10 Scenarios for the MENA region in the year 2050 as elaborated and written by @Eubulletin | Thursday, May 9th, 2019
Scenarios are imagined futures that can demonstrate how current actions may lead to dramatically different outcomes, but also serve as useful tools to help guide strategy and shape the future. This analysis lays out long term scenarios (2050) for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). These conclusions point towards greater conflict and contentious state-society dynamics, regional fragmentation and shifting centres of gravity, the region’s embeddedness in global rivalries and disruptive socio-economic and environmental international trends.
Unstoppable Climate Change
By 2050 climate change will be a decisive global reality, but its impact will differ from one region to the other. The countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will be among the most affected: the effects will be felt across the region in the form of extreme weather phenomena, heat waves and droughts, desertification, severe water shortages and a rise in sea level. One of the most vulnerable areas will be the Nile Delta, where a sea-level rise of about 50 cm could force 4 million Egyptians to resettle to other areas. The region’s governments and societies will have to deal with scarcity of natural resources, including food, price volatility and the risks associated with new pandemics.
By 2050, a post-oil world order will be in place due to profound changes in the global energy market. Such a new order will not be triggered by a lack of supply: on the contrary, fossil fuel production may even increase for a time, thanks to the exploitation of new reserves, innovative investments in oil and tar sands, the popularization of LNG and fracking development projects beyond the United States. Prices may remain relatively low for some time despite the high demand from emerging economies. But in the longer term, the main driver of decarbonisation will be the gigantic steps forward in technological innovation for renewable energy production and storage capacities, which will be more popular due to global awareness of the climate change.
An Urbanized Region
The MENA region is characterized by high urbanization. Some 60 percent of the population was already urban by 2018 and this trend will not be reversed by 2050. While we are already familiar with “Mega Cities” such as Cairo and Istanbul, new ones will surpass the 10 million people benchmark. Baghdad and Khartoum, each with 15 million inhabitants, will be two of the fastest-growing cities in the region. The capacities of urban spaces to accommodate this new reality will depend on the pace of growth but even more on the resources deployed by local and national authorities to upgrade basic infrastructures such as public transport, sanitation and housing.
Digitalization and Automation
Technologization will be a global megatrend by 2050. Automation and Artificial Intelligence will radically transform job markets in most countries. The MENA region will be particularly affected by those trends due to the already high (and seemingly persistent) unemployment and underemployment rates, particularly among young people. While the Gulf region and Israel may adapt more easily to these changes, other countries, with large working populations, strained job markets and insufficient governance could face major social problems. Infrastructural investment, business culture, education and regulation will also determine the ability to adapt to these megatrends.
Religiosity, Individualization and Citizenship
Societal trends in the MENA in 2050 will result from the complex interplay between endogenous and exogenous variables. Fragmentation and centrifugal dynamics are likely to shape both the religious and the secular camps as well as societies as a whole. Individualization processes, among which the fact that religious or non-religious choices will be the result of each person’s preferences, and the contestation of intermediate authorities (such as religious bodies) will further fragment each camp. In any case, attitudes towards religion will continue to be a major driver of societal and political dynamics and remain a highly contentious issue.
Strong or Fierce States
Attempts to erode or complement the role of states in the region will continue. This is likely to happen by efforts to curtail their size and prerogatives. Next to this, challenges to the authority of states will prompt analysts and pundits to speculate on the weakening or outright collapse of the state system and the redrawing of the regional order. Yet, MENA states could prove more resilient than some expected. By 2050, controlling the state will remain the main and often only guarantee for elite survival. State agents (state elites, the public sector, security apparatuses) and the dynamics revolving around them (clientelism, state capitalism) will remain predominant in the region compared with other parts of the world.
Managing the Effects of Today’s Conflicts
It is impossible to determine which of the conflicts current today will be solved by 2050 and which will still be in place – let alone to predict new ones that may emerge. Nevertheless, we can take it for granted that the effects of today’s conflicts will continue to be felt in the MENA countries in 2050. Even in those cases where effective solutions have been put forward, the post-conflict trauma will mark one or more generations. In addition, new drivers of conflict are very likely to come to the forth, but all these phenomena can turn into either sources for risks or opportunities depending on how they are managed by regional and international actors.
China: Primus Inter Pares
By 2050, China is likely to be the world’s largest economy. Its annual growth rate will have remained considerably steady, keeping in check internal tensions associated with inequality and governance deficits. After almost four decades since its inception, the Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to drastically transform the socio-economic landscape of the Asian continent and of the MENA region. On the basis of the positive returns of China’s initial investments in the 2020s, the MENA authorities’ willingness to engage with China will further increase.
