Why Climate Change is About Water

Climate change is no longer a distant or abstract threat. All over the planet the impacts of extreme weather events related to climate change are being seen and felt with increasing ferocity and increasingly serious consequences for human society. As the climate changes it is altering some fundamental systems and relationships on planet earth. One of those systems is the presence, availability and distribution of water. This most precious of natural resources has been the key to how we have organised human civilization for millennia. From the types of food we cultivate to where we decide to build our homes, constant and reliable water supplies have shaped the most basic realities of how people live.

No_drinking_water11-150x150That constancy and dependability now seems to be in question. As water resources become more unpredictable, for example because of repeated and prolonged bouts of drought or flooding, or the disappearance of glaciers and ice caps that not only provide drinking water and irrigation but play an essential role in regulating the planet’s climatic behaviour, it presents us with enormous challenges. Debilitating floods and seemingly endless droughts have wreaked havoc on food systems and in many cases forced people to migrate to urban areas in search of the sustainable lifestyle that is becoming less feasible in the countryside. For human beings, climate change is very much about water.

Bolivia offers a window onto the lives of those severely impacted by climate change, where every year thousands of people are struggling to adapt to these new conditions of life. While there are still some in the global North that remain under the stubborn illusion that climate change is a problem for future generations to deal with, in Bolivia this crisis is in the here and now. As a “ground zero” country, Bolivia’s vulnerability is exacerbated by a confluence of factors, as we explore in the next chapter.

The impacts of climate change on water in Bolivia

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In this interview Bolivia’s chief climate negotiator, René Orellana, responds to the question: “What are the most important things that you want people around the world to understand about the impacts of climate change on water in Bolivia?”

(Watch the complete interview)