ORNL develops new method to assess global freshwater stress
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Several recent studies have suggested that much of the world is likely to experience freshwater shortages as the population increases and temperatures rise; however, determining the impact of each has been difficult. An Oak Ridge National Laboratory paper published in Computers & Geosciences outlines a process that may help using data related to global geography, population and climate change. Authors Esther Parish, Evan Kodra, Karsten Steinhaeser and Auroop Ganguly began working on this approach at ORNL in 2009. During that time, it was unusual to integrate population, climate and water data into one model. For the study, researchers were able to estimate changes in freshwater demand by 2025, 2050 and 2100. To test the new tool, Parish and colleagues plugged in four IPCC greenhouse gas emissions scenarios -- from low to high -- along with global population projections to arrive at various potential scenarios. The researchers noted that while this paper provides a proof of concept that illustrates preliminary insight to the importance of climate change vs. population, output from multiple climate models must be incorporated in future research.