By 2050, the African continent could be home to 2.5 billion people. This is twice as many as in 2019. Nigeria’s population will have reached 400 million and may rank 14th among the world’s largest economies. The number of African workers will have already surpassed that of China. African mobility will be a major issue, both in terms of rural exodus and international migration. Africa’s weight in global affairs will be one of the game-changers of the following decades. The MENA region will naturally look southwards, both in terms of opportunities and risks. Not only will the MENA care more about African affairs, African leaders will also have a say in the evolution of the Middle East and the Maghreb.
Europe and the MENA Region: A Family Issue
Geographic proximity will remain a key factor in the relations between Europe and the MENA region. What is likely to change is the intensity of the societal bonds between these two spaces and what governments and the people make of it. By 2050, the proportion of Europeans with some sort of MENA background will be much higher than it is today. Such people will no longer be perceived as second- or third generation migrants but as Euro-Arabs, Euro-Turks, Euro-Kurds and Euro-Amazighs. This diversity will not only be present at the level of the general population but also among the two generations of new political and economic elites. The intensity of the connections between the EU and the region could further grow if some countries of the MENA region become members or reinforce their association with the EU.
‘The immediate issue for all businesses, in whichever industry they’re in, is survival’ – Shehab Gargash by Bernd Debusmann Jr who on 30 May 2020 reports that Gargash Group managing director and CEO Shehab Gargash has a grim short-term forecast for the coronavirus-era economy. But out of the ashes, opportunity will arise. 10 Scenarios for the MENA region in the year 2050 elaborated by @Eubulletin amongst many others predicted similar outcome, even though the world was not going through the same exceptional circumstances.
Like most globetrotting travellers and businessmen, Shehab Gargash’s office has souvenirs of his trips. But these souvenirs aren’t postcards, fridge magnets or cheap trinkets. Gargash collects boarding passes – hundreds of which are kept in a massive glass display case in his office, atop of which sits a silver and red aircraft wing.
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,” reads a sonnet on the case, written by American poet and pilot John Gillespie Magee Jr, killed flying a Spitfire over England during the Second World War. “And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.”
This, I think to myself when I see it, is a man who really loves his travel. His Instagram account proves it.
From India and China to Barcelona, Monaco and the Maldives, Gargash gets around – and that’s just in the last year alone.
But like the rest of us, Covid-19 has put a damper on Gargash’s travel plans.
“When will I travel again? That’s a good question,” he tells me, chuckling through the grainy screen of our video teleconference meeting.
“If I’m going on holiday, I want to enjoy it. So I’m not itching to get back on a plane. I don’t think we’ll be there anytime soon.”
In the current climate, an Instagram-worthy trip is the least of Gargash’s concerns. At the moment, he’s preoccupied with facing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, both on Gargash Group – of which he is managing director and CEO – and on the wider economies of the UAE and GCC.
Some estimates – such as that of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – forecast that the GCC economies will collectively record negative real GDP growth in 2020, with the UAE slipping to -3.5 percent from 1.3 percent growth last year.
When it comes to the crisis, Gargash’s warm smile and friendly banter come to a stop. This isn’t a situation he minces words about.
“The immediate issue for all businesses, in whichever industry they’re in, is survival,” he tells me. “I think we are facing worldwide, industry-wide, existential issues that a lot of us have never even dreamed of. It’s all-encompassing and covers all sorts of areas of the economy.”
Hard times ahead
When it comes to the pandemic-related issues that the UAE’s economy faces, few are in a better position to comment than Gargash. A scion of one of the country’s most prominent Emirati families, Gargash leads the Gargash Group, which has diverse interests including automotive, real estate, hospitality and financial services. He’s also the founding chairman of Daman Investments – not to mention a long-time banking industry and prolific socio-economic commentator.
Gargash Enterprises is the authorised distributor for Mercedes-Benz in Dubai, Sharjah and the Northern Emirates
In the short-term, he says with startling matter-of-factness, the forecast is grim. He predicts that many businesses will not last.
“People aren’t looking at their strategies, or their plans. They’re looking at the daily details of expenses, revenue, cash in the bag. The immediate oxygen for the business to live through this,” he says. “Many businesses will not appreciate the impact of what they thought were very small elements, like levels of leverage and borrowing that seemed manageable a few weeks ago. These will deal a fatal blow to a lot of businesses.”
Perhaps more alarmingly, Gargash believes that most businesses are “nowhere near” a stage in which they can even think of what the future holds. What businesses will look like, and how they can adapt to new realities, are still unknowns.
