Droughts, too, have wide-ranging effects on the economy and on energy systems in particular. Global hydropower generation decreased for the first time in two decades in 2021 because of droughts, despite relatively high capacity growth. By analysing the climate impacts on the existing hydropower plants in South and Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, all the assessments show an overall decline in hydropower generation while showing significant geographical variabilities within the same region. Indeed, country-specific data in the Climate Hazard Exposure Tracker shows that change may vary from one area to the other, with precipitation decreasing in recent years in countries like South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo but increasing for Liberia.
Beyond the energy system, agricultural droughts are increasing in certain regions of the world with potentially disruptive effects on global food supply. Average soil moisture content in cropland topsoil decreased by 2.2% across OECD countries over the past five years. Certain countries such as Argentina and Brazil experienced soil moisture declines of 6% or more over the past five years.
As data from the Climate Hazard Exposure Tracker shows, national averages can hide even more severe declines of soil moisture at the sub-national level with parts of some countries at greater risk than others. The Portuguese regions of Algarve and Madeira, for example, experienced cropland soil moisture declines of more than 9%.
Similarly, US states such as Colorado and New Mexico also experienced cropland soil moisture declines of more than 12% and the Colorado river basin is currently experiencing its driest 23-year period ever recorded. Considering that the Colorado river basin is a key natural resource that is estimated to irrigate approx. 15% of United States agriculture (including crops for animal and human consumption), urgent action is needed to reduce global warming emissions, change consumption patterns (e.g. reduce meat intake) and secure key natural resources essential for food production.