River Nile, Egypt
Posts tagged egypt.
I wrote this for GOOD just before the Egyptian government collapsed last year (thanks Ben!). I thought it’d be interesting to re-read what I wrote considering the recent military coup d’état and today’s Mubarak news.
Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest - Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell via The Center for Climate & Security ›
At least some people are looking at the geopolitical implications of long-term drought in the Middle East and north Africa, instead of rah-rah boosterism about democratic impulses and the shiny power of social media.
Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell via The Center for Climate & Security
Out of the blue?
International pundits characterized the Syrian uprising as an “out of the blue” case in the Middle East - one that they didn’t see coming. Many analysts, right up to a few days prior to the first protests, predicted that Syria under al-Assad was “immune to the Arab Spring.” However, the seeds of social unrest were right there under the surface, if one looked closely. And not only were they there, they had been reported on, but largely ignored, in a number of forms.
Water shortages, crop-failure and displacement
From 2006-2011, up to 60% of Syria’s land experienced, in the terms of one expert, “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago.” According to a special case study from last year’s Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR),of the most vulnerable Syrians dependent on agriculture, particularly in the northeast governorate of Hassakeh (but also in the south), “nearly 75 percent…suffered total crop failure.” Herders in the northeast lost around 85% of their livestock, affecting 1.3 million people.
The human and economic costs are enormous. In 2009, the UN and IFRC reported that over 800,000 Syrians had lost their entire livelihood as a result of the droughts. By 2011, the aforementioned GAR report estimated that the number of Syrians who were left extremely “food insecure” by the droughts sat at about one million. The number of people driven into extreme poverty is even worse, with a UN report from last year estimating two to three million people affected.
This has led to a massive exodus of farmers, herders and agriculturally-dependent rural families from the countryside to the cities. Last January, it was reported that crop failures (particularly the Halaby pepper) just in the farming villages around the city of Aleppo, had led “200,000 rural villagers to leave for the cities.” In October 2010, the New York Times highlighted a UN estimate that 50,000 families migrated from rural areas just that year, “on top of the hundreds of thousands of people who fled in earlier years.” In context of Syrian cities coping with influxes of Iraqi refugees since the U.S. invasion in 2003, this has placed additional strains and tensions on an already stressed and disenfranchised population.
The biggest implication is that deposing one — or even a dozen — strong man totalitarian governments will not alter the situation on the ground. And projections — cited by the authors in the report above — show continued decline in rainfed crops in Syria “between 29 and 57 percent from 2010 to 2050”.
I agree with the authors and others that stopping the brutal suppression of the opposition movement in Syria is and should be the immediate focus of international efforts. However, the broader implications of Syrian drought — and the drought across the entire region — are not really addressed by the authors.
A region with growing population and rapidly diminishing water can only lead to a few scenarios, none of them good. Water wars and massive waves of ecological migration are not outcomes that the region — or the world as a whole — are willing to face.
(h/t Thomas Friedman)
Shameless plug: I wrote about Egypt’s new government and climate change policies for GOOD last year. I’m quite interested in Middle Eastern climate policies. I think they’ll carry a lot more political weight for the UN climate process once the countries begin to stabilize.
Government corruption, and industrial, agricultural, and city pollution, and illegal water extraction are obliterating Egypt’s lakes, rivers and wetlands. It seems nothing can be done but document the destruction.
“Lake Maryut has been reduced by more than 75 percent and is still shrinking, according to Eddin. The main causes are urban encroachment and solid waste dumping from the rapidly growing city of Alexandria. Lake Maryut’s area covered 200 square kilometers at the beginning of the 20th century, but at the beginning of the 21st it covers only about 50.Lake Burullus, despite being declared a protectorate by Prime Ministerial Decree 1444/1998, has lost an estimated 37 percent of its open-water area and 85 percent of its marsh area in the past 40 years, largely as a result of ongoing drainage and reclamation of the lake’s eastern, western and southern margins.”
Egypt’s endangered Gazelles taken down by machines guns and pick-up trucks. Piece by piece, we’ll kill this planet yet…“Egypt’s gazelle population has decreased consistently and drastically for the past four decades mainly due to two factors: unregulated hunting practices and habitat destruction. Three species of gazelle used to live across Egypt. The Arabian gazelle is thought to have completely disappeared, as the most recent footprints of this mammal were found in the 1930s in Wadi al-Arish at the border with Israel. The slender-horned gazelle’s population is difficult to estimate, but according to Omar Attum, professor of biology at Indiana University Southeast who closely studies Egypt’s gazelles, the number of slender-horned gazelles is likely no higher than a hundred. “Slender-horned gazelles have low population densities. There have been some records of them in Siwa recently, but I really worry as the revolution in Libya has made weapons more widely available in a very large and porous border area,” he explains, stressing that whenever there is an armed conflict anywhere in the world, wildlife is threatened. Richard Hoath, British naturalist and author of the book, “A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt,” explains that the population of slender-horned gazelles is limited to an area southwest of Fayoum. “This gazelle is strictly a desert species; it is able to survive without drinking water its entire life, provided it can feed on desert shrubs and bushes,” he explains animatedly.”
