Let's not let climate change distract us from our current problems

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Gathering water. Kenya
   Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank

All "new" priorities risk diverting attention from "old" ones. Climate change seems no different. It seems likely that climate change, through its impact on temperatures and rainfall, will have negative affects on existing water stress in many countries. Crop water demand will increase with temperature, rainfall will decrease in many areas and become more erratic in most. Further, we are already substantially over-drafting many aquifers and damaging river eco-systems.

In parallel with these concerns, Vorasmarty et al (2000) estimate that the impact of economic and population growth will substantially exceed the impacts of climate change on the water demand/supply balance.

Estimates of the cost of adapting to climate change such as those recently published by the World Bank could illuminate this debate and help identify the most effective interventions if distinctions were made among: the current disequilibrium between supply and demand; incremental water demands resulting from growth; and incremental water supply/demand effects that will result from climate change.

Climate change may be dominant—but it is worth asking the question before all piling on to the new bandwagon.

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