Precious Water Resources
In the fight against the climate crisis water management is becoming increasingly important. Experts from around the world met for talks in Germany.
When it comes to fighting climate change, Ivana Vojinović takes a pragmatic view. With ten years’ experience as Vice-Minister for Environment and Climate Protection in the government of Montenegro, she knows exactly which levers to pull in order to bring about substantive change. “Climate change has always had a hard time in politics, but when you start talking about money, everyone’s ears prick up. And there’s a huge amount of money involved in climate change.”The risks associated with climate change have a direct effect on movements of capital around the world, such as when uninsured assets are destroyed by extreme weather events, Vojinović says. She runs the Center for Climate Change, Natural Resources and Energy at the University of Donja Gorica in Montenegro. “You have to make it clear to policymakers that they will lose a lot of money if they don’t act.
In September 2023, Vojinović joined other experts from around the world on a visit to Germany hosted by the Federal Foreign Office as part of the German government Visitors Programme. During their week in Germany the visitors had the chance to share ideas on an aspect of emerging climate risks which has been attracting increasing attention in Germany in recent years, namely how to deal with the growing scarcity of water resources. They started by visiting the world-famous Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), followed by talks with members of the Bundestag Committee for Environment, Natural Protection, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection.
However, the bus journey to PIK in Potsdam had to be cancelled due to climate protests, as activists from the “Last Generation” movement were blocking traffic across the whole of Berlin. Not all the experts were aware of the actions of the protest group, who had used superglue to stick themselves down in the middle of major roads as a means of generating maximum attention. However, early disappointment and annoyance gave way to the realisation that the whole purpose of visiting Berlin was to see how Germany is dealing with the climate crisis. And the protests of the young activities were themselves a part of this.
Trends towards extreme weather
The discussions with PIK did take place, but had to be moved online at short notice. Professor Fred Hattermann, Deputy Head of Department for the Hydroclimatic Risks working group at PIK gave a presentation in which he summarised the critical scientific findings about climate change. Extreme weather events, he said, such as flooding or extended periods of drought, are directly linked to global warming. “We need to get used to the idea that once-in-a-millennium floods will in future happen once a century,” said Professor Hattermann. “We are observing a clear trend towards greater numbers and more extreme weather events.”Another aspect which has changed is that climate protection is increasingly a major topic in the media. Professor Hattermann sees protests like those of the Last Generation as an impulse which maintains pressure on politicians to take action.
One of the PIK’s leading achievements is the development of predictive models for various scenarios. These are urgently needed in many regions around the world, as was evident from the questions which the visitors put to Professor Hattermann. Dr. Wimolpat Bumbudsanpharoke Khamkanya, Senior Expert Economic Analysis of Water Resources Development from the Office for National Water Resources Bangkok, was interested in analysis to measure the effect of climate warming on naturally recurring weather phenomena such as tropical cyclones. Muna Gharaibeh, Deputy Secretary General of the Water Authority of Jordan, described the extremely tense situation in Jordan and the increasing scarcity of water available to the population. She also explained the growing problem of water pollution and the resultant need to develop reliable forecasting models for the future.
Is Germany at risk of a water shortage?
Most of the international experts were particularly interested in how Germany is dealing with the impact of climate change more generally. The journalists Dragan Nikolić from Croatia and Georgios Lialios from Greece wanted to know how Germany had been able to manage last winter’s energy crisis and whether this posed a threat to the switch to renewable energy. They also asked about how Germany was preparing for increasingly extreme weather such as flooding and droughts. Professor Hattermann explained that the PIK continued to work closely with policymakers on the so-called “energy transition”, and he believed Germany was still heading in the right direction. However, there remain major challenges to water management. To take Berlin as an example, “The German capital requires a volume of 8 cubic metres of water a second in order to ensure adequate drinking water quality. It will be difficult to maintain that level in future.”