Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could reduce desertification of substantial swaths of Earth, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016 is theoretically designed to ensure temperatures reach “well below 2 degrees Celsius” — but the United States, a leading contributor to climate change, rescinded its participation last June under President Donald Trump.

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“Our research predicts that aridification would emerge over about 20-30 percent of the world’s land surface by the time the global mean temperature change reaches 2ºC,” Manoj Joshi, lead researcher from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, told The Washington Examiner. “But two-thirds of the affected regions could avoid significant aridification if warming is limited to 1.5ºC.”

More than 20 percent of the world’s population would be affected by extreme drought without action, according to the report; Central America, Southeast Asia, Southern Europe, Southern Africa and Southern Australia would be hardest hit. The UN’s Green Climate Fund was established to ensure developed countries that spew the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere contribute funds to help less developed countries, which are likely to suffer the most, adapt to and mitigate the effects of a warming world.

Related: Stephen Hawking says Trump decision to leave Paris accord could induce irreversible climate change

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Before the Trump administration announced the US would stop making contributions to the fund, the country had committed to a contribution of less than $10 per person, according to the New York Times. Considering how much the US contributes to climate change, that sum pales in comparison to Sweden’s $59 per capita. But for Donald Trump, $10 per person was too steep a price to pay to slow down what leading scientists like Stephen Hawking warn is one of the gravest dangers humanity has ever faced.

Here’s Trump in a recent tweet showing a cringeworthy lack of understanding of climate science:

Beyond being just plain wrong, Trump’s scientific illiteracy is dangerous; not only does he promote industries that send even more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, he encourages
his base to adopt the kind of wrong-thinking that could derail the kind of climate action that could have life-saving results.

“The world has already warmed by 1ºC. But by reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere in order to keep global warming under 1.5ºC or 2ºC could reduce the likelihood of significant aridification emerging in many parts of the world,” said Su-Jong Jeong from China’s Southern University of Science and Technology, and a participant in the study.

Drought is nothing to scoff at. It could lead to water and food scarcity, disease and war, among countless other consequences. It behooves all of us to arrest its deadly advance.

+ Nature Climate Change

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