Despite the high oil revenues reaped from hydrocarbon resources and their spillover effects on all oil and non-oil producing countries, most MENA region economies suffer from structural problems and fragile political systems, preventing them from adopting effective politico-economic transformations.
The capital was available, but investments were typically misdirected to form in all cases ‘rentier’ economies, with Arab countries economies remaining very undiversiﬁed. They primarily rely on oil and low value-added commodity products such as cement, alumina, fertilisers, and phosphates.
Demographic transitions present a significant challenge: the population increased from 100 million in 1960 to about 400 million in 2011. Sixty per cent are under 25 years old.
Urbanisation had increased from 38 per cent in 1970 to 65 per cent in 2010.
Rural development being not a priority; the increasing rural migration into the cities searching for jobs will put even more strain on all existing undeveloped infrastructures.
Current economic development patterns will increasingly strain the ability of Arab governments to provide decent-paying jobs. For instance, youth unemployment in the region is currently double the world average.
The demand for food, water, housing, education, transportation, electricity, and other municipal services will rise with higher learning institutions proliferating; the quality of education below average does not lead to employment.
Power demand in Saudi Arabia, for example, is rising at a fast rate of over 7 per cent per year.
Amman, Cairo, and other Arab cities gradually lose their agriculture space because of the suburbs’ expansion. Gated communities and high-rise ofﬁce buildings are sprawling while ignoring low-income housing.
In the meantime, the real world feels the planet is in danger of an environmental collapse; economists increasingly advise putting the planet on its balance sheets. For over a Century of Burning Fossil Fuels, to propel our cars, power our businesses, and keep the lights on in our homes, we never envisioned that we will paying this price.
In effect, a recent economic report on biodiversity indicates that economic practice will have to change because the world is finite.
For decades many have been aware of this reality. However, it is a giant leap forward for current economic thinking to acknowledge that Climate change is a symptom of a larger issue. The threat to life support systems from the plunder and demise of the natural environment is a reality.
Society, some governments, and industry are recognising that climate change can be controlled by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, electric cars and reducing emissions from every means of production.
Talking about replacing fossil fuels would mean a potential reduction of the abovementioned revenues.
However, would the spreading of solar farms all over the Sahara desert constitute compensation for the losses?
Industrialization, rapid growth and usage of certain natural resources supporting new technological development caused and seemed to continue causing global warming that ultimately impacted the planet’s climate to change. In a recent move to counter that, the greening of the earth was incepted and put into implementation with inventions put into action actually to help fight climate change. Recover from climate change seem these days to be approaching its limit as demonstrated by Mauricio Luque in the greening of the earth is approaching its limit.
Vegetation on earth has a key role in mitigating the climate crisis because it reduces the excess CO2 from the atmosphere that we humans emit. Just like when athletes are doped with oxygen, plants also benefit from the large amounts of CO2 that accumulate in the atmosphere. If more CO2 is available, they make more photosynthesis and grow more, which is called the fertilizing effect of CO2. When plants absorb this gas to grow, they remove it from the atmosphere and it is sequestered in the branches, trunk or roots.
An article published in Science, co-directed by the Professor of the Higher Council for Scientific Research at CREAF Josep Peñuelas and Professor Yongguan Zhang of the University of Nanjin, with the participation of CREAF researchers Jordi Sardans and Marcos Fernández, shows that this fertilizing effect of CO2 is decreasing worldwide.
The study, developed by an international team, concludes that the reduction has reached 50% progressively since 1982 due to two key factors: the availability of water and nutrients.
“The formula has no mystery, plants need CO2, water and nutrients to grow. However much the CO2 increases, if the nutrients and water do not increase in parallel, the plants will not be able to take advantage of the increase in this gas,” explains Professor Josep Peñuelas. In fact, three years ago he himself warned in an article in Nature Ecology and Evolution that the fertilizing effect on the soil would not last forever, that plants cannot grow indefinitely because there are other factors that limit them.
If the fertilizing capacity of CO2 in the soil decreases, there will be strong consequences on the carbon cycle and therefore on the climate. Forests have been ‘doped’ with the extra CO2 for decades, sequestering tons of carbon dioxide that allowed them to do more photosynthesis and grow more. In fact, this increased fixation has managed to decrease the accumulated CO2 in the air, but now it is over.
