The World Bank in its “Adaptation to Climate Change in the MENA Region” predicted that this region being particularly vulnerable to climate change, it should do more to adapt to water scarcity and heat and adjust all institutional mechanisms to deal with these environmental constraints. Environmental awareness in the Arab world posted on The Arab Weekly of 17 Novembre 2019 is a good illustration of this latest trend.
Lebanon was the country with the strongest concerns about climate change in general, followed by Tunisia and Egypt.
Climate change is a global emergency that respects no borders but results from a recent survey revealed that, when it comes to convincing MENA populations to come to grips with the crisis, substantial barriers remain.
Recent data gathered by Arab Barometer, a nonpartisan research network that has conducted opinion surveys across the region since 2006, indicated that a strong majority of respondents said they were “very concerned” about water and trash pollution (70% and 66%, respectively). Both issues are immediate problems that MENA residents must often deal with directly and can see with their own eyes daily.
However, when it came to more abstract or long-term environmental issues, such as climate change and air quality, fewer survey respondents said they were very worried (35% and 44%, respectively).
Opinions showed no significant variations across age and gender groups. However, more educated and affluent respondents expressed slightly stronger concerns about climate change in general.
The survey uncovered dividing lines geographically: Residents in rural areas were more likely to view climate change as a “very serious” problem than those living in urban environments.
Lebanon was the country with the strongest concerns about climate change in general, followed by Tunisia and Egypt, but national differences on specific issues were the starkest. Air quality was considered a “very serious” problem for 57% of respondents in Libya but only for 25% of those surveyed in Kuwait.
The survey adds credence to the argument that a region-wide effort must be made to build awareness about climate change.
The MENA region with its oil exporting countries predominantly relying on the US for everything from their respective currencies pegging to their downright defence system, seem these days needing some impetus in their Paris Agreement implementation. The U.S. Leadership Vacuum on Climate Change effects on the MENA after its unfortunate decision to forgo anything to do with it, a year ago, would certainly not help these countries, nor does it alter their previously shown enthusiasm for that Agreement.
This situation of a de facto ‘Wait and See’ would certainly not be conducive to any environmental cooperation. The Atlantic with this of David A. Graham published on Jun 25, 2018 gives us a good idea on that American withdrawal from the Paris agreement as a test for the future of the globe, but also for the international order.
American withdrawal from the Paris agreement is a test for the future of the globe, but also for the international order. David A. Graham
One year ago, President Trump announced that he planned to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. The decision derived from Trump’s insistence that climate change is a “hoax” and his determination to overturn as much of his predecessor’s legacy as possible. It also matches with Trump’s insistence that the U.S. doesn’t need the rest of the world. In a material sense, that’s a bad bet: Whether or not the U.S. participates in climate pacts like Paris, the climate is going to change, and no wall can keep rising temperatures, and their effects, out.
But the U.S.-global relationship flows the other way, too: There are times when the world needs the U.S., and the effort to slow climate change is shaping up as one of those. Even discounting the effect of U.S. emissions on the goal of limiting change to 2 degrees Celsius, it’s simply very hard for international agreements to function without the U.S. behaving as the enforcer. That makes Paris an interesting test case for whether global agreements can work with America withdrawing from the stage, and if so, whether anyone else can step up.
“The absence of the U.S. at a political level is visible. I was at the Conference of Parties in Bonn in November and the absence of the U.S. is absolutely felt,” Todd Stern, the Obama administration’s lead negotiator on Paris, said Sunday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. “There’s a lot of countries trying to pull back and backslide and it wouldn’t be happening the same way if the U.S. was there.”
The biggest risk of U.S. withdrawal hasn’t come to fruition, Stern said: Other countries didn’t pull out of the agreement after the U.S. did—in fact, Syria joined in November, making the U.S. the only country in the world that is opposed. Stern worries that current levels of effort still aren’t enough to make the 2 degree mark. “If the U.S. is not in there, the likelihood that you’re going to get other countries doing their best is just reduced,” he said. But despite the foot-dragging from some countries, the most important players are all working to reduce carbon emissions, even as the U.S. loosens restrictions domestically.
“China is definitely pushing forward. India, definitely pushing forward. They’re doing that domestically,” said Christiana Figueres, former long-time executive secretary UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The motives behind that aren’t always altruistic: China’s leadership views clean technology as a huge economic growth opportunity.
