Arab warming

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: Jan 7 2013, 05:45am hrs
Arab states may have to go a undergo drastic change to deal with climate change

The common notion is that global warming will end up inundating a third of Bangladesh, cause horrendous cyclones in North America and completely submerge tiny island-nations in the Asia-Pacific. Now, according to a report recently released by the World Bank, it could affect a region already blighted with extremities of weather, and bereft of rainfall and freshwaterthe Middle-East. Global warming, claims the report, is set to amplify the two features of the Middle-East so much so that there could be a drastic reduction in fresh water supply for sustenance of agriculture, and an uncomfortable spike in the already high temperatures. And it may already be happening2010 was the hottest year for the Middle-East since the 1800s, whereas Kuwait topped both 2010 and 2011, for the highest recorded temperatures at 52.6 degree Celsius and 53.5 degree Celsius, respectively. Moreover, till 2050, the freshwater run-off could be about 10% of its current volume, while hotter climate may dissipate Mediterranean agriculture (where 80% of the Middle-East crop is grown). Both of these could prove dire for the region given its population growthits population has grown threefold to 349 million in a span of 50 yearsand an already persistent water deficit.

Ironically, the solutions to combat such change lies in areas where these countries are at their weakesteconomic growth, civil society and inclusive political institutions. Economic growth can help make cities more resilient to drastic shortfall in agriculture (since they would have more money for imports)currently only the tiny group of oil-rich Persian Gulf nations fit the bill. Civil society is necessary for the regionwhich still has 34% of its population languishing in povertyto build participatory, inclusive and modern political institutions that can help nurture mature and modern political leaderships that can prioritise climate change as a problem. Can the Arab Spring give this answer