“We haven’t even considered that future yet. A lot of businesses, through no fault of their own in many cases, will not survive simply because they have underappreciated the need to have that safety cushion,” he adds.
According to Gargash, the businesses that do survive the immediate impact of the pandemic over the coming weeks and months will soon have to start thinking of their next moves.
“You can’t afford to be firefighting too long. Over the weeks and months, [companies will] regain their balance. Subsequent to that, strategy kicks back in,” he explains. “Where am I going as a business? What are my priorities? What are new opportunities, and what’s a dying, sunset industry?
“It’s time we ask ourselves these questions as businesses, as they’ll define how we act, post the shock-therapy. Once we do that, our priorities are better defined, and actions put together accordingly,” Gargash adds. “That’s the kind of soul searching that will occupy our minds this year, and possibly into next year.”
The company has diverse operations in financial investment and real estate
Gargash Group is far larger than most businesses that operate in the country. For the average resident, the company is most readily associated with the automotive sector, being the authorised distributor for Mercedes-Benz in Dubai, Sharjah and the Northern Emirates. It is, however, much more than that, offering a wide range of financial, investment and real estate services in various sectors.
But the company’s size and status did not spare it from the impact of the coronavirus. “We went through shock and panic, and saw revenues tumble to extremely low levels, and like everyone had to grapple with a 24-hour lockdown,” Gargash recalls. “Those were the issues that we dealt with as a group in the early days of the pandemic. Nobody knew how to deal with Covid-19.”
And although Gargash says it is “far too early” for decisions to be made on the company’s future, it has already begun a soul-searching process he advises for companies across the wider economy.
“That’s where we are at right now. Let’s say I have 10 lines of business. Which ones are still valid propositions? The ones that aren’t, do I adjust them? Do I integrate them into something else? Or do I just cut the rope and let them sink?,” he says. “Those kinds of questions are still being tackled.”
While it may be too early to determine what the group’s focus will be going forward and what it may need to be cut loose, Gargash says he isn’t particularly worried. The group’s core businesses – automotive, real estate, and financial services – will form a key part of the post-Covid economy in some form.
In fact, he adds, the shock of the pandemic may end up being a blessing in disguise that forced the company to become “more daring in its implementation.”
Businesses that will survive the impact of the pandemic over the coming months will soon have to start thinking of their next moves, Gargash believes
“We’ll try new ideas, new thoughts, concepts and industries that in the past I dismissed,” he explains. “Let’s imagine, for a second, potato farming. Potato farming has been proven to be a strategic source of nourishment. That’s a silly example, but understand, I’m obliged to become a more entrepreneurial business, and regardless of how ‘classic’ I’ve been in the past. I must investigate new avenues. I have the same eagerness to survive as a brand new start-up.”
A new GCC?
Gargash is undoubtedly an optimist. Even while speaking about the challenges of the economy, he peppers his comments with reminders that, sooner or later, things will return to something resembling normality. As he puts it, the masks will fall off, and the glove won’t be a necessity – even if the “trauma” of the event stays with us.
Even widespread job losses, he says, will eventually lead to something better. “In the longer term, jobs will be replaced, rather than lost. We still [in the UAE] have an economy serving 10 million people, and a broader GCC economy with 50 million or so. Jobs will be created, possibly in new industries and in new roles.”
These new roles – which Gargash admits he isn’t sure what will be, exactly – will require many employees, from blue-collar workers to managers, re-skill themselves, or learn entire new professions. Although challenging, he is confident the region’s youth in particular will manage.
“This [trend] will disproportionally [benefit] young people,” he says. “They’re more adept and more able to align themselves with industry trends.”
These ‘new roles’ don’t just apply to employees. The pandemic, he believes, may ultimately change the UAE’s economy as a whole by encouraging more home-grown entrepreneurs to step up with fresh new ideas.
“Most of the businesses that are set up in the UAE are in the ‘last-mile’ economy: the delivery of a product or service that has evolved somewhere else, or was manufactured somewhere else. Your control over what your supplier gives you is fairly limited. I can’t invent a better wheel, so to say. I’m just distributing the wheel that was manufactured somewhere else.”
Young people could align themselves with industry trends, says Gargash
What we’ll see instead, Gargash hopes, is an opportunity for motivated entrepreneurs to try and forecast where the future is headed and where they can step in with an idea.
“In a post Covid-reality, we’ll be asking what is going to drive businesses, and what those businesses will look like,” he says. “There needs to be a proper reading of what demands will need to be fulfilled. Businesses will need to alter their offerings to suit the new realities.”
