Can the Mideast manage climate change?

September 19th, 2009 | Posted in Beirut, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria
    Daily Star by Rami G. Khouri, Saturday, September 19, 2009.


    Photo: Tanya Traboulsi. Sky over sea, Beirut, Lebanon.

The amount and quality of available scientific data on the global impact of climate change, I rediscovered at a seminar organized by the Danish Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen this week, is staggering. The debate that swirled around the issues of climate change and global warming just two or three years ago has vanished. There is much more certainty now on the nature and extent of the changes to the Earth’s climate that can be attributed to the impact of human activity, mainly the burning of fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases.

The collective technical knowledge of humankind, however, is not yet matched by parallel political will to act early and decisively enough to reduce the consequences of climate change, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East. The contrast between the actions of European countries – individually or collectively via the European Union – and the relative inaction in the Arab world is also staggering.

Equally dangerous is an emerging new trend in global climate change analysis and pre-emptive policymaking that sees climate change consequences as a security issue, rather than merely as a matter of environmental or economic consequence. Countries hard hit by climate change that do not take early mitigation or adaptation measures, it is feared, will suffer severe consequences and become a menace to themselves and to others. These consequences could include large-scale population displacements, job losses, food and water shortages, social and political strife, unchecked migration, waves of “climate refugees,” and armed conflicts over water or land.

The danger of addressing climate change challenges primarily as a security threat was succinctly noted in a report published this year that provides a terrific synthesis of our knowledge of the causes and consequences of climate change. The compact but rich 36-page report, titled “Climate Change: Global risks, challenges and decisions-Synthesis Report,” summarized the deliberations of 12 leading international scholars who met in Copenhagen in March under the aegis of the International Alliance of Research Universities.

In the document, University of Copenhagen professor Ole Waever, a leading scholar of international relations security theory, wrote that not only can climate change exacerbate conflicts and increase strains and violence among competing groups, but also that “[w]hen issues are cast in security terms, leaders get increased latitude for dramatic measures. It is crucial that this ‘security-driven empowerment’ in the case of climate change gets ‘channeled’ into strengthening of international institutions, and not unilateral emergency acts. Factoring security into the climate change equation runs the risk of escalating vicious circles. In the parts of the world where health and wellbeing are most negatively impacted by climate change, the likelihood of conflict will increase most, and these conflicts will further reduce living standards.”

The security-climate change nexus is critical for the Middle East, which is setting itself up for a catastrophe if individual countries do not soon summon the political will to acknowledge the likely consequences of climate change, and act preemptively to deal with them. In a region that is already fully or semi-arid, with its concomitant negative impact on agriculture, and major cities burgeoning out of control due to high birth and rural-to-urban migration rates, unchecked climate change that raises the average temperature by two degrees Centigrade is certain to aggravate the series of trends that have already turned our region into a showcase of incompetent public management and poor governance.

These trends include declining per capita available fresh water resources, degradation of water quality, urban hyper-growth, rising food costs, and widening disparities among populations when it comes to such indicators as income, health and social services, water and sanitation services, food quality, education, and overall quality of life.

The signs to date suggest that most Arab countries in the past generation have been unable to manage public services, the economy, and the equitable distribution of, and access to, national resources in a manner allowing the living standards of most citizens to improve. Rather, a small slice of Arabs has enjoyed significant wealth or very comfortable living standards, while the majority has remained mired in low-income living conditions – conditions not desperate enough to foment social or political unrest, but that also do not allow the bulk of citizens to graduate into a solid middle class life characterized by security, hope and wellbeing.

At a recent seminar at the American University of Beirut that brought together climate change researchers in four Levant countries, participants discussed the fact that massive quantities of fresh water are being pumped out of the ground and used by private interests, without the regulation of the state. Consistent over-exploitation of underground aquifers has seen available fresh water supplies decline steadily in many if not most Arab countries.

Water allocation, pricing, re-use, storage and conveyance are also widely mismanaged throughout the Middle East. It is difficult to see how a region that has been unable to master the most basic aspects of integrated water resources management can possibly muster the skills and political will to deal with the far more serious challenges of climate change. A resort to climate matters as a security issue is always possible in a region where security agencies dominate society and lead to severe distortions that partly account for the moribund state of Arab society.

The early warning signs are clear for all to see, and the scientific knowledge needed to deal with the challenges and potential threats is widely available to anyone with an internet connection. In the late 1970s, we were warned about imminent stress resulting from population growth, urban sprawl, arable land misuse, and water shortages. We did virtually nothing about all these issues, and they have blossomed into veritable crises that plague a majority of our citizens today, though the leaderships and elites are shielded from the pain.

We would look like world class idiots if we again ignored the early warnings about climate change, where the potential consequences are much direr. Amateurish national natural resource management for a generation should be as much as any people should be expected to suffer.