“These unprecedented results indicate that the absorption of carbon by vegetation is beginning to become saturated. This has very important climate implications that must be taken into account in possible strategies and policies to mitigate climate change at the global level. Nature decreases its capacity to sequester carbon and with it increases society’s dependence on future strategies to curb greenhouse gas emissions,” warns Peñuelas.
The study has been carried out with satellite, atmospheric, ecosystem and modelling information. It highlights the use of sensors that use near-infrared and fluorescence and are thus able to measure the growth activity of vegetation.
Less water and nutrients
According to the results, the lack of water and nutrients are the two factors that reduce the ability of CO2 to improve plant growth in the soil. To reach this conclusion, the team based itself on data obtained from hundreds of forests studied over the past forty years. “These data show that the concentrations of essential nutrients in the leaves, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, have also decreased progressively since 1990,” explains researcher Songhan Wang, first author of the article.
The team also found that water availability and temporary changes in water supply played a significant role in this phenomenon. “We have found that plants slow down their growth, not only in times of drought, but also when there are changes in the seasonality of rainfall, which is increasingly happening with climate change,” adds Yongguan Zhang.
Forests and other ecosystems have been neglected in efforts to fight global warming, say officials and activists, calling for a joined-up approach to tackling biodiversity and climate crises.
BARCELONA, Dec 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Five years ago, when the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change was adopted, storing planet-warming carbon in ecosystems such as tropical forests, wetlands and coastal mangroves was not seen as a major part of the solution.
Now officials and environmentalists say goals to limit global temperature rise cannot be met without nature’s help.
Ahead of a U.N. “Climate Ambition Summit” to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris accord on Saturday, held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they said threats to plants, wildlife, human health and the climate should be confronted together.
“It is time for nature to have a more prominent role in climate discussions and solutions,” said Brian O’Donnell, director of the Campaign for Nature, which works with scientists, indigenous people and conservation groups.
“Global leaders can no longer deal with the climate and biodiversity crises in isolation if we are to be successful in addressing either of them,” he added in a statement.
It noted scientific estimates that protecting the planet’s ecosystems could provide at least a third of the reductions in emissions needed by 2030 to meet the aims of the Paris pact.
Under that deal, nearly 200 countries agreed to limit the average rise in global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and ideally to 1.5C above preindustrial times.
But the Earth has already heated up by about 1.2C and is on track to warm by more than 3C by the end of the century, the United Nations said this week.
Understanding has accelerated in recent years about the crucial role ecosystems on land and sea play in absorbing carbon emitted by human activities – mainly from burning fossil fuels – and curbing potentially catastrophic planetary heating.
In 2019, a U.N. climate science report said the way the world manages land, and how food is produced and consumed, had to change to curb global warming – or food security, health and biodiversity would be at risk.
Zac Goldsmith, Britain’s minister for the international environment and climate, said nature had been “left behind” and life on the planet was being exhausted at a “terrifying speed”, as forests were cut down and seas polluted.
“We are denuding the world at a rate that would have seemed impossible to humans a century ago,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
As host of the next major U.N. climate negotiations in November 2021, in Glasgow, the British government has vowed to put protection for forests and natural systems firmly on the political agenda.
Goldsmith said the COP26 team was aiming to build a global coalition of governments and businesses committed to preventing deforestation in supply chains.
That follows a proposed new UK law requiring large companies to ensure the commodities they use – such as cocoa, rubber, soy and palm oil – are not linked to illegal forest clearing.
Britain also will push for countries to phase out close to $700 billion in annual subsidies worldwide for land use that harms the environment and degrades carbon-storing soils, such as intensive farming, he added.
That money could be redirected into efforts to safeguard ecosystems – something sorely needed as less than 3% of international climate finance from donor governments and development banks is spent on that purpose, Goldsmith said.
Financial markets, meanwhile, have yet to recognise the value of nature or the true cost of destroying it.
U.N. officials working on a new large-scale effort to channel payments to tropical countries and smaller jurisdictions that lock up carbon in rainforests hope to start turning that problem around by COP26.
Last month, they launched a “Green Gigaton Challenge” that aims to catalyse funding for 1 billion tonnes of high-quality emissions reductions a year by 2025 from forests in regions including the Amazon and Congo Basin.
