Middle East wakes up to the destruction of climate change

Temperatures in the Middle East have risen much faster than the world average in the last three decades. Precipitation has been decreasing and experts predict that droughts will come with greater frequency and severity.

The Middle East is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change, and the effects are already being seen.

In Iraq, intensified sandstorms have cities suffocated repeatedly this year, shutting down the trade and sending thousands to hospitals. Rising soil salinity in Egypt’s Nile Delta is gobbling up crucial farmland. In Afghanistan, the drought it has helped drive the migration of young people from their villages in search of work. In recent weeks, temperatures in some parts of the region have exceeded 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).

This year’s annual UN climate change conference, known as COP27, will be held in Egypt in November, putting a spotlight on the region. Middle Eastern governments have become aware of the dangers of climate change, particularly the damage it is already inflicting on their economies.

“We are literally seeing the effects right in front of us. … These impacts are not something that will affect us nine or 10 years from now,” said Lama El Hatow, an environmental consultant on climate change who has worked with the World Bank and specializes in the Middle East and North Africa.

“More and more states are beginning to understand that it is necessary” to act, he said.

Egypt, Morocco and other countries in the region have been stepping up clean energy initiatives. But one of the top priorities for them at COP-27 is to push for more international financing to help them deal with the dangers they already face from climate change.

One reason for the vulnerability of the Middle East is that there is simply no room to cushion the blow on millions of people as rising temperatures accelerate: the region already has high temperatures and limited water resources, even under normal circumstances. .

Middle Eastern governments also have a limited ability to adapt, the International Monetary Fund noted in a report earlier this year. Economies and infrastructure are weak, and regulations are often not enforced. Poverty is widespread, so job creation is a priority over climate protection. Autocratic governments like Egypt’s severely restrict civil society, hampering an important tool for engaging the public on environmental and climate issues.

At the same time, developing nations are pressuring countries in the Middle East and elsewhere to cut emissions, even as they themselves go back on promises.

Middle Eastern nations are waking up to the damage of #ClimateChange. #ClimateCrisis #MiddleEast #Drought

The threats are terrible.

As the region gets hotter and drier, the United Nations has warned that Middle East crop production could fall 30% by 2025. The region is expected to lose 6%−14% of your GDP by 2050 due to water scarcity, according to the World Bank.

In Egypt, precipitation has fallen by 22% in the last 30 years, according to the World Bank.

Droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe. The eastern Mediterranean recently experienced its worst drought in 900 years, according to NASA, a severe blow to countries such as Syria and Lebanon, where agriculture depends on rainfall. The demand for water in Jordan and the Persian Gulf countries is putting unsustainable pressure on groundwater aquifers. In Iraq, increased aridity has led to an increase in sandstorms.

At the same time, warming waters and air are making extreme and often destructive weather events more frequent, such as the deadly floods that have repeatedly hit Sudan and Afghanistan.

Climate damage has potentially dangerous social repercussions.

Many of those losing the livelihood they once earned from farming or tourism will move to cities in search of work, said Karim Elgendy, an associate fellow at Chatham House. That will likely increase urban unemployment, overwhelm social services and could heighten social tensions and affect safety, said Elgendy, who is also a nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute.

Adapting infrastructure and economies to weather the damage will be enormously costly: the equivalent of 3.3% of the region’s GDP each year for the next 10 years, the IMF estimates. Spending should go towards everything from creating more efficient water use systems and new farming methods to building coastal protections, bolstering social safety nets and improving awareness campaigns.

So one of the top priorities for the Middle East and other developing nations at this year’s COP is to put pressure on the United States, Europe and other wealthier nations to move forward. on long-term promises to provide them with billions in climate finance.

So far, developed nations have failed to keep those promises. Furthermore, most of the money they have provided has gone to help poorer countries pay for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, for “mitigation”, in UN terminology, rather than ” adaptation”.

For this year’s COP, the main theme repeated by UN officials, Egyptian hosts and climate activists is the implementation of commitments. The meeting is aimed at pressuring countries to explain how they will meet promised emission reduction targets, and to propose even deeper cuts, as experts say the targets are as they are now. will still lead to disastrous levels of warming.

Developing nations will also want richer countries to show how they will carry out a promise from the last COP to provide $500 billion in climate finance over the next five years, and ensure that at least half of that finance is for adaptation. not for mitigation.

However, world events threaten to undermine the momentum of COP26. In terms of emission cuts, rising global energy prices and the war in Ukraine have caused some european countries To return to coal for power generation – although they insist that it is only a temporary step. The Middle East also has several countries whose economies depend on its fossil fuel resources: Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf are the most obvious, but so is Egypt, with its growing natural gas production.

Persistent inflation and the possibility of a recession could make major nations hesitate to make climate finance commitments.

Since international officials often emphasize reducing emissions, El Hatow said it should be remembered that countries in Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the developing world have not contributed substantially to climate change, but are the most affected.

“We need to talk about financing for adaptation,” he said, “to adapt to a problem that they did not cause.”

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