“Climate change”: All things to all people
By Special K
Disassociated Press
September 18, 2009

Birth control could help combat climate change
The Associated Press
LONDON — Giving contraceptives to people in developing countries could
help fight climate change by slowing population growth, experts said
Friday. …

The experts’ position on climate control
Coincides neatly with that of proponents of birth control,
Who say fewer mouths to feed
Is a partial solution we need
To help check climate change, and its horrendous toll.

Epoch Times – Contraception Vital in Climate Change Fight, Experts Say
By Reuters
Leo Bryant, a lead researcher from WHO said the stigma attached to birth
control was hindering vital progress.

But Mr. Bryant, a researcher for the WHO
aka World Health Organization–acting in an anti-climate-change role–
Notes that the stigma attached to contraception as a check on population growth
Hinders its contribution as a method of climate control.

Worldwide Dairy Industry to Sign Global Declaration on Climate Change
This pledge builds on past performance to address climate change. The
global dairy industry has a shared interest with governments and the global
community …

The problem facing the global dairy industry
Has to do with their products’ primary source:
Largely creatures classified as “bovine”
Who generate greenhouse gases perforce.

Natural Gas Lobby Steps Into Climate Change Negotiations
Huffington Post (blog)
Producers of natural gas are readying a lobbying effort before a climate
change bill goes before the Senate this fall, reports the Associated Press.

While bovine emissions are classifiable
As constituting a distinctly natural gas
So too are the vast earth-concealed gaseous deposits
That to ovens and heaters, through gas-lines, daily pass.

A Warning on Climate Change – The Pour Blog –
By By Eric Asimov
Greenpeace issues a dire warning on global warming’s effect on vineyards.

And unless dairy farmers and gas producers,
Can manage to keep their production-related emissions in check,
According to Greenpeace, wine production may wither on the vine–
A prospect that will be viewed with equanimity by teetotalers only, we strongly suspect.

But no matter what transpires, prevention wise,
In the sectors above illustratively highlighted,
It stands to reason that companies operating in the “climate change sector”–
notwithstanding probably uniform ineffectiveness in checking such change–
With both rate of growth and profitability will tend to be quite delighted.

Climate Change: Big Business Now, and Fixing to Get a Whole Lot Bigger
Written by Keith Johnson, WSJ blogs
Friday, September 18 2009 11:03
More signs today that the business of climate change is coming of age,
and faster even than optimists expected.
HSBC, the big investment bank, just tallied up the revenues of listed
companies operating in the “climate-change sector.” That includes
companies that make low-carbon energy gear; energy-efficiency; and
water and pollution management.
The upshot? The sector’s sales worldwide grew 75% last year to $530 billion, the bank reckons. That makes “climate change” a bigger business than wireless telecoms, capital markets, and aerospace and defense. The field is dominated by Germany, France, Japan and the U.S., which led the pack

It is not made clear, however,
If companies expecting “climate change” revenues
Also expect, themselves, to avoid the ravages of climate change–
About this we must await news of their views.

However, judging from the experience of billionaire T. Boone Pickens (see items below)
Who had planned to cash in on wind energy
Best-laid plans to profit from climate change preventive innovations
May not come to fruition immediately (see items below ordered

• Oil tycoon plans largest wind farm – Green Machines-
Jun 20, 2007 … Billionaire T. Boone Pickens is planning to cash in on the wind energy boom … Pickens’ wind farm proposal could get help from the state. … – Cached – Similar –

• The Energy Blog: Pickens Wind Farm to Get Underway
Apr 18, 2008 … Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens is commencing action, with plans for his company, Mesa Power, to build, over the next four years, ……/pickens-wind-fa.html – Cached – Similar –

• Winds shifting for Pickens’ wind farm plan | Green Tech – CNET News
Jul 7, 2009 … A lack of transmission lines means that a massive wind farm Pickens had hoped to build in Texas will need to find new locations. – Cached – Similar –

• UPDATE 2-Pickens delays wind farm on finance, grid issues …
Jul 8, 2009 … (Recasts, adds detail, dateline and byline) By Ayesha Rascoe and Eileen O’Grady WASHINGTON/HOUSTON, July 8 (Reuters) – Texas oil billionaire ……/idUSN0847490720090708 – Cached – Similar –

These products of Google’s search procedures provide perspective
On the progress of T Boone’s wind farm plan
That, it appears, hasn’t been advanced materially toward fruition
Over the most recent two-year time span.

It would seem possible that folks in the Mideast
Surfeited as they are with oil,
And dependent on it for economic survival
At the prospect of alternate energy sources would recoil.

Comment by Special K (NJ) — September 20th, 2009 @ 3:19 PM

recently, there has been some massive flooding in the Philippines and Vietnam which i think is also due to Climate Change. the tropical storms in asia are somewhat getting stronger stronger each year.

Comment by detoxdietguy — October 2nd, 2009 @ 8:53 AM

wind farms are great but they also take up a large land area”;

Comment by Isobel Shaw — August 3rd, 2010 @ 2:01 PM

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