He adds, “It’s by no means an easy task. There’s still a lot of projection and reading into the future that is required.”
Once that’s done, he says, the UAE’s economy will be able to take off – as will he, on his next trip abroad. For Gargash, that day will be welcome news.
“I have a fear of losing my frequent flyer miles,” he laughs. “But that’s another story.”
Advice for investors
When asked what advice he’s given to would-be UAE investors in the pandemic, Gargash responds without hesitation: “hold on to it and watch what happens.”
“Do not rush into investments today. I do not think there will be an imminent, overnight bounce back of growth and activity,” he says. “It’s going to come back, but it will be more deliberate.
“It’ll take more time. If I was an investor with AED1m, I’d hold back and watch and observe. I’d make a convinced decision before I take that plunge and go into one asset class.”
Under current policies, said the IEA this week, the world would see increasing strains on almost all aspects of energy security and “a major additional rise” in energy-related carbon emissions.
And under a new policies scenario, incorporating measures and targets already announced by governments worldwide, global energy demand would still grow by more than a quarter through 2040, leading to increased demand for oil.
Even under a sustainable development scenario, aimed at achieving the energy goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development agenda and the long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement, renewables growth falls short of delivering a climate change cure.
Instead, said the IEA, society would also need to rely on energy efficiency and largely untested technologies such as renewable hydrogen synthesis and carbon capture, utilization and storage, as well as write off current investments in new coal plants.
“Most emissions linked to energy infrastructure are already essentially locked in,” the IEA explained in a press release. “In particular, coal-fired power plants, which account for one third of energy-related CO2 emissions today, represent more than a third of cumulative locked-in emissions to 2040.”
The situation is particularly grave in Asia, where coal plants have an average age of 11 years old and are supposed to carry on running for decades, compared to the 40-year average age of coal-fired generation assets in the U.S. and Europe, said the IEA.
In press materials, the IEA’s executive director Dr. Fatih Birol said the agency had reviewed all current and under-construction energy infrastructure around the world and found it would account for around 95 percent of all emissions permitted under international climate targets.
“This means that if the world is serious about meeting its climate targets, then, as of today, there needs to be a systematic preference for investment in sustainable energy technologies,” Birol said.
“But we also need to be much smarter about the way that we use our existing energy system,” he said. “To be successful, this will need an unprecedented global political and economic effort.”
In the IEA’s sustainable development scenario, electrification grows strongly, but so too does the direct use of renewables such as bioenergy, solar and geothermal to provide heat and mobility.
The share of renewables in the power mix would need to rise from a quarter today to two-thirds in 2040. For heating it would need to go up from 10 percent today to 25 percent in 2040, and in transport it would need to rise from 3.5 percent to 19 percent.
The scenario foresees vast increases in wind and solar PV generation, up from 1.5 petawatt-hours a year in 2017 to 14.1 petawatt-hours in 2040. Electric vehicle adoption would also have to soar, from 9.2 million cars in 2017 to more than 933 million in 2040.
Wind, solar and electric vehicles are all commercially viable industries, though.
What is perhaps more worrying about the IEA’s sustainable development scenario is that it relies heavily on carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), a technology which has yet to reach commercial scale and which Wood Mackenzie believes will have a “limited impact on achieving future targets.”
Under the sustainable development scenario, CCUS would have to go from capturing 22.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2017 to more than 2,364 gigatons in 2040, or more than a hundredfold increase in 23 years.
Even organizations that stood to gain under the IEA scenarios offered guarded responses to the latest World Energy Outlook.
Noting that the IEA has shortened the length of time in its forecast at which wind would become the largest grid power source in Europe, Giles Dickson, CEO at the industry body WindEurope, said, “While it’ll be good to be No. 1 in electricity, electricity is only 24 percent of Europe’s energy.”
“To decarbonize the whole energy system, we’re going have to start getting large amounts of wind and other renewables into heating, transport and industrial processes,” he added.
On the plus side, though, the IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook scenarios have historically been criticized for underestimating renewables growth.
The Eindhoven University of Technology researcher Auke Hoekstra, for example, has shown that World Energy Outlook reference and new policy scenarios for solar energy capacity additions have been massively beneath what has happened in real life.
Policymakers may be hoping the same is true this year. But it might be necessary not to wait too long to find out.
