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Abstract

Climatic changes have been recorded and are forecasted to continue increasing the frequency in occurrence of floods and drought in the world. These changes haves had significant effects on the global agricultural sector and other sectors of the global economy. Worldwide drought strikes in many places in several occurrences and the effects of these phenomena are very significant. This paper is a critical analysis of the issue, worldwide drought, its causes and impact on human, plant and animals. Drought is one of the world’s major natural hazards. On the causes of global drought, the paper will focus on the human or artificial and natural triggers of the phenomenon. The different impacts of drought will also be discussed in this document. Some of the consequences of the events in the paper will be the social, economic and environmental impacts of drought. The paper will also include a discussion on the pros of the topic in relation to solving world environmental and health problems caused by drought. The paper will provide some recommendations as proposed by experts and world organizations on how to combat the issue and come up with sustainable solutions.

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Introduction

Drought, defined as the deficit of water in the atmosphere, a phenomenon that is experienced as a result of many factors. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the global climatic conditions have changed, and the effects have been felt and will continue affecting the world's population unless people come up with strategies to prevent and stop further environmental destruction. One of the major challenges will be encountered by many nations in the world in the future decades are the means to increase agricultural production with the decreasing water capacity. The increasing human and animal population continues to increase the scramble for water.

Unfortunately, the global fresh water capacity cannot satisfy the needs of every living organism that requires the resource. It is estimated that only 2.5% (35 million km³) of 1400 million km³ is fresh water that is accessible, while the rest is salty, ice and glacier that is inaccessible. The annual global precipitation is approximately 119000 km³, whereby more than half of the rainwater is naturally returned to the atmosphere through evaporation. 45000- km³ exists as surface run and is reserved in the lakes, part of the water infiltrates into the ground aquifers leaving only a small percentage as accessible and usable.

Worldwide drought is among the deadliest natural disasters that have claimed most lives over the past decades. Since the year 1994, the disaster has claimed more than two hundred thousand lives. In defining drought, it is crucial to understand the difference between drought and dryness. The condition is classified as moderate, severe or extreme according to the prevalence and impacts on the environment. The hazard is the server in hot climatic conditions where water is a scarce resource under human, animal and vegetation competition. The arid and semi arid regions are susceptible to occurrences of drought because their precipitation amount relies on a few short rainfall seasons.

Causes of Worldwide Drought

The natural hazard is as a result of many factors. The causes of drought are categorized into human factors and natural factors. To begin with, we identify the human causes of global drought. Humans have engaged in activities that have had adverse environmental effects. Trees are essential in the reduction of carbon dioxide (which acts as a heat absorbent) in the atmosphere. Deforestation is one of the unnatural causes of drought. The continuous cutting down of trees for fuel, construction materials and industrial purposes has led to the reduction in soil’s water holding capacity and thus causing desertification. These human activities have resulted in the increase in global temperature and deterioration of the global climate. In the absence of enough trees, the temperatures are retained causing a high evaporation rate with low condensation and precipitation. The soil is also weakened by lack of humus and the plant roots that act as binding properties of the soil particles.

Another human activity that causes drought is the construction of dams in the upstream parts of rivers. These developments are economically advantageous in generating electricity and preservation of water but also have adverse effects on the downstream parts of rivers. The dams and large water reservoirs cut off the flow of downstream water leading to the shortage or lack of water in the lower regions. The lack of water may cause dryness that result in famine.

Apart from trees, other vegetation covers such as grass and weeds are essential in protecting the soil from erosion and water loss. Overstocking, overgrazing of animals and over cultivation of land can lead to the loosening of soil particles and reducing the water holding capacity and soil fertility. The loam top soil also become loose and is blown away by the wind thus the soils slowly become agriculturally unproductive thus adding to the drought severity. A good example, overgrazing resulted to the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s in North America that formed from soil erosion and dust storms over the Great Plains.

The industrial revolution era led to the beginning of technological civilization in the worlds. This period saw the increase in the number of industries globally. However, industrialization introduced a new form of environmental degradation. Industrial gaseous emissions into the atmosphere have lead to the formation of carbon gases layer that leads to global warming. The industrial gases released into the atmosphere have resulted in the destruction of the protective O-Zone layer and thus causing an increase in global temperature and frequent drought occurrences. Studies in regions such as America and East Africa have revealed that green house emissions from industries have led to increase temperatures and aridity in the world.