China is an emerging superpower, and pundits have long speculated that it could replace the U.S. as the dominant force in international agreements. So far, however, that isn’t happening, Stern and Figueres said. They’re making strides domestically but can’t seem to translate that into leadership among other countries. “It’s hard for other countries to align their political message with what is going on on the ground,” she said.
There’s an irony to this. For years, the rest of the world has often bridled at U.S. arrogance in foreign policy. Now, other countries are asking for the U.S. to assert its leadership at just the moment when the U.S. government is not only retrenching, as the Obama administration did, but withdrawing altogether. It turns out that while American power has sometimes bullied other countries into doing what they don’t want, it’s also a useful tool for forcing them to do the things they want to do but can’t on their own. Climate change will be a test for Trump’s isolationist vision and whether the world can find ways to work without the U.S acting as muscle. It’s unfortunate that the experiment’s stakes include the future of human life.
David A. Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers US politics and global news.
This article by Achref Chibani dated May 21, 2018 was published by ecoMENA on the increasingly overbearing effects of climate change on the whole of the Arab World. We republish this article with our compliments to the author and thanks to the publisher and above all for a further spread of the wise words held there in. More reading on the subject would be found in the World Bank‘s that has touched on the same subject reiterating the alarm message of Climate Change impact on the MENA region.
In the meantime, here is, for a closer at the ground, Ashref’s essay.
Climate Change Impacts on Public Health: Perspectives for Arab World
Climate change is not only affecting the economies of Arab world but also having detrimental impacts on the very fabric of society, through threats to public health and livelihoods. Climate change in the Arab world is also exacerbating social inequalities, hitting the rural poor the hardest.
This is not a reason for complacency amongst the wealthy urban classes. Basic humanitarianism aside, history suggests that physical hardships can breed wider unrest: a body of evidence suggests that poor harvests caused by a major Icelandic volcanic ash cloud in 1783 triggered no less an event that the French Revolution.
Extreme weather events and spread of diseases
With the Arab world already plagued by endemic unemployment and high inequality, it would be easy to see how global warming could play a significant role in socio-economic development and future political and geo-political events.
There is no doubt that, globally, we are seeing a much higher incidence of extreme weather events than seen since record-keeping began. Aside from a few nay-sayers, the scientific consensus is that climate change is causing extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts, floods and cyclones. It is putting increasing pressure on crops and crop yields, both through more extreme temperatures and increase in insect attacks; it is creating a fertile environment for the spread of epidemics.
Impacts on public health
Climate change is adversely affecting our health which is becoming more severe with each passing year. The human catastrophe caused by violent sandstorms is not limited to the recent tragic events in India. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acknowledges that sandstorm dust is a major source of respiratory diseases in several countries, particularly in the Middle East & North Africa.
MENA region has been regularly witnessing extreme weather events in recent years
Climate change is impacting on wind patterns, which in turn is contributing to the transfer of dust, pollen, bacteria, mold and other allergens, in the air, especially in extreme heat. Morocco and Algeria have experienced unprecedented pandemics and outbreaks of diseases such as tuberculosis and scabies that were, until recently, considered things of the past.
Well-established infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue are again on the prowl, and various new diseases, such as Rift Valley Fever and Horse Plague, are emerging.
Time for action
Research has shown that the average temperature in the MENA region will increase by around 2 degrees Celsius by 2050 in parallel with a depletion of the ozone layer protecting us from cancer-inducing higher levels of ultraviolet. These sobering facts should goad us into action.
While it may be too late to prevent much of climate change occurring, we are not yet too late to mitigate its worst impacts. Individuals, corporations and governments all need to accelerate programmes to minimize further worsening climate change, alongside introducing adaptation measures to reduce the health consequences associated with known climate change impacts. MENA governments need to do much more to incentivize the reduction in greenhouse gas and particulates emissions. We are well-placed to benefit from the advances in solar power and battery storage technologies – in our cars, our businesses and in our homes.
Crop biodiversity needs to be fostered; alongside programmes to ensure heat and drought-resistant crops are being planted in high-risk areas. Sustainability needs to be embraced at every level in society – from building design and manufacturing processes to end-of-life recycling. Medical sector also needs to be prepared to deal with changing patterns because of climate change, to avoid significant negative impacts on vulnerable communities.
