Arab Nations May Be Waking Up Too Late to Climate Change

Arab nations are only now beginning to wake up to the dangers of climate change and the impact it will have on their people and way of life.

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Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 12:46

Coral beach at the Red Sea
Coral beach at the Red Sea
Israel news photo: Flash 90

While Israel is already racing to put water-saving measures in place to meet the challenge of a world with less water, such as desalination plants and specialized targeted drip irrigation agricultural systems, Arab neighbors are only now becoming aware of just how severe the blow will be when the crisis fully hits the region.

A report by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) issued this week in Amman warns that Arab countries in the region are growing increasingly vulnerable to the potential impact of climate change.
The issues of rising average temperatures, combined with recurrent drought and water shortages are likely to be exacerbated by 2025, according to the report, thereby affecting the area's agricultural production and resulting food supply.

Scientists said that before the end of this century, they expect the water flow in the Jordan River may decrease by as much as 80 percent, and by some 30 percent in the Euphrates River as well.

In addition, the sea level is likely to rise in response to the change in climate, said the report, creating serious problems for the region's economy. The “Arab region” has a total of 34,000 kilometers of coastal area, of which nearly half is inhabited, the report points out.

Another concern is the specter of a drop in tourism due to harsher climate conditions: a rise of one to four degrees Celsius in average temperatures that could lead to bleaching of coral reefs, the deaths of various species of plant, animal and marine life and beach erosion were listed among the dire predictions by the authors of the report.

Red Sea resorts in Egypt and Jordan were identified as being most at risk, followed by Tunisia, Morocco, Syria and Lebanon. Recommendations included development of new crops that are adaptable to higher temperatures, more salinity and require less water, as well as promotion of alternative tourist destinations.