It will be a domestic problem, with states clashing over controls of rivers, and a national security problem as water shortages and floods worsen conflicts and terrorism elsewhere in the world, they said.
At home, especially in the Southwest, regions will need to find new sources of drinking water, the Great Lakes will shrink, fish and other species will be left high and dry, and coastal areas will on occasion be inundated because of sea-level rises and souped-up storms, U.S. scientists said.
The scientists released a 67-page chapter on North American climate effects, which is part of an international report on climate change impact.
Meanwhile, global-warming water problems will make poor, unstable parts of the world the Middle East, Africa and
"Water at large is the central (global warming) problem for the U.S.," Princeton University geosciences professor Michael Oppenheimer said after a press conference featuring eight American scientists who were lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's climate-effects report.
Roger Pulwarty, one of the federal government's top drought scientists, said states such as Arizona and Colorado, which already fight over the Colorado River basin water, will step up legal skirmishes. They may look to the
Reduced snow melt supplying water for the
On the East Coast, rising sea levels will make storm surge "the No. 1 vulnerability for the metropolitan East Coast," said study lead author Cynthia Rosenzweig of NASA. "It's a very real threat and needs to be considered for all coastal development."
Rising sea level can harm
A few hours later, retired Gen. Charles F. "Chuck" Wald focused on the same global warming problem.
"One of the biggest likely areas of conflict is going to be over water," said Wald, former deputy commander of U.S. European Command. He pointed to the Middle East and
The military report's co-author, former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, also pointed to sea-level rise floods as potentially destabilizing South Asia countries of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Lack of water and food in places already the most volatile will make those regions even more unstable with global warming and "foster the conditions for internal conflicts, extremism and movement toward increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies," states the 63-page military report, issued by the CNA Corp., an Alexandria, Va.-based national security think tank.
Kristi Ebi, a
Peter Glieck, president of the Pacific Institute, an
"Water is connected to everything we care about energy, human health, food production and politics," said Glieck, who was not part of either panel. "And that fact alone means we better pay more attention to the security connections. Climate will effect all of those things. Water resources are especially vulnerable to climate change."
As water fights erupt between nations and regions and especially between cities and agricultural areas, Stanford scientist Terry Root said there will be one sure loser low on the priority list for water: other species.
"The fish will lose out and the birds and everything," she said.
Pollution will also worsen with global warming, the scientists said.
As places like the