Quarter of land drier even if we limit global warming to 2 deg C

PARIS More than a quarter of Earth's land surface will become "significantly" drier even if humanity manages to limit global warming to 2 deg C, the goal espoused in the Paris Agreement, scientists said yesterday.

But if we contain average warming to 1.5 deg C, this will be limited to about a tenth - sparing two-thirds of the land projected to parch under 2 deg C, they concluded in a study published in Nature Climate Change.

At 1.5 deg C, parts of southern Europe, southern Africa, central America, coastal Australia and South-east Asia - areas home to more than a fifth of humanity - "would avoid significant aridification" predicted under 2 deg C, said study co-author Dr Jeong Su Jong of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China.

"Accomplishing 1.5 deg C would be a meaningful action for reducing the likelihood of aridification and related impacts," he told AFP.

Dr Jeong and a team used projections from several climate models, under different warming scenarios, to predict land drying patterns.

Aridification is a major threat, hastening land degradation and desertification, and the loss of plants and trees crucial for absorbing earth-warming carbon dioxide.

It also boosts droughts and wildfires, and affects water quality for farming and drinking. - AFP