Climate change is a world problem, but Arab countries will be amongst the worst affected if we don’t act now. It should therefore be a top priority on our governments’ agendas to protect their citizens before it is too lat
MEP Middle East, June 28, 2020, covering the Second MENA Green Building Congress did highlight the fact that this Virtual two-day event underscores need to revive green economy in planning post-Covid-19 recovery.
Second MENA Green Building Congress organised under patronage of UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment
The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), in partnership with Majid Al Futtaim Holding, has hosted the second MENA Green Building Congress virtually.
Drawing the participation of WorldGBC board members and partners of the MENA Regional Network, the two-day Congress focused on three key topics: Better Places for People, Advancing Net Zero, and Sustainable Reconstruction.
In his keynote address on day one, His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “The transition towards green buildings is a much-needed move, as the building and construction sector is the largest contributor to energy-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide at 39%, while accounting for 36 percent of global energy use.
“The UAE has a wealth of experience and knowledge in this field, as over the past decade, the construction industry in the country has made significant strides in incorporating sustainability into its concepts and practices.
“The escalating impacts of climate change and the dedication of our region to sustainable development make it imperative for all of us to join forces and fast-track the shift to a green economy across all sectors, including building and construction.
“The second MENA Green Building Congress aims to enhance regional collaboration in advancing the sustainability of the construction sector and offers a prime platform for stakeholders to network and exchange best practices and development plans.”
The Congress drives momentum among industry decision makers around green building issues, and promotes the adoption of green building practices and new technologies in the MENA region.
Cristina Gamboa, CEO of WorldGBC, said: “The MENA Green Building Congress is bringing together learnings and leadership that are invaluable to our global network, and in particular, to the region.
“In these unprecedented times, we must embrace a green economic recovery and prioritize improving the quality of green buildings as well as creating new jobs in the sustainable construction field. It’s time we deliver at scale net zero, healthy, equitable and sustainable built environments for everyone, everywhere.”
Ibrahim Al-Zu’bi, Chief Sustainability Officer at Majid Al Futtaim Holding, added: “This year’s MENA Green Building Congress is truly special as it gives us an opportunity to reflect and share insights around the current situation to a receptive online community.
“As the world recovers from the pandemic’s immediate implications, we need to focus on harmonizing the health and well-being of our communities, and achieving energy efficiency and resilience.
“Maintaining healthier communities without losing focus of climate change mitigation actions is crucial for the sustainability of our people and planet.”
We asked our 2020 intake of Technology Pioneers for their views on how technology will change the world in the next five years.
From quantum computers and 5G in action to managing cancer chronically, here are their predictions for our near-term future.
1. AI-optimized manufacturing
Paper and pencil tracking, luck, significant global travel and opaque supply chains are part of today’s status quo, resulting in large amounts of wasted energy, materials and time. Accelerated in part by the long-term shutdown of international and regional travel by COVID-19, companies that design and build products will rapidly adopt cloud-based technologies to aggregate, intelligently transform, and contextually present product and process data from manufacturing lines throughout their supply chains. By 2025, this ubiquitous stream of data and the intelligent algorithms crunching it will enable manufacturing lines to continuously optimize towards higher levels of output and product quality – reducing overall waste in manufacturing by up to 50%. As a result, we will enjoy higher quality products, produced faster, at lower cost to our pocketbooks and the environment.
In 2025, carbon footprints will be viewed as socially unacceptable, much like drink driving is today. The COVID-19 pandemic will have focused the public’s attention on the need to take action to deal with threats to our way of life, our health and our future. Public attention will drive government policy and behavioural changes, with carbon footprints becoming a subject of worldwide scrutiny. Individuals, companies and countries will seek the quickest and most affordable ways to achieve net-zero – the elimination of their carbon footprint. The creation of a sustainable, net-zero future will be built through a far-reaching energy transformation that significantly reduces the world’s carbon emissions, and through the emergence of a massive carbon management industry that captures, utilizes and eliminates carbon dioxide. We’ll see a diversity of new technologies aimed at both reducing and removing the world’s emissions – unleashing a wave of innovation to compare with the industrial and digital Revolutions of the past.
