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More MENA wars over water, energy and food

May 04,2019 - Last updated at May 04,2019

The coming few years will not only witness people fighting over land, religion and economies, but also over climate change, and water, energy and food shortages. Though war of ideologies will always be a superficial rationalisation for conflicts, the real justification of such wars is water, energy and food.

The world's most volatile region is about to be involved in further chaos due to persistent climate change, as food shortages and water and energy scarcity increase the number of displaced people, ignite wars and provide opportunities for extremist groups. It is predicted that 7 to 10 million people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region would be forced to leave their homelands over the next decade because of water, energy and food shortages or because of conflicts that could break out as a result of conflicts on these resources.

The impact of climate change and water scarcity in the Middle East will aggravate. As a result, the region is heading towards the greatest natural disaster in the history of mankind, and the displacement of refugees and the continuing global conflict can mere results.

With just 2 per cent of the Middle East covered with water and 94 per cent vulnerable to climate change, the future of the region is at stake. The situation became even bleaker nowadays with wars erupting in many countries, as water has become increasingly a scarce resource.

The MENA is badly affected by climate change, and droughts and desertification are expected to lead to a decline in crop production, declining river water levels, drop in energy production and increased conflicts over water and food resources, leading to more crises and conflicts. In the past, it has been found that the failure of some MENA countries to meet the basic needs of citizens and address droughts, desertification and lack of energy supplies drove the masses to participate in political protests or the so-called “Arab Spring” demonstrations.

Between 2006 and 2011, more than 65 per cent of arable lands in Syria were adversely affected by drought, the worst in the country’s modern history. Agricultural products decreased and livestock farmers lost most of their source of living because they migrated to major cities. In Libya, the drought also caused widespread unrest. In Egypt, climate change has led to waves of drought, particularly in the delta and the Nile Valley. Many agricultural lands have been lost as a result of population growth and occupation of farmland. This had led food prices to rocket.

The changing climate has contributed to unrest in Syria, Iraq and other Arab countries. The problems are not over at all as warmer temperatures lead to water shortages. As the Middle East imports 70 per cent of grains, this proportion is increasing annually due to the rise in population, making governments and people more vulnerable to climate changes because the MENA is totally dependent on its food security for the sustainable development on agriculture.

Several governments, including the governments of Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco, have begun to address climate change issues to ensure sustainability of natural resources. The outcome of climate change, chiefly migration, will aggravate these wars and conflicts further, fuelling intransigent bigoted movements worldwide. The more unstable climate policies are the more backsliding penchants and affinities in world politics to rise to the surface, prelude to more violent unsafe world.

In the 1960s, a number of conflicts have erupted because of war on water. The Atlantic Council, which has compiled a database on water-related conflicts around the world, has reported 92 water-related incidents in the Middle East. Most of these incidents were attributed to development factors, terrorism or incidents in which water was used as a military tool or target. Yet, conflicts over water are still less than conflicts over other natural resources such as oil, despite forecast that the next war in the Middle East will be a result of water shortage, rather than any other factor.

Although the MENA region does not contribute significantly to climate change compared with Western and eastern countries, such as China, the EU and the US, the Middle East will be hit badly by climate change issues as the World Bank stated: "The Middle East stands on the front lines of climate change."

The world has already passed the point of no return. Even the agreed goals of the United Nations climate summit in 2015 are not addressed. The vast majority of the world's countries continue to follow the path of energy-intensive development and emissions. On the other hand, three of the largest countries in terms of emissions produce carbon dioxide more than 100 other countries. Some areas in the Middle East may become unfit for human life as summer temperatures in some MENA countries would double the global average temperature.

Some studies reveal that temperature in the MENA is expected to reach 46ºC by 2050. In 2100, the incidence of severe heat-waves will increase more than usual, while extreme weather, fire storms, dust clouds and rapid evaporation will become the normal pattern. All of this will pave the way for future wars and conflicts over water, food and energy in the MENA.

 

The writer is a consultant, senior political and media adviser and the executive director of Geostrategic Media Centre-USA. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times

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