Climate change threatens 'Arab Spring' - report
A crowd gathers after Friday prayers in Amman, Jordan, in January, 2012. Failure to consider the impacts of climate change in the region could destabilize gains made during the popular uprising across the Arab world in recent years, a new report warns. Photo by Charles Roffey/flickr.
March 1, 2013
Democratic gains won by the recent struggles in the Middle East and North Africa are at risk from the impacts of climate change, a report says.
By Alex Kirby
Climate News Network
LONDON – A London-based think tank says the spread of democracy following the Arab Spring could be reversed because politicians are failing to help the countries involved to build resilience to economic shocks.
The group, E3G, warns that the G8 governments are not helping the Middle East and North Africa address the threat of food and energy price shocks.
E3G stands for "third generation environmentalism." The group says its proponents are "insiders" found at all levels in governments, corporations, universities, trades unions, professional associations and voluntary organizations throughout the world who "share a deep concern about the stability, security and sustainability of the planet."
The report says climate models show that warming will happen much faster in this region than the global average. A reduction in rainfall is also likely by mid-century.
"Without a major effort to radically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in the next ten years the region could see an average temperature rise of over 4°C by mid-century and 6-8°C by 2100," says the report.
"This will be felt in growing seasonal extremes," the report noted. The impact on rainfall is more uncertain, but a E3G said a reduction of rainfall by 10 percent to 30 percent by mid-century is expected.
Lower rainfall will worsen the existing acute scarcity of water, driven by population growth, industrialization and the aquifer depletion, the report says.
Food prices will increase as a major cause of economic shocks in the region, and there is an immediate risk of surging prices this year because of the drought plaguing the United States.
Modeling also suggests major import crops like wheat are likely to increase in price worldwide by up to 80 percent by 2030 because of growing global demand. Climate change could drive prices up a further 40 percent. Food price volatility will increase even more rapidly as climate change drives extreme weather in producer countries.
"Resource scarcity and rising temperatures are already compounding the many economic and political challenges facing these countries," said Nick Mabey, E3G's chairman.
"Investments in efficiency and low carbon infrastructure are wrongly seen as a luxury that these countries cannot afford," he added. "In fact, these investments can insulate the region against damaging price shocks while also delivering greater longer-term economic value and stability."
The E3G report argues that existing government investment support is broadly focused on providing incentives for continued democratic reforms, building civil society and providing jobs now for young people.
Vital for stability
While these are important, it says, there is a failure to systematically address other vital areas for stability, such as exposure to energy and water shocks, and no clear approach to medium-term stability.
These risks are unlikely to be reduced merely through stronger GDP growth, and there will be a need for greater focus on directly building national resilience, the report concluded.
The report advised donor countries and regional partners to focus on four strategic priorities: Improving resilience to shocks; economic diversification into resource-efficient industries; building resilient infrastructure; and focusing support on a few high-impact stability and development objectives.
Said Mabey: "We don't want resilience instead of democracy. We want resilience as the route to democracy. It would give democratic structures a fair wind and time to grow."
"The real challenge for the G8 is whether their strategy is producing outcomes and not just activity. We want to see investment rather than armed force – not so much boots on the ground, you could say, but briefcases."
Alex Kirby is an editor of Climate News Network and a former BBC environment correspondent.
Climate News Network is a journalism news service led by four veteran British environmental reporters and broadcasters. It delivers news and commentary about climate change for free to media outlets worldwide.
The Daily Climate is an independent, foundation-funded news service covering climate change. Contact editor Douglas Fischer at dfischer [at] dailyclimate.org
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