By 2025, quantum computing will have outgrown its infancy, and a first generation of commercial devices will be able tackle meaningful, real-world problems. One major application of this new kind of computer will be the simulation of complex chemical reactions, a powerful tool that opens up new avenues in drug development. Quantum chemistry calculations will also aid the design of novel materials with desired properties, for instance better catalysts for the automotive industry that curb emissions and help fight climate change. Right now, the development of pharmaceuticals and performance materials relies massively on trial and error, which means it is an iterative, time-consuming and terribly expensive process. Quantum computers may soon be able to change this. They will significantly shorten product development cycles and reduce the costs for R&D.
4. Healthcare paradigm shift to prevention through diet
By 2025, healthcare systems will adopt more preventative health approaches based on the developing science behind the health benefits of plant-rich, nutrient-dense diets. This trend will be enabled by AI-powered and systems biology-based technology that exponentially grows our knowledge of the role of specific dietary phytonutrients in specific human health and functional outcomes. After the pandemic of 2020, consumers will be more aware of the importance of their underlying health and will increasingly demand healthier food to help support their natural defences. Armed with a much deeper understanding of nutrition, the global food industry can respond by offering a broader range of product options to support optimal health outcomes. The healthcare industry can respond by promoting earth’s plant intelligence for more resilient lives and to incentivize people to take care of themselves in an effort to reduce unsustainable costs.
5. 5G will enhance the global economy and save lives
Overnight, we’ve experienced a sharp increase in delivery services with a need for “day-of” goods from providers like Amazon and Instacart – but it has been limited. With 5G networks in place, tied directly into autonomous bots, goods would be delivered safely within hours.
Wifi can’t scale to meet higher capacity demands. Sheltering-in-place has moved businesses and classrooms to video conferencing, highlighting poor-quality networks. Low latency 5G networks would resolve this lack of network reliability and even allow for more high-capacity services like telehealth, telesurgery and ER services. Businesses can offset the high cost of mobility with economy-boosting activities including smart factories, real-time monitoring, and content-intensive, real-time edge-compute services. 5G private networks make this possible and changes the mobile services economy.
The roll-out of 5G creates markets that we only imagine – like self-driving bots, along with a mobility-as-a-service economy – and others we can’t imagine, enabling next generations to invent thriving markets and prosperous causes.
Technology drives data, data catalyzes knowledge, and knowledge enables empowerment. In tomorrow’s world, cancer will be managed like any chronic health condition —we will be able to precisely identify what we may be facing and be empowered to overcome it.
In other words, a new normal will emerge in how we can manage cancer. We will see more early and proactive screening with improved diagnostics innovation, such as in better genome sequencing technology or in liquid biopsy, that promises higher ease of testing, higher accuracy and ideally at an affordable cost. Early detection and intervention in common cancer types will not only save lives but reduce the financial and emotional burden of late discovery.
We will also see a revolution in treatment propelled by technology. Gene editing and immunotherapy that bring fewer side effects will have made greater headway. With advances in early screening and treatment going hand in hand, cancer will no longer be the cursed ‘C’ word that inspires such fear among people.
Historically, robotics has turned around many industries, while a few select sectors – such as grocery retail – have remained largely untouched . With the use of a new robotics application called ‘microfulfillment’, Grocery retailing will no longer look the same. The use of robotics downstream at a ‘hyper local’ level (as opposed to the traditional upstream application in the supply chain) will disrupt this 100-year-old, $5 trillion industry and all its stakeholders will experience significant change. Retailers will operate at a higher order of magnitude on productivity, which will in turn result in positive and enticing returns in the online grocery business (unheard of at the moment). This technology also unlocks broader access to food and a better customer proposition to consumers at large: speed, product availability and cost. Microfulfillment centers are located in existing (and typically less productive) real estate at the store level and can operate 5-10% more cheaply than a brick and mortar store. We predict that value will be equally captured by retailers and consumers as online.
One thing the current pandemic has shown us is how important technology is for maintaining and facilitating communication – not simply for work purposes, but for building real emotional connections. In the next few years we can expect to see this progress accelerate, with AI technology built to connect people at a human level and drive them closer to each other, even when physically they’re apart. The line between physical space and virtual will forever be blurred. We’ll start to see capabilities for global events – from SXSW to the Glastonbury Festival – to provide fully digitalized alternatives, beyond simple live streaming into full experiences. However, it’s not as simple as just providing these services – data privacy will have to be prioritised in order to create confidence among consumers. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we saw a lot in the news about concerns over the security of video conferencing companies. These concerns aren’t going anywhere and as digital connectivity increases, brands simply can’t afford to give users anything less than full transparency and control over their data.