Source: Almasry Alyoum
Egypt is already suffering from the effects of climate change. In September 2010, Dr. Mohamed El Raey of Egypt’s Alexandria University described the situation in what is probably the most comprehensive study (PDF) ever published on Arab climate impacts. Dr. El Raey declares that Egypt is the most vulnerable of the Arab states because of comparatively large concentrations of populations, industry, trading, farming, and harbors along the vulnerable coastline.
He writes that the [read the rest here]
I’ll tell my children we made this revolution possible.Gigi Ibrahim, an Egyptian protester (BBC News)
Egypt’s Climate Policy Void in a Post-Mubarak World
Egypt is already suffering from the effects of climate change. In September 2010, Dr. Mohamed El Raey of Egypt’s Alexandria University described the situation in what is probably the most comprehensive study (PDF) ever published on Arab climate impacts. Dr. El Raey declares that Egypt is the most vulnerable of the Arab states because of comparatively large concentrations of populations, industry, trading, farming, and harbors along the vulnerable coastline…
Read the rest: http://goo.gl/CROFD
With hinged, needle sharp tipped teeth on it’s tongue and lips, the deep-ocean, mesopelagic Dragon Fish is not to be feared. They’re only about the size of a banana and live 1000 to 5000 meters (about 3,000 to 17,000 feet, or about a mile or three) where even the sun’s rays cannot reach. Shifts in climate on the surface of the sea is known to effect the health of creatures of the deep. But does it matter if they go extinct? To be honest, as an urban planner who researches adaptation (aka, fixing cities), I can’t think of a reason other than moral imperative. Worse, we might have to just let them go, so to speak. We can’t save every species. I can’t imagine this precious beast being listed on the endangered species list anytime soon.
That’s not to say work isn’t being done, because there is plenty of it. The 2007 AR4, aka the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report for Working Group II Climate Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation (the executive summary is worth a skim, here), addressed three topics having to do with figuring out a way to live with climate changes. This includes saving species. The three parts of the IPCC report are:
- scientists take a snap-shot of the world today;
- second, create predictions of the world under various climate conditions;
- and finally, discuss reasonable options to live in a changed world.
To make sense of this gibberish, it’s basically the same as messing around with a salary or mortgage calculator and then making a decision based on the scenario it spits out. A low rate means possibly taking out more money. A high rate limits your options for the size house you can buy, etc. Same holds here. When an ecosystem is expected to change due to temperature, we assess the risk tolerance, then make a decision. Pretty straight forward. My work lies in the third part, which is figuring out our options for cities. With adaptation, urban planners like me try to figure out which buildings we should move away from eroding beaches to avoid them from falling into the ocean (figuring out who pays is a whole other ball game!). On a larger scale, cities that are close to the ocean, like New York City or Boston, are in serious trouble if the sea rises a couple feet even if it does take 100 years.
Of the work in the AR4, there is a lot already done in the first part - taking a snap-shot of the world today. This entails lots and lots of assessments, which are too lengthy to go into here (aka, incredibly boring). Just know that scientists have their hands in assessing parts of the world that are unimaginable to the general public, but are crucial for our health.
Clean and full water aquifers, for example, are serious issues for millions of people around the world. Already underground aquifers in parts of Egypt and Northern Africa are becoming saltier because of sea level rise. As the sea level rises, salt water seeps into fresh water aquifers, spoiling women’s wells and fish farms. Aquifers are essential for drinking water. And they are critical sources for streams and rivers, which obviously fuel enormous ecosystems and habitat. There are many assessments by scientists working to measure the health of important, yet unseen, systems. Take a quick peak at some other interesting summaries here (but come back to my tumblr when you’re done!).
But what to do with rare or hardly seen species, such as the poor Dragon Fish above? I can’t wrap my head around this. Their habitat will be impacted by climate change, it is indisputable. But how to help these and other species is just too big for me to fathom. Thus, we may have to just accept that they’ll be a casualty of our war with the planet.