As a university for continuing education Danube Univeristy Krems ‘upgrades’ your knowledge: the eponymous magazine covers from different perspectives academic continuing educational trends and topics related to society and education policy opening space for an interdisciplinary approach.
upgrade – Danube University Krems’ magazine for knowledge and academic continuing education, is only available in German. However, please find selected articles in English in the section below.
upgrade 4.19 - Nature under pressure
Clearly, planet Earth and thus our civilization are under great pressure: unforeseeable environmental occurrences, the depletion of fertile soil worldwide, the shortage of drinking water, the immense challenges food production face. Here, water plays a special role. Almost all effects pertained to climate change become observable through this source. By the lack of rain or floods, by the rising sea levels, as well as through drinking water scarcity. "The Impact of Water" is the title of the upgrade photo series in its issue 4.19 depicting images by the award-winning nature photographer Rudi Sebastian. The impact water has on civilization and nature is impressively shown.
THE IMPACT OF WATER
71 per cent of the earth's surface is covered by water. Oceanic salt water makes the largest part, and - depending on estimation - only 2.6 to 3.5 per cent in proportion to the Earth's water balance is fresh water. Glaciers and the ice of the polar caps bound a considerable proportion of global freshwater resources apart from the available water in form of fossil groundwater.
Every year hundreds of millions of people are affected by droughts, floods, and arising epidemics due to the lack of sanitation with clean water. The United Nations estimates an average annual number of 106 million people affected by floods, 55 million people affected by drought and 780,000 people dying from diseases such as cholera or diarrhea caused by unclean drinking water. The amount of damage caused by droughts and floods is estimated at around US 37 billion annually.
Many countries in the world already experienced severe water stress. The term water stress describes the ratio of annually extracted fresh water to the total amount of renewable fresh water resources. Austria’s position is pleasant for having sufficient water resources. Germany, on the other hand, has a comparatively high water stress level. Whereas the situation is dramatic in North Africa, and the Middle East.
The need for water worldwide is growing unabated. Whereas total water consumption in 2014 was around 1,400 km3, by 2025 it will already be 1,600 km3 and will grow to around 1,800 km3 by 2040. By far the largest consumer is agriculture, which uses up to 80 percent of the water, followed by industry, municipalities and, last but not least, energy production.
In 2017, the amount of energy generated from hydropower was around 4,060 terawatt hours (one terawatt hour equals one trillion watt hours). This corresponds to a share of hydropower in global energy production of around 16 per cent, the share of other renewable energy sources is just over eight per cent, fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas and nuclear energy are the remainder. Their ratio of global energy consumption is still constantly rising.
The availability of freshwater varies on the continents compared to the proportion of the world population. North, Central and South America are in a good starting position. Europe's ratio of the world population is currently even higher than its availability of freshwater resources. In Asia, the ratio is worst. More than 60 percent of the world population contrasts with only about 30 percent of the available water resources.
About 20,000 years ago, during the last cold period, the sea level was 120 meters lower than it is today. After a significant rise, the level came to a standstill about 2,000 years ago. Since the middle of the 19th century, the water has been rising again. Science is certain that human greenhouse gas emissions is the cause. Since the 1990s the rise has been accelerating, and could be ten millimeters per year until 2100, probably leaving the level on the coasts then 65 centimeters higher than in 2005. Previous forecasts often assumed a rise of around 30 centimeters. Without any countermeasures taken cities like Miami would then be under water.
Climate change will have an impact on the annual amount of rain - that is for sure, uncertain remains, which regions will be affected most and which less. Climate model simulations currently conducted in European regions deliver the assumption that it will rain up to a quarter less in Mediterranean areas, but the same amount more in Northern and Eastern Europe. Central Europe, thus in Austria, is likely to experience between five and fifteen percent more precipitation.
As temperatures rise worldwide, the ice mass at the poles shrinks. In the long term, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet threatens to slide into the sea. Even if the climate stabilizes, it is expected that the ice in West Antarctica will continue to slowly and irreversibly melt. Although it would take centuries for the ice masses to collapse, yet it would cause the rise of sea levels worldwide by more than three meters. würde zwar Jahrhunderte dauern, aber den Meeresspiegel weltweit um mehr als drei Meter ansteigen lassen.