Climate change has become a popular topic across the globe, even more so in recent years. What had once been labeled ‘global warming’ has now become known by the more common phrase ‘climate change,’ which better encapsulates the real and pressing danger that looms around every nation today.
The Middle East, a region already facing rampant conflict and poverty, could see significant environmental challenges in the coming years due to climate change. It is incumbent upon these nations to take the necessary steps to combat climate change and prepare for how these global shifts could impact access to water, crops, and our very way of life.
What is Climate Change?
Essentially, at its core, it is the concept that human beings are impacting the environment, ultimately creating changes within the climate, not just locally but on an international level. According to NASA, weather events occur beyond our control and can change through various patterns.
Typically, though, with the natural regulatory systems of the planet, most weather patterns will return to some normalcy in time, providing us with information on temperature, rainfall, and other factors we can count on.
Climate can refer to localized regions, such as the Middle East, North America, Australia, and so forth, but it also refers to a global scale, where all the local climates are combined to provide a ‘big picture’ view of things.
Climate change essentially refers to this larger view, how the entire scope of the Earth’s general climate is shifting. Taking climate change seriously means focusing on steps any nation -or even an individual – can take to slow down the rising temperatures, create more environmentally friendly technologies, or reduce their impact and plan better for the future.
Risks Posed to the Middle East
Aside from the long-standing political turmoil that has run rampant throughout the Middle East for centuries, climate change now poses a potentially greater risk to many of these nations.
The main focus involves water and food shortages. What has happened in Sudan and Syria when agricultural output is truncated for any reason, the disaster was felt far and wide. Millions of men, women, and children who used to roam the rural landscapes were suddenly forced to seek refuge in cities, most of which were ill-equipped to handle the influx or unwilling to take them in.
According to a book, The Power of Deserts: Climate Change, the Middle East and the Promise of a Post-Oil Era by Dan Rabinowitz, the Middle East could very well experience significant shortages of water, diminished agricultural production, and increased conflict that may be driven by the forced displacement of millions of people due to these shortages. Those shortages would be the direct result of climate change that threatens the entire world.
Some nations have taken significant steps to reduce their impact on climate change, such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which have focused on reducing emissions, increasing energy conservation strategies, carbon capture capabilities, and even looking ahead to a post-oil economy with renewable energy.
Oil production will continue to be a major source of revenue for these Gulf nations, but a growing chorus of leadership from these countries agree that ignoring the impact of human activity on the climate is no longer possible.
However, some nations, like Iran, have taken no steps toward either combatting climate change or even recognizing it as a serious threat to the region. As new U.S. President Biden reaches out to Iran to restart the nuclear agreement, there is a collective hope that within those talks, climate change could be discussed.
Middle East Should Follow the UAE’s Footsteps
Aside from carbon capture, construction innovation to create self-sustaining infrastructure, such as modern skyscrapers in the UAE that focus on new construction methods, including solar-energy capturing glass on those buildings that not only block heat-generating UV radiation from penetrating into the building but also turning it into useable energy, much like solar panels, there are other steps these nations can take to combat climate change.
One is to capitalize on the abundant, intense solar radiation the region experiences by employing solar panel stations to convert that into useable energy. Another method could involve cloud-seeding, a development which could save the region from an impending water crisis.
Cloud seeding is currently being tested in the UAE. This is a method that seeks to wring more water from clouds by using salts, which attract water droplets. Firing flares with salt composites into clouds, the hope is that this might produce more rain over time.
It is estimated that within 30 years, much of the Middle East will face a serious water shortages. With new developments, such as cloud seeding, there is hope to prevent such a disaster.
The UAE also has plans to reduce drinkable water consumption by 20 percent and increase reusable water production by 95 percent by 2036.
These are just a few proactive measures that the UAE is taking to address the very real and profoundly serious threat of climate change to the region and the world.
This effort, though, cannot be relegated to just a few countries in the region. Iran, Syria, and others must also take steps to combat what could become a serious catastrophe for the Middle East to avoid devastating consequences that could be looming just a decade or two into the future.