From Paris to Marrakech and Beyond

 

National share of 2014 global carbon emissions across the Middle East and North Africa region, including Turkey, Iran, and Israel. Copyrights: Carboun

National share of 2014 global carbon emissions across the Middle East and North Africa region, including Turkey, Iran, and Israel. Copyrights: Carboun

UPDATED – The two-week COP 21 climate conference in paris  (also known as the 21st Conference of Parties to the United National Framework Convention for Climate Change ) ended on Saturday 12 December with an adopted agreement covering 195 countries, and providing a framework for voluntary efforts to significantly reduce carbon emissions starting 2020.

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How Sustainable is Your Oasis?: A Review of Water Resources in Middle East Cities

Karim Elgendy

Liwa Date Farm, UAE. Copyrights: Google

Liwa date farms benefit from some of the freshest ground water in the UAE. Copyrights: Google

Those who visit the Middle East and North Africa from more temperate climates are often struck with how hot and dry the region is, and how scarce its rainfall. Some wonder why cities became established here, and how they continue to exist despite the lack of renewable freshwater.

These concerns are not entirely groundless. Yet these cities’ existence is not in any way miraculous: it’s merely an example of what can happen if cities fail to strike a sustainable balance between growth and limited resources.

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Stories of Water Scarcity in Jordan

Hiba Abu Al Rob, Majd Jayyousi, Khaled Abu Ajwa, and Rashed Al Nasa’a

The water situation in Jordan is in need of dramatic changes to ensure positive outcomes in national water resource management. Already nearing crisis levels, it is estimated that any slight change in current levels or quality of water will have a significant effect on agriculture, industry, nutrition, health and ultimately the security of the Kingdom.

This is a story that everyone has heard before. It is a story at the heart of Jordan’s neighborhoods and villages where ramifications are felt every day, affecting the lives of thousands of individuals. Men and women, both young and old, have learned the meaning of water scarcity the hard way, as places and communities they call home have transformed into daily battlegrounds of uncertainty and disappointment. To tell the story of water in Jordan, one would travel far and wide, yet this is an attempt to tell the story through  three tales of struggle, determination, and success in facing one of the biggest challenges this century.

The fields surrounding the village of Al Mughayyir, in northen Jordan, bear witness to the effect of water scarcity which has created a shift in the social pattern of local villages, with many abandoning agriculture and farming and moving to neighboring cities. Photo Copyrights Mohammad Asfour

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An Introduction to Climate Change

Wissam Yassine

UPDATED – Climate change refers to the current changes in the Earth’s climate patterns due to the increase in greenhouse gases emitted by human activities. The driving force behind this pattern is an increase in the Earth’s surface and water temperature. In fact, over the last 130 years, the global average temperature of the planet rose by 0.8 °C.  However, the impacts of this temperature increase on climate patterns in different regions varied widely (Figure 1).

National scientific bodies in all major countries agree that the cause behind global warming and climate change is the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and growing livestock. Climate models have been created to forecast the expected increase in the average global temperatures over the coming years based on current and expected emission levels. These models show that the global average temperatures are expected to rise by up to 6 °C by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as they have in recent decades.

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The State of Egypt’s Sustainability Agenda

Karim Elgendy

Two weeks ago, The English version of a leading Egyptian daily published an opinion piece on entitled “Our local ‘green’ agenda.” In his article, the author made a number of intriguing arguments that suggest that Egypt has a unique environmental agenda and a set of sustainability priorities that are different from the predominant global ones.  He also suggests that imported ‘green’ concepts fail to take into consideration ingrained conservationist behaviors that already exist in Egypt.

While I agree that each country must develop a local approach to sustainability which responds to its specific socio-economic and environmental needs, I found many of the author’s arguments to lack sufficient context, and was therefore concerned that the article could potentially result in an inaccurate representation of the state of sustainability in Egypt.

Cairo's Old City. Copyrights: Karim Elgendy

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The Arab World’s Opinion on Climate Change

Karim Elgendy

A pan-Arab survey conducted by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED)  found that a resounding majority of 98% believed that the climate is changing.

The survey sample which included a big segment of educated people (who more reflect the views of those nearer to decision making, than proportionally reflect the actual population mix) showed that only a small portion of 5%  said they did not understand what climate change was, reaching a maximum of 11% in Syria. However, 95% of those who said they did not understand what climate change was, still answered that they believed the weather was changing,  (Figure 1).  A majority of 89% also thought that this change was due to human activities, including excessive use of energy and depletion of resources, (Figure 2). These results clearly showed that climate change has become widely accepted by the public in Arab countries as a fact which needs to be addressed. Moreover, the survey showed that the skeptical attitudes which prevailed among some groups on the facts and causes of climate change, either denying it entirely or limiting it to natural causes, are decreasing.

Survey Figure 1. Source: AFED Arab Environment Climate Change Report.

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The Impact of Sea Level Rise on The Arab World

Karim Elgendy

In recent years much of the discussion about the impact of climate change around the world has caused a mix of anxiety and fear about the impacts this may have on human life and the environment. Many detailed studies have shown by using simulation models the impact of sea level rises on coastal cities around the world if sea level were to rise by a certain degree.  These studies showed that generally speaking, it was low lying areas and river deltas that were most vulnerable, especially when these deltas are densely populated.

Figure 1. Relative vulnerability of coastal deltas as shown by the indicative population potentially displaced by current sea-level trends to 2050 (Extreme = > 1 million; High = 1 million to 50,000; Medium = 50,000 to 5,000 (following Ericson et al.,2006). Source Nicholls, R.J., P.P. Wong, V.R. Burkett, J.O. Codignotto, J.E. Hay, R.F. McLean, S. Ragoonaden and C.D. Woodroffe, 2007

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