Other human activities that trigger drought event include the lack of sufficient water storage facilities, water pollution, lack of a sustainable mechanism for increasing the available water capacity, poor mechanisms of water distribution network and inappropriate water consumption patterns. These human factors are avoidable if the national governments can formulate and implement strategies to improve water usage and generation.

Nature also causes drought. One of the natural causes of the problem is the deficiency of precipitation. Water vapor in the atmosphere causes rainfall through the convention that results in strong atmospheric inversion and produce heavy rainfall or stratiform process that causes less precipitation in an area. Drought occurs if the three factors fail to provide sufficient amount of water in a region. High-pressure systems and winds carrying continental air rather than oceanic vapor may lead to the lack of rainfall in an area. Also, high rate of sunlight reflection may also trigger a severe drought in a region.

Prolonged dry seasons also trigger drought in the world. In the tropics, the Intertropical Convergence Zone results in the dry and wet seasons. During the dry season, humidity in the air is insufficient, water sources like rivers and boreholes dry up, and also vegetation dies out. Insufficient humidity leads to excess evaporation of ground moisture and high rate of evapotranspiration in plants, a condition that worsens the drought occurrence.

El-Niño, which affects the temperatures in the ocean, is another cause of worldwide drought. El Niño is the change in sea surface temperature changes that cause a change in global climate. This event causes a movement of the air masses above the seas and ocean bodies causing the wet regions to become dry. During the winter season, the northern hemisphere experiences warmer and dryer conditions that during the regular times. After the El Niño heavy rainfall, La-Nina, a period of severe cold and dry conditions may lead drought in parts of Africa, California and Australia.

Finally, global warming has resulted in the occurrence of floods and drought in the world, and it anticipated increasing the frequency and intensity of the hazard. Global warming causes the disappearance of glaciers and polar ice, rising above sea level, destruction of the corals and changes in wildlife migration patterns. The phenomenon causes the occurrence of sudden heat waves that trigger insects and pest infestation, forests and bush fires and diseases prevalence in animals and plants.

Effects of World Wide Drought

A worldwide drought has significant impacts on the global population and the environment. The impacts of global drought can be divided into Social effects, Livelihood and Economic, Environmental and Ecological and Psychological impacts. It is important to access these results so as to understand the magnitude of the issue and develop effective measures to combat it.

Social consequences of drought involve the human health and safety, conflicts that arise as a result of competition for food and water, low living standards, and aids during the disaster. The scarcity of water posses risks on human health. Human beings and animals require water for daily refreshment and domestic consumption. Inadequate amount of safe, fresh water leads to outbreaks of diseases. The concentration of chemicals and oxygen insufficiency in water comes as a result of lack of fresh water to dilute toxins. According to statistics by the World Disaster Report, 2.63 million people were affected by dryness in the period between 1997 and 2006 with 38.87% suffering most in 2002, while approximately 41.82% suffered from drought consequences.

Death of people and livestock is another adverse social effect of drought. Approximately, the number of human beings killed by drought every year are, Asia -81.11 million, Africa (26.69 million), American are 2.57 million and in Europe 0.14 million lives are lost. These deaths occur as a result of dehydration, lack of food and diseases drought associated diseases.

In water-limited areas, people live a poor quality lifestyle. Families tend to live on little or no income in events of prolonged inadequate rainfall. People who rely on agricultural production experience poverty whenever drought strikes as a result of the destruction of their crops and death of livestock. Poverty, which means living below $1.25 a day, destroys the families’ ties and they end up getting into unending domestic conflicts. Inter- community and intra-community violence may also arise as a result of competition for water sources as people try to claim control over few water points. People and animals also compete for this scarce resource leading to human-wildlife conflicts. Violence may also erupt as a consequence of human and animal migration to places with plenty of water.

Drought, like every other natural disaster, has its adverse effects on human psychology. In times of such an event, people suffer from stress, anxiety, depression and withdrawal symptoms. People are scared of prolonged situations that could cause death and human suffering. Psychological poverty also strikes persons in periods of no rainfall. This poverty is aggravated by a feeling of mistrust on the authorities and view that other people do not care about their suffering. An example is the Australia’s 1994-95 drought, whereby the citizens exhibited little or no trust in the government and the experts who issue false predictions of the drought.

Economic impacts of drought are also significant to understand. Adverse effects are experienced in the agricultural and another related economic sectors. Farmers who rely on precipitation to produce their crops are faced with frustrations as a result of the destruction of farm produce and huge losses incurred as a result of unexpected rainfall failure. During drought seasons, farm business owners tend to reduce capital purchases, seek other sources of employment, and sell stocks and decrease frequency and level of farm maintenance practices. Besides, drought is also connected to insects and diseases infestation on crops thus increasing the cost of maintenance in holdings. The death of animals causes a great shock on the farmers and industries that rely on the animal product such as meat, milk, eggs and skins.

