The Ecologist is delighted to launch its collaboration with the Climate Tracker initiative today, with an article about the impact of climate change on the Middle East and North Africa region from LINA YASSIN. The Sudanese engineering student argues that climate change is already affecting the region in dire ways.
But for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), climate change means uninhabitable weather conditions, forced migration and loss of traditional income. It is a real threat that might make the region uninhabitable.
The MENA region is considered the world’s driest region: it is the home to six percent of the world’s population yet it contains 12 countries that face extreme water scarcity – including Tunisia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Algeria.
According to The World Bank, the MENA region has less than two percent of the world’s water supply.
Climate change is already affecting the MENA region in dire ways, but it is expected that climate change will cause extreme heat to spread across more of the land for longer periods of time.
This will make some countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia uninhabitable because it will create humid heat conditions at a level incompatible with human existence.
It will also play a major role in reducing growing areas for agriculture – which is one of the most important sectors in the region.
The rising temperatures will keep increasing the pressure on crops and water resources, which will eventually lead to an amplified level of migration and risk of conflict.
The MENA region has experienced a tremendous amount of environmental hazards due to climate change effects.
Between 2006 and 2010, Syria experienced extreme droughts that turned 60 percent of the country into dry desert, making large regions to become economically impoverished.
In 2013 heavy and continuous rains in most of Sudan have led to floods that destroyed 25,000 homes and left hundreds of thousands of people with no work, home, or even family.
The UAE has also suffered a lot from climate change effects: in 2008 at least three people were killed and 350 injured in a horrific 60 vehicle pile-up due to heavy fog.
In 2016, Tunisia’s rainfall dropped by 30 percent causing agricultural losses of nearly two billion dinars.
It is clear now that the MENA region has no option but to go “green”. Adaptation along with mitigation measures will be essential to build up the resilience needed to cope with the changes.
There is an urgent need for governments to invest in new clean-energy innovations that will effectively reduce greenhouse gases emission and halt rising temperature.
Morocco has been a good example on this by making climate change adaptation a national priority and setting the country on a path to green growth.
The country made a strategy called Green Morocco Plan which is focused on agricultural adaptation and sustainable water and land management.
Tunisia is another good example of a country that is well on its way, since it recently decided to include the protection of environment in its new constitution.
Bahrain opened its first solar plant factory this year which shows the government interest in renewable energy investments.
MENA’s climate is ideal for renewable energy technologies, the abundant sunshine and open spaces could be a perfect source for sustainable power sources such as solar and wind power.
Some countries in the region are setting good examples and moving forward with their plans for a better environment.
Others are still depending on fossil fuel industries as their main source of energy, with the leading role for this part going to Saudi Arabia, holding a large part of the region from tackling the issue in a proper way.
The people who have little to no contribution in the issue of climate change are the one suffering the most from its effects.
Therefore, tackling climate change should be every countries’ first priority, because by standing up against climate change we are laying the foundations for a more stable future and less poverty.
This is absolutely necessary if we want to make sure the next generation will have a chance to live in a good environment.
Lina Yassin is Climate Tracker’s MENA Programme Manager. She is a chemical engineering student from Sudan