Ecological security is the state when an ecosystem maintains its stability under external stress. Due to climate change and the increase in human activities since the 20th century, the rapid decline in global ecological security has threatened sustainable human development. The evaluation and projection of global ecological security is important for forming adaptation strategies to maintain sustainable development in sensitive areas. However, the current assessments of ecological security mainly focus on regional scales, and the interactions among different factors have not been considered, resulting in future projections having substantial uncertainty. Here, a new index of ecological security was developed by including biological, oxygen, carbon, thermal and hydrological cycles and the impacts to ecosystem stability from climate change and human activities at a global scale. A global distribution map of ecological security has been established that covers the past 60 years and includes projections for the future 100 years. A severe decline in ecological security has occurred in drylands that has expanded into surrounding regions over the past 60 years. The response of ecological security to global warming and human activities is projected to be stronger. By ~2100, under a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario, the amount of globally insecure land would cover more than 57% of the land in the world.
Ecological security refers to a state in which natural and semi-natural ecosystems can maintain stability, associated with the ecological environment provides ecological guarantees for the sustainable development of the whole eco-economic system (Costanza and Mageau, 1999; Fu, 2010; Ma et al., 2004; Rapport, 1989; IUCN, 2012; Jenkins et al., 2013; Newbold et al., 2015). However, ecological security has been severely threatened under on-going global warming and enhanced human activities (Walther et al., 2002; Palmer et al., 2004; Piao et al., 2010; Huang et al., 2012, 2015, 2016; Feng et al., 2016; Fu et al., 2017; Zhao et al., 2018). There are some studies indicating that ecological destruction has caused desertification, food shortages (Glover et al., 2010) and water insecurity (Vörösmarty et al., 2010; Humphrey et al., 2017), which will threaten human survival and development in the 21st century. Ecological security is closely associated with biological, oxygen, carbon, hydrological and thermal cycles under climate change and human activities. This is because, changes in vegetation structure and function linked to oxygen cycle, controls the exchange of carbon, water and energy between the land and the atmosphere (Piao et al., 2020). However, the consequences of these transformations for ecological security are poorly understood. Understanding the change in these indicators is important to determining terrestrial ecological security through the processes of respiration, photosynthesis and burning. Hence, knowledge of how climate change and human activities will affect changes in ecological security in the future is essential for protection and for adaptation strategies.
Though the concept of ecological security has been proposed as early as the 1970s (Sohn, 1973), a unified and generally accepted definition has not been formed because ecological security is a complex issue that involves many aspects (Daly, 2005; Hodson & Marvin, 2009; Wang et al., 2015; Feng et al., 2018). There are two limitations to the current assessment of ecological security. Although some indicators have been used to evaluate regional ecological security, those assessments have only considered individual regional issues, such as water security (Shinoda and Yamaguchi, 2003; Sorooshian et al., 2005; Seneviratne et al., 2010; Wang et al., 2015) and urban ecological security (Hodson & Marvin, 2009). Second, as ecological security has various definitions (Allenby 2000; Liu & Chang, 2015; Hu et al., 2019), there has been no uniform and well-recognized indicator system. Therefore, it is important to understand how the variability on climate change and human activities constrains biological, oxygen, carbon, hydrological and thermal cycles to determine the ecological security.
In fact, ecological security involves various cycles in an ecosystem. The oxygen, carbon, hydrological and thermal cycles are interconnected throughout all regions on Earth, and they are also coupled to all biological cycles (Schlesinger et al., 1990; Ciais, 1999; Jacobson et al., 2000; Dickinson, 2005; Fu & Li, 2016; Huang et al., 2017a,b, 2018; Yang et al., 2019). The process of photosynthesis not only produces vital O2 and is important for the food chain but also absorbs solar irradiation and carbon balance. Carbon accumulates in soils in large quantities, major because the high water levels that result in low biological activity and slow soil organic carbon decomposition. Carbon accumulation plays an important driving role in the carbon cycle through atmosphere, green vegetation and surface soils. Thus, these factors are the most important ecological indicator for changes in biological, oxygen, carbon, hydrological and thermal cycles. The ecological security means the survival of humans and other animals should be balanced with plant vegetation within the above five cycles.
The ecological security is identified by the combination of four essential factors, including oxygen consumption (Oc), oxygen production (Op), temperature warming magnification (Tm) and the aridity index (AI).
