2017 saw some of the worst wildfires on record in the western United States, and if the earth continues warming, we should expect more like them, says a new study.

Research findings published Monday in Nature Climate Change said that over a quarter of the earth’s land would become significantly drier with a 2ºC rise in temperature — but that limiting global warming to under 1.5ºC could significantly reduce the amount of land affected.

The research team reached these conclusions after studying projections from 27 global climate models to identify the parts of the world that aridifcation would impact.

“20-30 percent of the world’s land surface” would be affected, according to Dr. Manoj Joshi from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences. “But two thirds of the affected regions could avoid significant aridification if warming is limited to 1.5C.

Aridification, explains Dr. Chang-Eui Park from SusTech, “can critically impact such areas as agriculture, water quality, and biodiversity. It can also lead to more droughts and wildfires - similar to those seen raging across California.”

Welcome to a scorched earth? The world is already pretty arid, and it's getting worse. 

It can also lead to more severe droughts, which are already becoming a problem across many regions of the world, including the Mediterranean, southern Africa, and eastern coast of Australia. The human impacts of this are dire; drier climates are linked to resource wars, food shortages, and famine.

One of the world’s worst ongoing conflicts, the war in Syria, for example, is at least partially linked to a 2006 drought that led to a massive rural-urban migration of farmers, putting additional strain on Syrian cities and, combined with other factors, leading to uprising.

Incidentally, one of the primary objectives of the Paris Climate Accords is to prevent global temperatures from rising 2ºC and, ideally, keeping temperature increases below 1.5ºC. Every other country in the world, except the United States has signed onto this goal — including Syria.


If you liked this article, check out this video where Bill Nye predicts the future of bacon, the environment, animals, and bacteria.