This report is a part of Stimson’s Regional Voices: Transnational Challenges project and provides valuable cross-regional and multidisciplinary insights into the complex issues surrounding transboundary water resources and climate change. It examines the environmental dangers and policy dilemmas confronting the sustainable management of shared water resources in a warming world.
It presents analyses by regional experts and draws substantially on a two-day cross-regional workshop co-hosted by Stimson and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The workshop focused on the impacts of climate change on major transnational river basins and gathered experts from academia, think tanks, NGOs, public service, and the private sector. The basis of its analysis also includes interviews and literature from the field, as well as consultations with US experts.
In the collection’s opening paper, Jayashree Vivekanandan and Sreeja Nair first set out the array of threats that greenhouse warming poses through shared water supplies and systems to human well-being, from compromising food security, to undermining development goals, to endangering public health, etc. They then sketch an analytical framework for understanding the complex web of resulting policy puzzles.
The volume is divided into two sections. In “Perspectives from the Regions,” experts from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East provide an introduction to the array of complex interlinkages characterizing climate change and water and explore some of the key issues in their respective regions. South Asia presents a microcosm comprising nearly the entire range of environmental risks and policy problems arising at the intersection of global warming and water management.
In his contribution, “South Asian Perspectives on Climate Change and Water Policy,” Ashok Jaitly assesses the subcontinent’s vulnerability to climate-induced strains on common freshwater supplies already stretched thin from the increasing demands imposed by population growth, expanding industrialization, and intensifying agriculture.
In “Climate Insecurity in Southeast Asia: Designing Policies to Reduce Vulnerabilities,” Khairulmaini Osman Salleh asks how the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) can craft greenhouse policies to increase the resilience and reduce the exposure of the poor and marginalized among their populations. He calls on the nations of the region to incorporate climate change into the poverty line indexes that inform their development policies.
In the section’s final paper, Mohamed Abdel Raouf Abdel Hamid takes up the particular challenges that global warming poses to the Arab nations, focusing on the oil-rich but water-poor countries of the Persian Gulf.
In the volume’s second section, “Interpreting the Trends,” Stimson analysts pick up and expand on two cross-cutting issues—integrated water management and climate risks to environmental security—that run as recurring threads through the four regional contributions. Kendra Patterson makes “A Case for Integrating Groundwater and Surface Water Management.” These two sources of fresh water are typically treated as distinct supplies, studied and managed separately, often by separate authorities.
In the concluding paper, David Michel evaluates whether climate change impacts on shared freshwater supplies could produce conflicts that might threaten global security. He judges the outbreak of full-scale water wars unlikely. He proposes a re-examination of the human security issues surrounding global warming and global water to illuminate where the potential flashpoints lie and guide decision makers in designing policies to head off or defuse the prospective tensions that could ignite future conflicts.
Download the report here