O2 is consumed by a wide range of processes, some of which are negligible or are difficult to quantify, including the weathering of organic matter and sulfide minerals, volcanic gas oxidation, and so on. Here, five main O2 consumption processes, including (1) fossil fuel combustion, (2) human respiration, (3) livestock respiration, (4) fires and (5) heterotrophic and soil respiration, are considered (Petsch, 2013). The detailed methods and datasets of the processes (1)-(4) could be found in Huang et al. (2018) and Liu et al., (2020). Here, the heterotrophic and soil respiration (Rh + Rd) is the process that consumes oxygen when soil organisms respire, where Rh is the respiration by heterotrophs and Rd is the respiration by decomposers (microbes), which is measured by the difference between net primary productivity (NPP) and net ecosystem productivity (NEP). The simulated Rh + Rd dataset (see Table 1) is obtained from the simulation of the Fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) (Taylor et al., 2012). The observed Rh + Rd data are obtained from the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED, Van et al., 2017).
Oxygen is produced during photosynthesis, during which plants and other organisms absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and release oxygen (O2). Photosynthesis can be expressed by the following chemical equation:
6H2O + 6CO2 ———->C6H12O6 + 6O2 (1)
Gross primary production (GPP) is the total amount of CO2 fixed by a plant during photosynthesis. NPP is the net amount of gross primary productivity remaining after including the cost of plant respiration. According to Eq. (1), we can use the following equation to calculate the net amount of O2 produced during the process of photosynthesis if the known amount of carbon is fixed through photosynthesis (NPP).
O2 = NPP * 2.667
Due to the molar mass of O2 is 32 g per mole and the C is 12 g per mole, thus the ratio is 2.667. The simulated NPP dataset from 1948 to 2100 is obtained from the CMIP5 simulation (Taylor et al., 2012) and the observed NPP data based on MODIS from 2000 to 2015 were acquired from the Global Fire Emissions Database (Van et al., 2017). The simulated NPP and observed NPP data are re-gridded to a 1.0°×1.0° resolution for comparison. The detailed methods and datasets of oxygen production could be found in Huang et al. (2018) and Liu et al. (2020)
Temperature warming magnification
The temperature warming magnification is represented by Tm(i,n), which is defined as the ratio of the grid warming rate to the global warming rate and as follows:
Tm (i, n) = Ttrend (i, n) / TGtrend (n) (3)
where Ttrend (i, n) is defined as the linear trend of the surface temperature from 1901 to year n at grid point i, and TGtrend (n) is defined as the linear trend of the global average surface temperature from 1901 to year n for year n. The CRUTEMP4 dataset, which is developed by the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (Morice et al., 2012), combines both surface air (over land) and sea surface (over ocean) temperature data. To fill the missing values in the CRUTEMP4, Dai and Zhao (2017) have supplemented the CRUTEMP4 with CRU TS2.3 temperature data. Therefore, we use this modified version of the CRUTEMP4 to calculate observed TGtrend and Ttrend. For simulations, the surface air temperature data used to calculate TGtrend and Ttrend are obtained from 20 CMIP5 climate models (Taylor et al., 2012). We averaged the Tm data of 20 models to calculate the ecological security index (ESI) for each model (see Table 1).
The AI (i,n) represents the aridity index at grid i for year n, which is defined as the ratio of precipitation to potential evapotranspiration (PET) and denoted as
AI (i, n) = P(i, n) / PET (i, n) (4)
For observation, the precipitation data is from the NOAA’s PRECipitation REConstruction over Land (PREC/L) dataset (Chen et al., 2002) developed by the Climatic Prediction Center (CPC), which covers for 1948 to the present on a 0.5° grid. And the PET data is from CRU TS 3.25 dataset (Harris et al., 2014), which covers the period 1901–2016 and all land areas at 0.5° resolution. In order to be consistent with the AI in the models, we keep the climatology of observed precipitation and PET data consistent with the observed precipitation and PET data provided by Feng and Fu (2013). For simulations, the precipitation and PET simulation datasets used here are provided by Feng and Fu (2013). These data are derived from the monthly mean temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, specific humidity and wind speed products obtained from the CMIP5 climate models (Taylor et al., 2012). Feng and Fu (2013) provided AI data from 20 models, which are not consistent with the models that can provide NPP and Rh + Rd. Therefore, we averaged the AI data of 20 models to calculate the ESI for each model (Table 1)
The surface energy flux data for sensible and latent heat, 0–7 cm volumetric soil water, and 0–7 cm soil temperature data were collected from the ERA5 reanalysis from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on a 0.25°×0.25° grid for 2000 to 2015. In addition, for verification, we used the CPC Soil Moisture dataset (Fan and Dool, 2014) on a 0.5°×0.5° grid from a model, which covers the period of 1948-present and was provided by the NOAA/OAR/ESRL PSD, Boulder, Colorado, USA, and we also explored the surface energy flux data for sensible and latent heat, and 0–10 cm soil moisture content from the NASA Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS) land model simulation using the Noah Land Surface Model forced by observational data on a 1°×1° grid (GLDAS_NOAH10_M.2.0) for 1948 to 2010.