9. Putting individuals – not institutions – at the heart of healthcare
By 2025, the lines separating culture, information technology and health will be blurred. Engineering biology, machine learning and the sharing economy will establish a framework for decentralising the healthcare continuum, moving it from institutions to the individual. Propelling this forward are advances in artificial intelligence and new supply chain delivery mechanisms, which require the real-time biological data that engineering biology will deliver as simple, low-cost diagnostic tests to individuals in every corner of the globe. As a result, morbidity, mortality and costs will decrease in acute conditions, such as infectious diseases, because only the most severe cases will need additional care. Fewer infected people will leave their homes, dramatically altering disease epidemiology while decreasing the burden on healthcare systems. A corresponding decrease in costs and increase in the quality of care follows, as inexpensive diagnostics move expenses and power to the individual, simultaneously increasing the cost-efficiency of care. Inextricable links between health, socio-economic status and quality of life will begin to loosen, and tensions that exist by equating health with access to healthcare institutions will dissipate. From daily care to pandemics, these converging technologies will alter economic and social factors to relieve many pressures on the global human condition.
Construction will become a synchronized sequence of manufacturing processes, delivering control, change and production at scale. It will be a safer, faster and more cost-effective way to build the homes, offices, factories and other structures we need to thrive in cities and beyond. As rich datasets are created across the construction industry through the internet of things, AI and image capture, to name a few, this vision is already coming to life. Using data to deeply understand industry processes is profoundly enhancing the ability of field professionals to trust their instincts in real-time decision making, enabling learning and progress while gaining trust and adoption.
Actionable data sheds light where we could not see before, empowering leaders to manage projects proactively rather than reactively. Precision in planning and execution enables construction professionals to control the environment, instead of it controlling them, and creates repeatable processes that are easier to control, automate, and teach.
That’s the future of construction. And it’s already begun.
11. Gigaton-scale CO2 removal will help to reverse climate change
A scale up of negative emission technologies, such as carbon dioxide removal, will remove climate-relevant amounts of CO2 from the air. This will be necessary in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. While humanity will do everything possible to stop emitting more carbon into the atmosphere, it will also do everything it can in order to remove historic CO2 from the air permanently. By becoming widely accessible, the demand for CO2 removal will increase and costs will fall. CO2 removal will be scaled up to the gigaton-level, and will become the responsible option for removing unavoidable emissions from the air. It will empower individuals to have a direct and climate-positive impact on the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. It will ultimately help to prevent global warming from reaching dangerous levels and give humanity the potential to reverse climate change.
Jan Wurzbacher, Co-Founder and co-CEO of Climeworks
12. A new era in medicine
Medicine has always been on a quest to gather more knowledge and understanding of human biology for better clinical decision-making. AI is that new tool that will enable us to extract more insights at an unprecedented level from all the medical ‘big data’ that has never really been fully taken advantage of in the past. It will shift the world of medicine and how it is practiced.
Improvements in AI will finally put access to wealth creation within reach of the masses. Financial advisors, who are knowledge workers, have been the mainstay of wealth management: using customized strategies to grow a small nest egg into a larger one. Since knowledge workers are expensive, access to wealth management has often meant you already need to be wealthy to preserve and grow your wealth. As a result, historically, wealth management has been out of reach of those who needed it most. Artificial intelligence is improving at such a speed that the strategies employed by these financial advisors will be accessible via technology, and therefore affordable for the masses. Just like you don’t need to know how near-field communication works to use ApplePay, tens of millions of people won’t have to know modern portfolio theory to be able to have their money work for them.
