How Climate Change is Directly Impacting the Arab World?
By MacKenzie DiLeo / Arab America Contributing Writer
The prospects of climate change in the Arab world have created significant concern over the region’s arid climatic conditions and dependence on natural resources. According to a report by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development, Arab countries are at the highest risk for experiencing the heavy impacts of climate change. These impacts will hit hardest in terms of the region’s water resources, sea-level rise, food production, land use, and urbanization.
Freshwater resources in the Arab world are on a drastic decline, particularly with increasing demand as the population continues to grow. In recent times, the demand for water has far exceeded the available supply. Water resources are unevenly distributed among the various Arab countries and within the countries themselves, which has contributed to the recent droughts and water scarcity throughout the region.
The United Nations estimates globally that 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water and 2.4 billion lack general sanitation in their place of living. Developing countries are among the most prevalent of these statistics. These problems are typically heightened by drastic population growth and the expansion of the agricultural and industrial sectors, which all together increases pollution. Countries in the Arab region account for a large percentage of the globe’s population, its land, and its renewable water reserves. Because many of these countries are developing, they struggle with drastic population growth and the need for economic expansion via industrial and agricultural sectors. This puts even greater pressure on the region’s already scarce water resources.
Unfortunately, climate change is only expected to worsen the situation. Water flows from the Euphrates is predicted to drop by 30%, in the Jordan River by 80%, and in the Nile River by 50%. These changes are expected to come into effect by 2025.
The Arab region’s coastal zones are of particular importance as most of the cities are concentrated in these areas, which are hubs for economic activity. Fertile agricultural lands are located on the coasts, and the coasts are also major tourist attractions for their marine life and coral reef assets. Because the countries’ populations and economic activity are concentrated by the sea, any sea-level rise spurred by climate change in these coastal zones would have a drastic impact. The same report by the AFED explained that a sea-level rise of only 1 meter would harm 41,000 kilometers of the Arab coast, which is approximately the size of The Netherlands.
Food loss and waste is particularly prominent in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates. The general issues of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiency still persistent in most of the Arab nations as well. With the rapid population growth in the Arab region combined with increased urbanization, the demand for food is expected to grow significantly. However, the growing demand for food will be difficult to meet as climate change continues to escalate water shortages in the region. Water is a very important component of farming practices to ensure soil fertility for crops. Without sufficient water sources, farms will become deserted which will result in smaller food supply.
Land Use and Urbanization
Because the population is growing rapidly, most land use and urban planning regulations to better adapt to climate change are widely disregarded across the Arab terrain. Approximately 75% of buildings and infrastructure in these countries are at risk of climate change damages. Public transit systems, water supply, waste-water networks, and energy generation stations are also at high risk due to sea-level rise and storm surges.
While urbanization can provide many economic advantages for the rapidly growing population in the Arab World, the urbanization itself can alter the natural environment. This can include deterioration of both land and marine environments, the rapid loss of agricultural lands, and land-filling in gulf waters. These impacts from urbanization will only worsen the effects on the environment that are spurred by climate change.
So, what should we do?
In order to begin improving conditions regarding climate change throughout the Arab world, various countries need to begin setting aside funds to take more proactive and preventative measures. This includes money for fostering water and food security, making sure cities are ready to cope with the impacts of climate change, and lowering emissions that cause global warming. The latter can be done by improving energy efficiency and investing in more renewable energy sources such as solar power or wind power. Efforts also need to be made to reduce pollution created by industries.
While the Arab world is attempting to prevent severe damages from climate change by implementing more renewable energy sources, they still have a long way to go in terms of overcoming their overdependence on natural resources and restoring their scarce water supply. Such efforts will require massive dedication and substantial funding.
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