U.S. Politicians Deny Climate Change, Arabs Suffer the Consequences
BY: Mary Elbanna/Contributing Writer
Climate change is a major concern across the globe, with a great part of its cause stemming from human activities that are polluting the air and destroying the ozone layer. These activities cause the sun to heat up the Earth at alarming rates. The world has already begun to feel the effects of climate change, as 2015 was the hottest year on record. Different regions throughout the world will experience varying impacts, but the Arab World is projected to have some of the worst effects.
Libya holds the record for highest recorded temperature at 136 degrees Fahrenheit, and these temperatures are expected to increase as time progresses. In a September 2014 study conducted by Nature Climate Change, researchers found that temperatures in Southwest Asia, around the Arabian Gulf, are predicted to result in uninhabitable conditions for people in the area in the near future. Scientists are anticipating temperatures to reach above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
These fast rising temperatures are also particularly a concern to those who are planning for the annual Muslim pilgrimage, Hajj. Outdoor aspects of the ritual, combined with high temperatures during the summer, could pose a severe risk for those participating, among which many are elderly. Additionally, higher temperatures during the holy month of Ramadan, which takes place sometimes in the summer and calls for refrainment from food and drink, poses a threat to the health of Arab Muslims.
Some countries, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have placed restrictions on people working outdoors during the summer because of the high heat. Some of the restrictions implemented include limiting the hours people are forced to work outdoors and requiring employers’ to give workers access to resources, including first aid kits, water, and shaded areas. The National Environmental Health Association strongly urges the adoption of more restrictions regarding working outdoors for Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries in order to limit the heat exposure for people within the areas.
The World Bank conducted research focused on how the expected increase in temperatures will result in unlivable conditions stemming from anticipated water supply shortage and rising sea levels caused by climate change. World Bank researcher Inger Anderson notes that many of the low-lying coastal Arab countries, including Kuwait, Tunisia, Qatar, and Egypt, face a heightened risk from the rising sea levels. Sea levels are expected to rise by more than half a meter by the end of the century.
With summer temperatures in MENA increasing at more than double the average rate of global warming, Europe will likely see even greater waves of migrants driven by the impacts of climate change, according to CNBC.
Water shortages are a source of additional concern, as it relates to climate change and the Arab World. Multiple studies note the ties between water scarcity and conflict, particularly in MENA. The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs describes how different groups compete for authority over the Jordan, Tigris, and Euphrates Rivers in current conflicts in the Arab world. While they indicate that water stress due to climate change is not the sole source of conflict, the issue plays an important role in geopolitics.
Furthermore, food scarcity and rising food prices are currently contributing to political rifts, particularly for communities that rely on crop yields. Food prices have historically caused political unrest in Egypt and a number of other Arab countries. Rising sea levels as a result of the Earth warming and melting ice caps has flooded low-lying areas, causing damage to food production. Droughts caused by high heat impact areas reliant upon fish as a main source of nutrition when rivers dry up, leaving the area in an unlivable state.
Organizations, such as the World Bank and Nature Climate Change. strongly urge action to be taken by countries to mitigate the effects of climate change. They recognize the need for a global effort; especially, considering how MENA contributes very little to global emissions, yet face some of the harshest impacts. China, the United States, India, and Russia are the four biggest contributors to global warming, while the Middle East and North Africa contribute a combined total of less than 6% of total global carbon emissions.
Saudi Arabia recently submitted a pledge to avoid 130 million tons of carbon dioxide by the year 2030 in order to slow the rate of climate change. This action taken by the Arab country is a symbolic step, as they had been very reluctant in the past to join the efforts to combat climate change.
Climate change has been a topic discussed by the 2016 presidential candidates, with some not believing a threat exists at all. Presidential candidate Donald Trump went so far as to say that global warming was a trick created by the Chinese. Other candidates, including Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have laid out plans and ideas for combatting climate change by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and moving towards using more clean energy. Bernie Sanders even stated that climate change is the “single greatest threat” to our planet.
Specific actions that need to be taken to reduce the effects of climate change and prepare the Arab World for its inevitable effects include reducing carbon emissions by switching to using cleaner energy sources, reducing deforestation, and supporting projects to better the ability for countries to adapt to the changing climate. Without action, portions of the Arab World will be uninhabitable, and the people will be in grave danger.