14. A clean energy revolution supported by digital twins
Over the next five years, the energy transition will reach a tipping point. The cost of new-build renewable energy will be lower than the marginal cost of fossil fuels. A global innovation ecosystem will have provided an environment in which problems can be addressed collectively, and allowed for the deployment of innovation to be scaled rapidly. As a result, we will have seen an astounding increase in offshore wind capacity. We will have achieved this through an unwavering commitment to digitalization, which will have gathered a pace that aligns with Moore’s law to mirror solar’s innovation curve. The rapid development of digital twins – virtual replicas of physical devices – will support a systems-level transformation of the energy sector. The scientific machine learning that combines physics-based models with big data will lead to leaner designs, lower operating costs and ultimately clean, affordable energy for all. The ability to monitor structural health in real-time and fix things before they break will result in safer, more resilient infrastructure and everything from wind farms to bridges and unmanned aerial vehicles being protected by a real-time digital twin.
15. Understanding the microscopic secrets hidden on surfaces
Every surface on Earth carries hidden information that will prove essential for avoiding pandemic-related crises, both now and in the future. The built environment, where humans spend 90% of their lives, is laden with naturally occurring microbiomes comprised of bacterial, fungal and viral ecosystems. Technology that accelerates our ability to rapidly sample, digitalize and interpret microbiome data will transform our understanding of how pathogens spread. Exposing this invisible microbiome data layer will identify genetic signatures that can predict when and where people and groups are shedding pathogens, which surfaces and environments present the highest transmission risk, and how these risks are impacted by our actions and change over time. We are just scratching the surface of what microbiome data insights offer and will see this accelerate over the next five years. These insights will not only help us avoid and respond to pandemics, but will influence how we design, operate and clean environments like buildings, cars, subways and planes, in addition to how we support economic activity without sacrificing public health.
16. Machine learning and AI expedite decarbonization in carbon-heavy industries
Over the next five years, carbon-heavy industries will use machine learning and AI technology to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint. Traditionally, industries like manufacturing and oil and gas have been slow to implement decarbonization efforts as they struggle to maintain productivity and profitability while doing so. However, climate change, as well as regulatory pressure and market volatility, are pushing these industries to adjust. For example, oil and gas and industrial manufacturing organizations are feeling the pinch of regulators, who want them to significantly reduce CO2 emissions within the next few years. Technology-enabled initiatives were vital to boosting decarbonizing efforts in sectors like transportation and buildings – and heavy industries will follow a similar approach. Indeed, as a result of increasing digital transformation, carbon-heavy sectors will be able to utilize advanced technologies, like AI and machine learning, using real-time, high-fidelity data from billions of connected devices to efficiently and proactively reduce harmful emissions and decrease carbon footprints.
Despite the accelerating regulatory environments we’ve seen surface in recent years, we are now just seeing the tip of the privacy iceberg, both from a regulatory and consumer standpoint. Five years from now, privacy and data-centric security will have reached commodity status – and the ability for consumers to protect and control sensitive data assets will be viewed as the rule rather than the exception. As awareness and understanding continue to build, so will the prevalence of privacy preserving and enhancing capabilities, namely privacy-enhancing technologies (PET). By 2025, PET as a technology category will become mainstream. They will be a foundational element of enterprise privacy and security strategies rather than an added-on component integrated only meet a minimum compliance threshold. While the world will still lack a global privacy standard, organizations will embrace a data-centric approach to security that provides the flexibility necessary to adapt to regional regulations and consumer expectations. These efforts will be led by cross-functional teams representing the data, privacy and security interests within an organization.
How will technology change the world in the next five years?
It is very exciting to see the pace and transformative potential of today’s innovative technologies being applied to solve the world’s most pressing problems, such as feeding a global and growing population; improving access to and quality of healthcare; and significantly reducing carbon emissions to arrest the negative effects of climate change. The next five years will see profound improvements in addressing these challenges as entrepreneurs, the investment community and the world’s largest enterprise R&D organizations focus on developing and deploying solutions that will deliver tangible results.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a difficult lesson in just how susceptible our world is today to human and economic turmoil, it has also – perhaps for the first time in history – necessitated global collaboration, data transparency and speed at the highest levels of government in order to minimize an immediate threat to human life. History will be our judge, but despite the heroic resolve and resiliency on a country by country basis, as a world we have underperformed. As a global community and through platforms like the World Economic Forum, we must continue to bring visibility to these issues while recognizing and supporting the opportunities for technology and innovation that can best and most rapidly address them.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology asking Why the Mediterranean is a climate change hotspot came up with A new analysis uncovers the basis of the severe rainfall declines predicted by many models.