Doing so would cut emissions by the equivalent of taking 80% of cars off American roads, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Tim Christophersen, head of nature for climate at UNEP, said the initiative was spurred by surging business interest in forest protection as a growing number of large firms commit to cutting their emissions to net zero by mid-century or earlier.
That means companies such as Microsoft, Salesforce and Disney need to offset emissions they cannot eliminate themselves by paying to reduce them elsewhere, through projects such as restoring degraded forests.
Under the gigaton challenge, donor governments will invest public money to put a floor under the price per tonne of carbon stored – which could be about $10-$15 – aimed at rewarding successful nature protection efforts that companies will eventually pay even more to back.
Countries including Costa Rica and Chile have shown interest in participating, but deals have yet to be brokered between forest-nation governments and the private sector.
Over the past decade, U.N. agencies have worked to develop the basis for a robust market in forest carbon offsets – but without firm international rules, carbon prices have not risen high enough to provide an incentive to keep trees standing.
“There is a need for countries to see some sort of reward for results” at a price that makes protecting forests financially viable, said Gabriel Labbate, UNEP’s team leader for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).
The United Nations and others are still waiting for governments to iron out differences over a system to use carbon credits to meet emissions reduction targets under the Paris pact.
Christophersen warned that companies – especially in the oil and gas industry – should not see supporting forest protection as an alternative to slashing their own emissions.
“Nature is not a substitute for emissions reductions in other areas, and in particular for getting off fossil fuels,” he said.
(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)
More than three billion people live in agricultural areas with high levels of water shortages and scarcity, the UN agriculture agency said in a new report launched on Wednesday.
The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) flagship report, noted that available freshwater resources have declined globally by more than 20 per cent per person over the past two decades, underscoring the importance of producing more with less, especially in the agriculture sector – the world’s largest user of water.
“With this report, FAO is sending a strong message: Water shortages and scarcity in agriculture must be addressed immediately and boldly if our pledge to achieve the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] is to be taken seriously”, emphasized FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in the foreword of the report.
Paths for action
From investing in water-harvesting and conservation in rainfed areas to rehabilitating and modernizing sustainable irrigation systems in irrigated areas, actions must be combined with best agronomic practices, the report stressed.
These could involve adopting drought-tolerant crop varieties and improving water management tools – including effective water pricing and allocation, such as water rights and quotas – to ensure equitable and sustainable access.
However, effective management strategy must start with water accounting and auditing.
Mapping the SDG target
Achieving the internationally agreed SDG pledges, including the zero hunger, “is still achievable”, maintains the SOFA report, but only by ensuring more productive and sustainable use of freshwater and rainwater in agriculture, which accounts for more than 70 per cent of global water withdrawals.
Against the backdrop that FAO oversees the SDG indicator that measures human activities on natural freshwater resources, the report offers the first spatially disaggregated representation of how things stand today. Meshed with historical drought frequency data, this provides a more holistic assessment of water constraints in food production.
SOFA reveals that some 11 per cent of the world’s rainfed cropland faces frequent drought, as does about 14 per cent of pastureland.
Meanwhile, more than 60 per cent of irrigated cropland is water-stressed and 11 countries, all in Northern Africa and Asia, need to urgently adopt sound water accounting, clear allocation, modern technologies and to shift to less thirsty crops.
Did you know?
Total water withdrawals per capita are highest in Central Asia.
In least developed countries, 74 per cent of rural people do not have access to safe drinking water.
While 91 countries have national rural drinking water plans, only nine have implementation funds.
Around 41 per cent of global irrigation impacts the environmental flow requirements that are essential for life-supporting ecosystems.
Biofuels require 70 to 400 times more water than do the fossil fuels they replace.
As important sources of water vapor for downwind areas, forests such as in the Amazon, Congo and Yangtze river basins are crucial to rainfed agriculture.
Although “the inherent characteristics of water make it difficult to manage”, the SOFA report upholds that it “be recognized as an economic good that has a value and a price”.
“At the same time, policy and governance support to ensure efficient, equitable and sustainable access for all is essential”.
Noting that the rural poor can benefit substantially from irrigation, the report recommends that water management plans be “problem-focused and dynamic”.
Despite that water markets selling water rights are relatively rare, SOFA says that when water accounting is well performed, rights well established and beneficiaries and managing institutions participating, regulated water markets can provide equitable allotments while promoting conservation.
