Climate researchers are warning that a large chunk of the globe could become a desert if the goals of the Paris climate change accord are not met.
The findings published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change show that more than 25 percent of the world's population will live in a perpetual state of drought and growing desertification if the Earth's temperature rises by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050.
The report says the solution is to prevent global warming from rising above 1.5 degrees C, which the researchers say would significantly reduce the number of regions of the world affected by "aridification," or the drying of the planet.
“Our research predicts that aridification would emerge over about 20-30 percent of the world’s land surface by the time the global mean temperature change reaches 2ºC," said Manoj Joshi, lead researcher from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. "But two-thirds of the affected regions could avoid significant aridification if warming is limited to 1.5ºC.”
That's where the Paris climate change agreement kicks in, because it calls for countries to reduce greenhouse gases from fossil fuel use to keep from reaching 2 degrees Celsius. Most climate scientists blame greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels for causing manmade climate change.
“The world has already warmed by 1ºC. But by reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere in order to keep global warming under 1.5ºC or 2ºC could reduce the likelihood of significant aridification emerging in many parts of the world,” said Su-Jong Jeong from China's Southern University of Science and Technology, and a participant in the study.
Southern parts of China, as well as much of Southeast Asia, would be hurt by an increasingly dry planet, according to the study.
But it's unlikely the Trump administration will pay much heed to the new findings. President Trump announced in June that he would pull the U.S. out of the climate change deal, arguing that the Paris Agreement benefited China and India with longer transition timelines that made it unfair to the United States.
Trump took to Twitter last week to comment on the recent cold snap in the eastern U.S., saying "we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against."
Meteorologists pointed out that the U.S. will experience the coldest temperatures on the planet relative to normal averages over the New Year's holiday. Much of the globe will be experiencing much higher average temperatures.
The Jan. 1 climate study points out that many of the regions that would be affected by increased drought and desert-like conditions include much of Central America, Southeast Asia, Southern Europe, Southern Africa and Southern Australia.
The regions represent more than 20 percent of the world's population, according to the study. Some of those regions are slated to receive funding under the Paris deal's Green Climate Fund to help them adapt to the effects of a changing climate.
The millions of dollars the U.S. was required to dole out each year for the fund was a major reason for Trump's decision to leave the agreement.
Contributors to the green fund are slated to provide a total of at least $120 billion each year by 2020. The contributing countries include mainly developed, industrial countries such as the U.S., France, Germany, and Canada.
The Paris temperature targets of 1.5°C and 2°C can help judge whether climate change policies have been effective in curbing global drying and aridification by providing a benchmark for the worst effects of global warming, the study said.