To examine the risk of water shortages on the continent, the researchers conducted detailed simulations of many plausible economic and climate pathways for Asia in the future, evaluating the relative effects of both pathways on water supply and demand. By studying cases in which economic change (or growth) continues but the climate remains unchanged — and vice versa — the scholars could better identify the extent to which these factors generate water shortages.
The MIT-based team found that with no constraints on economic growth and climate change, an additional 200 million people across Asia would be vulnerable to severe water shortages by 2050. However, fighting climate change along the lines of the 2015 Paris Agreement would reduce by around 60 million the number of people facing severe water problems.
But even with worldwide efforts to limit climate change, there is a 50 percent chance that around 100 million people in southern and eastern Asia will experience a 50 percent increase in “water stress” — their inability to access safe water — and a 10 percent chance that water shortages will double for those people.