Fig. 3 shows the spatial distribution of ESI values determined by observations obtained between 60°S-60°N from 2000 to 2015. The area coverage of the insecure land represents 53.0% of the global land are (60°S-60°N), and the proportions of the different land surface types (60°S-60°N) of the semi-secure, light-dangerous and severe-dangerous regions are 13.3%, 16.4% and 23.3%, respectively (Fig. 3b). Here, desert covers 15.9% of the global land, representing deserts such as Sahara and Taklimakan (Fig. 3a). The severe-dangerous regions are mainly distributed at the edges of deserts and regions highly affected by climate change and some other places with high human activities, including industrial and densely populated regions (Fig. 3a). The lightdangerous regions include some drylands and mountainous plateau regions without vegetation and snow cover (Fig. 3a), which are located in Australia, North America, Europe, southern Africa and Central Asia. The semi-secure regions are transition zones between secure and dangerous land, which are mainly distributed in semi-arid and cattle-producing regions (Fig. 3a), where the amount of oxygen generated via photosynthesis cannot compensate for the oxygen consumption. Only 31.2% of the global land area is covered by land that is defined as secure, which is mainly distributed in South America, Siberia, Central Africa and the Tibetan Plateau; these areas have strong ecological resilience and have not been disturbed by humans. In addition, the cryosphere (polar regions and Greenland), which is not discussed in this study, can also be classified as secure land that stores plenty of freshwater without human disturbances.
Based on the above climatology, it is essential to investigate how ecological security will change in the future. The CMIP5 has generated projections using several emissions scenarios and has provided a crucial reference for the spatial and temporal evolution of ecological security in the future. The model members used are shown in Table 1 and the ensemble mean of these CMIP5 models (CMIP5-EM), which filters the uncertainty from the inter-model variability and better reflects the changes in ESI, is used in this study. To ensure the reliability of future projections, the CMIP5-EM simulations of ESI over 2000–2015 (Fig. 3cd) are compared to observations. The results show that the spatial distribution and the area coverage of insecure land obtained by CMIP5 are consistent with those indicated by observations, indicating that CMIP5 is adequate for projecting future ESI changes. For the CMIP5-EM historical and RCP8.5 simulated ESI values from 2000 to 2015, the area coverage of insecure land represents 51.2% of the global land area, and those of the different land surface types (60°S-60°N) of secure regions, semi-secure regions, light-dangerous regions and severe-dangerous regions are 32.8%, 14.7%, 17.3% and 19.2%, respectively. Desert covers 15.9% of the global land area, which is mainly located Sahara and Taklimakan; this result is similar to that indicated by observations (Fig. 3c-d). The light-dangerous and severe-dangerous regions are mainly distributed in the middle and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, such as in western North America, Southwest Russia and Northeast China. Generally, the CMIP5 models can capture the spatial distribution of the ESI values from 2000 to 2015, indicating that the CMIP5-EM is adequate for projecting future changes in ESI.
Fig. 4a present the time series of the global mean ESI during the future periods. For future projections, the ESI increases to ~ 1.8 by ~ 2100 under RCP8.5 scenario and decreases from ~ 1.5 (~2020) to ~ 1.4 by 2100 under RCP4.5. These opposite trends demonstrate that the emission of greenhouse gases is the main factor controlling the variations in ESI and that the restriction of greenhouse gas emissions under RCP4.5 could mitigate this disease. Fig. 4b-f presents the time series of the changes in area of the four subtypes during the historical and future periods. Clearly, the expansion of severe-dangerous regions in the future is significant under the RCP8.5 scenario. In addition, the area coverage of semi-secure and secure regions will decrease after 2005 under the RCP8.5 scenario. However, by reducing oxygen consumption through limiting carbon dioxide emissions under the RCP4.5 scenario, the global expansion of total insecure land will be inhibited. The area coverage of severe-dangerous regions will fist increase and then decrease; simultaneously, the areas of secure regions will first decrease and then increase. Under the RCP4.5 scenario, the areas of the four land surface types at the end of the century will change little compared with those at the beginning of this century. Among them, the areas of severe-dangerous regions and light-dangerous regions will decrease slightly; conversely, the areas of secure regions will increase slightly.
