Welcome to “What’s Up With Water,” your need-to-know news of the world’s water from Circle of Blue. I’m Eileen Wray-McCann.

In Ukraine, the Russian invasion has endangered basic services like water and healthcare. More than a million Ukrainians have fled the country since the Russian onslaught began on February 24. Those who remain are witnessing the hardships of life in a war zone. UN officials say bombings have damaged water pipes. At least one hospital was targeted. Hundreds of thousands of families lack access to drinking water. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of “destroying critical infrastructure,” pointing to a growing number of Russian-led attacks on crowded urban areas. A clear picture of the damage is still emerging. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 12 million people will need humanitarian assistance.

In Australia, communities along the country’s east coast continue to be battered with heavy rain. In the past week, a series of storms flooded roads, buildings, and vehicles. Around half a million people face evacuation orders. Several officials reported record levels of rain in their communities. The Bureau of Meteorology said that Sydney should brace for a month’s worth of rain as storms continue. The disaster has experts questioning how well Australia is prepared for climate change.

This week, Circle of Blue highlights a recent report from the United Nations climate panel. 

In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – or IPCC – issued a blunt warning to the world: You’re running out of time.

The IPCC’s stark assessment includes water as a key part. Warming temperatures are causing rapid shifts between wet and dry, flood and drought. Food and water scarcity are becoming more common. Water-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever are on the rise. And it’s all getting worse because of human action.

More than any previous IPCC reports, the working group focused on how the inequalities of climate threaten communities around the world. The heaviest impact is often on high-poverty areas, in countries with poor government, and in farming and fishing communities that are more exposed to climate change. The report notes that these vulnerability hot spots are clustered in Africa, South Asia, Central and South America, and small islands like those in the South Pacific.

The report was careful to offer some hope, noting that the worst-case outcomes of climate change are not a foregone conclusion. There are ways to adapt, such as storing rainwater, reviving the water-trapping capacity wetlands, and conserving water in agriculture. These adaptation strategies not only reduce carbon emissions – they can also help communities withstand extreme shifts in water supply.

However, the IPCC report warns that global policy must be aggressive, and that leaders need to act swiftly. Time is running out to prevent unbearable damage to the planet’s lands and waters – and to the people and creatures that depend on them. According to chair of the IPCC, Hoesung Lee, “Half measures are no longer an option.”

And that’s “What’s Up With Water,” from Circle of Blue, where water speaks. More water news and analysis await you at This is Eileen Wray-McCann – thanks for being here.