The UN Special Report on Drought 2021, launched on June 17, comes at a pivotal moment as the world reflects on how it should deal with the threats various risks pose to sustainable development. Roger Pulwarty, NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory Senior Scientist, Co-Chair of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Executive Council, and former NIDIS Director, is a co-author of the report. Within the next 80 years, 129 countries will experience an increase in drought exposure mainly due to climate change, and 38 countries primarily due to the interaction between climate change and population growth. The cost of drought is borne disproportionately by the poor. It is therefore imperative that addressing drought is included in national and international dialogues around poverty alleviation and sustainable development, including discussions on political insecurity and instability, which drought provokes and exacerbates.
This report explores the current understanding of drought risk, its drivers, and the ways in which people, economies, and ecosystems are exposed and vulnerable. It highlights that climate change is increasing the frequency, severity, and duration of droughts in many regions across the world. The solutions and pathways towards more adaptive governance systems outlined in the report provide a foundation for building resilience across society, economies, and the environment.