17 June 2020
Although global climate models vary in many ways, they agree on this: The Mediterranean region will be significantly drier in coming decades, potentially seeing 40 percent less precipitation during the winter rainy season.
An analysis by researchers at MIT has now found the underlying mechanisms that explain the anomalous effects in this region, especially in the Middle East and in northwest Africa. The analysis could help refine the models and add certainty to their projections, which have significant implications for the management of water resources and agriculture in the region.
The study, published last week in the Journal of Climate, was carried out by MIT graduate student Alexandre Tuel and professor of civil and environmental engineering Elfatih Eltahir.
The different global circulation models of the Earth’s changing climate agree that temperatures virtually everywhere will increase, and in most places so will rainfall, in part because warmer air can carry more water vapor. However, “There is one major exception, and that is the Mediterranean area,” Eltahir says, which shows the greatest decline of projected rainfall of any landmass on Earth.
“With all their differences, the models all seem to agree that this is going to happen,” he says, although they differ on the amount of the decline, ranging from 10 percent to 60 percent. But nobody had previously been able to explain why.
Tuel and Eltahir found that this projected drying of the Mediterranean region is a result of the confluence of two different effects of a warming climate: a change in the dynamics of upper atmosphere circulation and a reduction in the temperature difference between land and sea. Neither factor by itself would be sufficient to account for the anomalous reduction in rainfall, but in combination the two phenomena can fully account for the unique drying trend seen in the models.
The first effect is a large-scale phenomenon, related to powerful high-altitude winds called the midlatitude jet stream, which drive a strong, steady west-to-east weather pattern across Europe, Asia, and North America. Tuel says the models show that “one of the robust things that happens with climate change is that as you increase the global temperature, you’re going to increase the strength of these midlatitude jets.”
But in the Northern Hemisphere, those winds run into obstacles, with mountain ranges including the Rockies, Alps, and Himalayas, and these collectively impart a kind of wave pattern onto this steady circulation, resulting in alternating zones of higher and lower air pressure. High pressure is associated with clear, dry air, and low pressure with wetter air and storm systems. But as the air gets warmer, this wave pattern gets altered.
“It just happened that the geography of where the Mediterranean is, and where the mountains are, impacts the pattern of air flow high in the atmosphere in a way that creates a high pressure area over the Mediterranean,” Tuel explains. That high-pressure area creates a dry zone with little precipitation.
However, that effect alone can’t account for the projected Mediterranean drying. That requires the addition of a second mechanism, the reduction of the temperature difference between land and sea. That difference, which helps to drive winds, will also be greatly reduced by climate change, because the land is warming up much faster than the seas.
“What’s really different about the Mediterranean compared to other regions is the geography,” Tuel says. “Basically, you have a big sea enclosed by continents, which doesn’t really occur anywhere else in the world.” While models show the surrounding landmasses warming by 3 to 4 degrees Celsius over the coming century, the sea itself will only warm by about 2 degrees or so. “Basically, the difference between the water and the land becomes a smaller with time,” he says.
That, in turn, amplifies the pressure differential, adding to the high-pressure area that drives a clockwise circulation pattern of winds surrounding the Mediterranean basin. And because of the specifics of local topography, projections show the two areas hardest hit by the drying trend will be the northwest Africa, including Morocco, and the eastern Mediterranean region, including Turkey and the Levant.
That trend is not just a projection, but has already become apparent in recent climate trends across the Middle East and western North Africa, the researchers say. “These are areas where we already detect declines in precipitation,” Eltahir says. It’s possible that these rainfall declines in an already parched region may even have contributed to the political unrest in the region, he says.
“We document from the observed record of precipitation that this eastern part has already experienced a significant decline of precipitation,” Eltahir says. The fact that the underlying physical processes are now understood will help to ensure that these projections should be taken seriously by planners in the region, he says. It will provide much greater confidence, he says, by enabling them “to understand the exact mechanisms by which that change is going to happen.”
Eltahir has been working with government agencies in Morocco to help them translate this information into concrete planning. “We are trying to take these projections and see what would be the impacts on availability of water,” he says. “That potentially will have a lot of impact on how Morocco plans its water resources, and also how they could develop technologies that could help them alleviate those impacts through better management of water at the field scale, or maybe through precision agriculture using higher technology.”
The work was supported by the collaborative research program between Université Mohamed VI Polytechnique in Morocco and MIT.
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