On the one hand, there are fossil fuels, the long-proven, relatively simple technologies of which provide abundant, affordable, reliable, instant-on-demand conventional energy. Indeed, they provide over 80 percent of all energy used in the world today.
On the other hand, there are “renewable energy sources.” Don’t think of the old reliable ones like hydro, wood, and dung, but of what Bjørn Lomborg, in his new book False Alarm, calls “new renewables,” mainly wind turbines and solar panels. Unlike fossil fuels, wind and solar are diffuse, providing less energy per area of land, and intermittent. Consequently, they are less abundant, more expensive, unreliable, and—when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine—often completely unavailable.
Countries don’t face this decision by choice.
The United Nations’ (UN) collective decision, under the Framework Convention on Climate Change, to wage war on fossil fuels required a draconian energy policy. First it tried the Kyoto Protocol—under which almost no nation lived up to its commitments. Ironically, the United States, which never ratified it, had the world’s best record at reducing greenhouse gas emissions during the period Kyoto covered.
With the Kyoto Protocol’s expiration in 2012, the UN needed a replacement. It came up with the Paris Agreement in 2015. Over 190 nations had signed on by early 2016, and by 2019 nearly every nation had ratified and submitted its plans for greenhouse gas reductions.
But before then, the Paris Agreement lost its biggest cash cow. United States President Donald Trump announced in June 2017 that his nation would withdraw from the agreement. By the terms of the Agreement, the withdrawal becomes effective November 4, 2020—a day after America’s next Presidential election, but two-and-a-half months before the winner is inaugurated.
The key element of the Agreement is for member states to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions, which come mainly from fossil fuel use. Countries submitted individual deadlines to the Agreement and were expected to achieve those goals.
But almost all major European member states have failed to meet their emission reduction deadlines, and they remain unaccountable. Even economic powerhouses like Germany and France, both of which championed the treaty, continue to lag behind their emission reduction targets.
Moreover, advanced member states such as Japan and Australia have shown no restraints towards fossil fuels. The US has been on a fossil-fuel spree, emerging with a superior energy sector that is less dependent on oil from the Middle East.
Developing countries are in a difficult position economically. Some of their GDPs are much smaller than the European giants, all have GDP per capita below the developed countries, and poverty in them is widespread and often severe.
Developing countries understandably are reluctant to suppress their own growth by depending on expensive, intermittent, unreliable wind and solar when developed nations don’t. Some of the developing nations have expressed this through their domestic policy decisions.
The two largest developing nations, India and China, with a combined 2.8 billion people, together are the highest users of coal in the world. They have defied international pressure to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Economists say that this continued reliance on fossil fuels and the “economic growth from expanded use of fossil fuels will add thousands of dollars of annual income to the poor in India.” Ditto in China.
Quite simply, fossil fuels lifted the West out of poverty over the last 170 years. Developing countries understandably see no reason why they shouldn’t have the same benefit. Freeing up the billions of dollars these developing countries currently spend on renewable technology would speed their conquest of poverty.
Developed countries that provide them this fund are not immune from “energy poverty” themselves. Energy poverty (also called “fuel poverty” and defined in the United Kingdom as when a household must spend over 10 percent of its income solely on home heating—jeopardizing its ability to provide adequate food and other necessities) exists even in the UK and US, where the vulnerable population experience serious morbidity and mortality from their inability to pay energy bills.
In 2018, 2.40 million households in England were classified as fuel poor. Hundreds die each year in the English winter due to their inability to pay heating bills.
Reports indicate that energy poverty is a very real problem in the US, too. In 2015, “17 million households received an energy disconnect/delivery stop notice and 25 million households had to forgo food and medicine to pay energy bills.”
Developed countries must not fall into an imaginary abyss where they aggravate this widespread energy poverty. They, like the developing countries, must stop their investments in renewables and instead focus on making affordable energy.
Developing countries can begin by following the US example, pulling out of the Paris Agreement, which not only mandates reduced greenhouse gas emissions, but also forces them to spent billions for renewable installations that cannot provide the abundant, affordable, reliable energy indispensable to overcoming poverty.
Originally posted on News: A study by French website Mediapart and Radio France Internationale (RFI) and two other French investigation sites in coordination with Dutch site Lighthouse Reports has revealed that French Rafael warplanes sold to Egypt had been used to support Khalifa Haftar’s forces in their military operations in Libya. The study said the…
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