In recent years, climate change has soared to unprecedented levels and has been the primary driving force behind rising temperatures around the world. Climate change has also caused a number of natural disasters as more countries are facing life-threatening floods. The United Nations Climate Action Summit is set to be held in September 2019 at New York. The UN has called on all member states to participate in the summit and discuss a number of different issues surrounding climate change such as heavy industry, energy production and the cities most threatened by the phenomenon. Participating countries, especially the major industrialized ones, will present their views on climate change and what they will do in the coming years to tackle it.
A CRITICAL CRISIS
The UN has reiterated that it considers climate change one of the world’s most critical and sensitive issues as it has caused a number of global disasters. For one thing, rising global temperatures have threatened the world’s food production; moreover, rising sea levels have caused many floods around the world, particularly in Asia, Africa, and the Americas which in turn has displaced thousands of people out of their homes. All these disasters will only increase in the future and the only way to stop them is if the world tackles the root causes of climate change. Furthermore, as they are the greatest contributors to climate change, developed states must collectively take unprecedented actions against this global catastrophe.
THE UN’S WARNING SIGNALS
According to the UN, if immediate action is not taken, then the world’s major ecosystems will face a point of no return as reversing the effects of climate change will be close to impossible. As a matter of fact, both the Amazon Rainforest and the North Pole have undergone radical changes ever since their average temperatures started rising. Additionally, rising temperatures have led to melting ice caps and increasing droughts which will surely pose a risk to our future generations. The UN further warned that receding ice caps are leading to rising sea levels. Some reports have indicated that sea levels are expected to rise by 24 to 30 cm in the year 2065, and this problem will only worsen as levels are set to increase by 43 to 60 cm in the year 2100.
To prevent such disasters from happening, the world will need to adopt rapid and long-term changes in the industry, energy, city development, and transportation. There is presently the ambitious goal of reaching ‘net zero’ carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, but this cannot be achieved unless carbon dioxide emissions fall to around 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.
WARNINGS FROM OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
The World Bank has recently stated that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is one of the regions most at risk from rising sea levels, it further predicted that sea levels would likely rise by 0.5 meters in the year 2099. The World Bank also warned that low coastal areas in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar are likely to greatly suffer from rising sea levels, especially those in Egypt. The World Economic Forum has also issued a report on speaking on traditionally dry areas that have been suffering from constant floods, for instance, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia has been enduring floods since the 1960s due to freak storms. The report also noted of the heatwaves that the region has been facing in recent years, as temperatures have risen to 54 °C in some countries. These heatwaves have caused devastating droughts, the likes of which the region hasn’t experienced in decades.
The World Bank, which spends $ 1.5 billion to fight climate change in the region, has estimated that 80 to 100 million people in MENA will be exposed to water shortages. The organization has also predicted that average temperatures in the region will be 4°C higher by the year 2050, moreover by the end of the century day temperatures might be as high as 50 °C. All these predictions indicate how imperative it is for the region to tackle rising temperatures.
Last year, a climate summit was held in Poland where 200 attending countries agreed to the rules for implementing the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. After a series of talks, the attending states put behind their political differences and agreed to do what they could to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 2 °C above preindustrial levels. Furthermore, some countries tried to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement in spite of many reservations other countries had over many of its terms.
HUMAN CONTRIBUTION TO THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT
Industrial activities, deforestation, and rapid cultivation have led to an increase in greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. The reason why this poses a threat to Earth is that such gases prevent some of the sun’s energy from returning back to space thus increasing the globe’s temperatures. It should be noted that these gases are actually necessary for the survival of humans and other living organisms since they help maintain some of the sun’s warmth and as a result make Earth suitable for living. However, mass industrialization and modern living habits have caused a massive increase in these gases which in turn have been trapping hazardous levels of solar energy within Earth’s atmosphere.
Many countries have taken the initiative of reducing the greenhouse effect and some Arab countries have taken crucial first steps in preventing its dangers. For instance, a number of Arab countries have started utilizing renewable energy, such as solar energy and wind energy, in agriculture, industry, and electricity. Furthermore, some countries have modified their spray or drip irrigation systems as an alternative to traditional irrigation methods. The use of electric cars, which greatly reduce carbon emissions and harmful gases, has also become more widespread in some countries.
THE REALITY OF CLIMATE CHANGE
In an interview with Majalla, Dr. Ayman Farid Abou-Hadid, Egypt’s agricultural minister and the former head of Egypt’s Environmental Affairs Agency, has emphasized the undeniable reality of climate change, regardless of whether or not it has slowed down: “There are experts that claim that the climate is rapidly changing, while others are of the opinion that climate change is slowing down. But it is evident that climate change is real and human activity and consumption has accelerated this phenomenon by increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Dr. Ayman Abou-Hadid also stated that “Climate change has been happening on this planet since its inception, as the planet has endured three ice ages and periods of rainy ages have come between them.” He also noted that past periods of climate change had certain “pace” to them, and the fact that emissions have accelerated this period’s climate change has raised questions on the impact of human activity on the process.
THREATS TO THE MIDDLE EAST
Regarding the threats that climate change poses on the Middle East and what governments in the region are doing to handle it, Dr. Ayman Abou-Hadid noted that this region is one of the most susceptible ones to climate change. Climate change has had negative impacts on the region as it led to rain scarcity and rising temperatures. Furthermore, there are many areas in the region that are highly vulnerable to rising sea levels. He then said that each country is preparing for the impact in different ways, for instance, Egypt and the Gulf States have exerted a lot of effort into improving agricultural and irrigation methods. These countries are also trying to not increase their uses of substances that cause gas emissions. The effectiveness of such attempts cannot be determined at this present time.
THE PARIS AGREEMENT
The 2015 Paris Agreement is one of the most crucial international accords regarding climate change. The agreement stated that all signing countries would implement every measure possible to ensure a future of significantly reduced global carbon emissions. The agreement also stated that all nations should cooperate to solve this crisis and emphasized the need to help developing states reduce their contributions to climate change. The agreement also has the goal of preventing average global temperatures from rising above 2°C as well as reducing temperatures by 1.5 °C by the end of the century. The United States is currently the largest contributor to climate change and despite the fact that its oceans make it more vulnerable, the US hasn’t done enough to reduce its emissions. On the other hand, the European Union contributes to only 7.8 percent of global emissions and is encouraging measures to decrease greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Moreover, EU countries have sought to move towards renewable sources of energy to conserve their environments. Many industries in Asia have also taken to relying on cleaner renewable energy sources and using new technology such as electric cars. As such, many states in the Middle East have followed Europe and Asia’s lead.