Fig. 5 shows the spatial distribution of the mean ESI in 2085–2100 and the areal changes of insecure land indicated from RCP8.5 scenari by CMIP5-EM. By the end of this century, the area coverage of insecure land will be 57.1% of the global land area, which will mainly be distributed in Africa, India, Europe, West and East Asia, and the different land surface types (60°S-60°N) of secure regions and semi-secure regions will be 27.1% and 13.1%, respectively. Relative to the beginning of this century (Fig. 3), the area of secure, semi-secure and light-dangerous land will decrease 5.6% of the global land area by ~ 2100 under RCP8.5 scenario. The greatest increase in area will be in severe-dangerous regions, which will increase from 23.3% to 28.9% of the global land area by ~ 2100 under RCP8.5 scenario. By comparing the areal changes of insecure land from 2000 to 2015 to those from 2085 to 2100 under RCP8.5 scenario, the increased areas of the semi-secure, light dangerous and severe-dangerous regions are 4.6%, 5.6% and 7.8%, respectively, and the net areal changes of secure land and severe-dangerous regions represent −4.1% and 5.6% of global land, respectively. The increase in severe-dangerous regions (reaching up to 28.9% of the global land area by 2100) is the most significant, which is mainly attributed to the remarkable decrease in secure land and the slight decrease in semi-secure and light-dangerous regions.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals requires maintaining a balance between the environment, society and the economy Environmental sustainability has always been an important part of sustainable development and a necessary condition for achieving strong sustainability (Wu, 2013). In order to achieve environmental sustainability, building a reasonable index can guide policymaker in the right direction. There are many indexes available for assessing environmental sustainability, such as Ecological Footprint (Wackernagel and Rees, 1996), Environmental Sustainability Index, and Environmental Performance Index, which are only published on the national scale. Of course, ecological security is also an important indicator. Ecological security has emerged as a critical policy focus across the world. Governments are increasingly being asked to explain their performance on a range of environment protection and natural resource management challenges with reference to quantitative metrics. Ecological security index can make us easier to spot problems, track trends, identify best practices, and optimize the gains from constructions of ecological civilization.
As the oxygen is the most important survival factor of all animals on the earth, its content directly determines the biomass of the earth. Several historical mass extinctions have been associated with reduced oxygen concentration during historical periods. In the past 100 years, under the frequent intervention of human activities, many resources on the earth have been in an over-used state, including freshwater resources, and we have crossed the threshold of one-third of the 9 planetary boundaries proposed by Rockström et al. (2009). Also, the overexploitation and use of fossil fuels has also led to a record high rate of human oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, and its greenhouse effect has led to the overall warming of the earth. During the Anthropocene, due to the expansion of urban area and the acceleration of desertification, the oxygen produced by the earth’s vegetation also gradually decreased. Increased oxygen consumption and decreased oxygen production have put the planet which we live in on an unsustainable state. In this article, we combined the oxygen consumption, the oxygen production, the global warming and the extent of land aridity to construct an ESI and make future estimates.
Obviously, geoscientists can apply the newly proposed ESI to investigate and reanalyze the vitality of land with different ecological statuses, especially the formation and expansion of insecure land. The systematic classification of land using ESI can not only alert us to climate crises due to natural insecure land but can also warn us about the hidden threat from anthropogenic insecure land, which has mostly been ignored worldwide due to greed-driven human activities. Under global change, extreme weathers and human disturbances, such as rapid population growth and accelerate urbanization, have an increasing impact on the ecosystem stability. The above results highlight that when the external forcing are beyond the environmental capacity, the secure land would become unsustainable and the risk of ecological security would occur. Based on the population projections under SSP5 (RCP8.5), the global population will increase to 12.7 billion by 2100, indicating that more people will be threatened by severe ecological security. Thus, detecting the starting point of insecure land at an earlier stage and preventing its invasion is of particular importance and a high priority because it can further avoid insecure land from connecting altogether and decelerate the expected losses of biological species richness (Pounds et al., 2006). Thus, more urgent actions must be taken to promote oxygen production and preserve water resources, including planting more trees, slowing down the expansion of deserts and drylands to stop dust from spreading (Shugart et al., 2003) and cultivating new green land among large regions of insecure land. In addition, we must avoid extra activities that consume more oxygen and water, especially by limiting fossil fuel combustion, forbidding ocean and lake trash, properly disposing of municipal and industrial waste and evenly distributing industrial zones. If we continue to take land resources for granted, more land will definitely develop into insecure land and even desert; this final step is irreversible and can cause humans to permanently lose their habitat (Prentice et al., 2007). Therefore, it is unwise and lacking in foresight to trade actual land resources for rapid economic development. We must establish new policies to stop the environment from worsening any further using global cooperation without hesitation.
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