insight into the economics of renewable power systems on the African continent. The project is led by Channing Arndt and Kenneth Strzepek, a Research Scientist at MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change who currently also works as a Non-Resident Research Fellow for UNU-WIDER.

In addition, the authors of the article, Charles Fant, Adam Schlosser, and Kenneth Strzepek, have previously contributed to UNU-WIDER’s research project Development under climate change (DUCC). The project translated scientific and biophysical processes into economic outcomes to inform policy makers. The project’s  innovative use of big data was recognized by UN Global Pulse as the project was selected as a ‘project to watch’ in UN’s Big Data Climate Challenge in 2014.