During drought, farmers incur losses, capital flow reduces, and there is the high rate of unemployment, increased taxes and high risks on financial securities. The governments increase their expenditure in a bid to import food and other commodities that exhibit shortage in the drought-stricken country. The World Disaster Report recorded that more than 4% of the US$ 66.8 b damage cost is incurred as a result of drought. The affected countries also experience energy shortage as a result of the shortage of water that generates hydroelectric power. Industries experience the lack of agricultural raw materials and other inputs such as timber and animal products. Finally, government debt rises when the affected nation as a result of deficit expenditure on food, water and electricity exports from other countries or states.

Environmental impacts of drought are also significant in understandings the severity and effects of drought. Adverse environmental consequences include soil erosion, bush fires, destruction of natural plants and animal species and drying of water sources. The destruction of natural habitats leads to migration of animals, birds and insects to other unaffected regions posing overpopulation, disease spread and competition risks. Frequent drought occurrences in the world result in the expansion of the dry areas. The dry regions of the world are expected to increase as a result of the expanding atmospheric circulation patterns. These patterns involve the rising of moist tropic air and descending as dry air in the subtropics.

Pros of the Topic

The topic has several pros concerning the understanding drought. The topic tries to trace the factors that result to the occurrence of global drought. Understanding the causes of the issue enables the government to develop policies that prevent environmental degradation. In the America, the government accessed the causes of California drought the state and federal governments developed strategies and policies that prevent the people from further destruction. The governments have established rules and policies regulation logging in the bid to reduce deforestation. Another measure taken by the California government is imposing fines on anyone found misusing water or polluting the sources of water.

The topic has been widely used by the United Nations Organization (UNO), through UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) and other international communities. Accessing the causes and impacts of drought has enabled global authorities to establish policies, such as the Carbon Tax, which seek to regulate some carbon emissions from factories. An example is the Australia’s carbon tax policy that stands at $24.15, since 1st July 2012. These policies are crucial in reducing the severity of global warming and its effects. Researchers have developed recommendations that assist in regulating the overstocking and grazing of animals among the pastoral communities.

The topic is also important in developing strategies used to help victims of the drought. The IMF and other international financial institutions have set aside funds for disaster management. The UN has come up with various refugees programs that aim at assisting drought refugees and victims. The governments can reduce the severity of the impacts of drought by study the signs of the consequences. The world population can use the topic to acquire knowledge about drought, its causes, consequences and methods of preventing and combating drought.

Summary

Worldwide drought is defined as the precipitation deficiency that extends over a long period. The natural calamity causes a reduction of the world’s total water capacity of 119000 km³. Worldwide drought is among the fierce natural calamities that have claimed most lives over the past decades with more than 250000 deaths experienced since the year 1994. The disaster in caused by some factors that are classified in natural and human factors. Artificial causes include deforestation that results to desertification, upstream dams construction, industrial emissions and overgrazing of animals. Natural causes of drought include the ocean currents, global warming, prolonged dry seasons and the El Nino.

The impacts of global drought are felt social, economically, psychologically and even in the environment. Stress, poverty, inflation of prices of the scarce resources, bushfires, and erosion, are some of the common effects of the natural calamity. It is crucial for everyone to study the topic on causes and effects of worldwide drought for the purpose of learning measure to prevent and combat future occurrences of this global disaster. The question is important when learned in learning institutions and through media networks to equip people with sufficient education about drought.

The increasing rate of climatic change demands that governments should introduce national disaster mitigation policies that are efficient and sustainable. . The organizations such as World Meteorological Organization and UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD in collaboration with other agencies are working hard to come up with the long lasting solutions to fight the disaster. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Sec-Gen Michel Jarraud observed that the climatic change is expected to continue worsening, and he called for risk-based national drought policies. The global human population should exercise responsibility when interacting with nature to avoid environmental degradation that triggers drought. The world meteorological organizations should develop strong means of predicting and preparing for future occurrence of worldwide drought. These strategies will help to reduce the severity of the problem

In conclusion, drought is a natural disaster that has to shape the world today and will continue to influence life in the world. It is important that people and animals should carefully interact with the environment to avoid artificial triggers of the issue. The topic of causes and effects of worldwide drought is one of the most important studies that should be introduced in the world’s education system.

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