Keep buildings cool as it gets hotter

Keep buildings cool as it gets hotter

In most of the MENA and the Gulf region, we reach for the A/C control when entering any living or working space. But as we casually flip a switch, we tend not to consider all those carbon emissions caused by machines.  

After years of indulgence and as witnessed by all of the end results, climate change is forcing all to go green by trying to keep buildings cool as it gets hotter. Greening the Global Construction Industry has already engaged in developing new techniques, tools, products and technologies – such as heat pumps, better windows, more vital insulation, energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy and more imaginative design – has enabled emissions to stabilize the past few years.

The above image is of I Love Qatar

 

Keep buildings cool as it gets hotter

Windcatchers in Iran use natural air flow to keep buildings cool. Andrzej Lisowski Travel/Shutterstock

 

Keep buildings cool as it gets hotter by resurrecting traditional architectural techniques – podcast

By Gemma Ware, The Conversation and Daniel Merino, The Conversation

The Conversation Weekly podcast is now back after a short break. Every Thursday, we explore the fascinating discoveries researchers are using to make sense of the world and the big questions they’re still trying to answer.

In this episode we find out how “modern” styles of architecture using concrete and glass have often usurped local building techniques better suited to parts of the world with hotter climates. Now some architects are resurrecting traditional techniques to help keep buildings cool.

From western Europe to China, North Africa and the US, severe heatwaves brought drought, fire and death to the summer of 2022. The heatwaves also raised serious questions about the ability of existing infrastructure to cope with extreme heat, which is projected to become more common due to climate change.

Yet, for thousands of years, people living in parts of the world used to high temperatures have deployed traditional passive cooling techniques in the way they designed their buildings. In Nigeria, for example, people have long used biomimicry to copy the style of local flora and fauna as they design their homes, according to Anthony Ogbuokiri, a senior lecturer in architectural design at Nottingham Trent University in the UK.

But in the 20th century, cities even in very hot climates began following an international template for building design that meant cities around the world, regardless of where they were, often had similar looking skylines. Ogbuokiri calls this “duplitecture”, and says it “ramped up the cooling load” due to an in-built reliance on air conditioners.

Alongside this, there was a massive boom in the use of concrete, particularly after the second world war when the Soviet Union and the US started gifting their cold war allies concrete technology. “It was a competition both to discover who actually mastered concrete and who was better at gathering the materials, the people and the energy to make concrete,” explains Vyta Pivo, assistant professor of architecture at the University of Michigan in the US. But too much concrete can contribute to the phenomenon of urban heat islands, where heat is concentrated in cities. Concrete is also a considerable contributor to global carbon emissions.

Some architects and researchers are working to rehabilitate and improve traditional passive techniques that help keep buildings cool without using energy. Susan Abed Hassan, a professor of architectural engineering at Al-Nahrain University in Baghdad, Iraq, focuses a lot on windcatchers in her work, a type of chimney which funnels air through houses to keep them cooler in hot climates. She’s now looking at how to combining underground water pipes with windcatchers to enhance their cooling effects.

Listen to the full episode to find out about other techniques being used to keep buildings cool without relying on air conditioning.

This episode was produced by Mend Mariwany, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. The executive producer was Gemma Ware. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email. You can also sign up to The Conversation’s free daily email here. A transcript of this episode is available here.

You can listen to The Conversation Weekly via any of the apps listed above, download it directly via our RSS feed, or find out how else to listen here.The Conversation

Gemma Ware, Editor and Co-Host, The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation and Daniel Merino, Assistant Science Editor & Co-Host of The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation

Read the original article.

The Conversation

The MENA’s Fight Against Climate Change

The MENA’s Fight Against Climate Change

The MENA’s Fight Against Climate Change

A child walks on the dried-up bed of Iraq’s receding southern marshes of Chibayish in Dhi Qar province on August 23, 2022. HUSSEIN FALEH ©AFP

The MENA’s Fight Against Climate Change: Oil-Rich versus Crisis-Riddled Countries

By Dana Hourany

 

The earliest known agricultural civilizations are thought to have started in present-day southern Iraq. Known as the “Fertile Crescent,” the area situated between the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers’, witnessed the birth of the earliest known sedentary civilizations on earth.

Mesopotamia, the earliest human settlement in the area, saw the development of agrarian societies, the domestication of animals, thriving agriculture, and the invention of irrigation methods owing to the Tigris and Euphrates’ abundant water supply.

In 2022, the UN Environment Program placed Iraq, which was long considered the “Cradle of Civilization,” as the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change.

The effects of climate change have long been most severe in IraqTemperatures have soared to more than 50 degrees Celsius, devastating water resources, food supplies, and agricultural livelihoods and needs.

Although Iraq is one of the MENA region’s most severely affected, environmental scientists and academics warn that if MENA governments continue to be inactive and unwilling to work together to create sustainable mitigation strategies, no country will be spared.

What went wrong?

In the past couple of years, Iraq’s annual rainfall has decreased exponentially causing more drought and structurally denting the agricultural sector.

While reasons vary, solutions are scarce. Upriver damming in Turkiye and Iran has restricted the water flow from the Tigris and Euphrates. Scorching temperatures affect soil moisture and salinization (increasing the amount of salt in the soil) have further degraded the land.

“The water that flows to the southern region is also extremely polluted. By the time it reaches us it is no longer the purified water that flows from the northern mountains of Turkiye. Ours is mixed with sewage, chemical pollutants and trash,” Basra-based researcher Mishtak Idan Obeid told Fanack.

The researcher added that the “diplomatic incompetency of politicians” has exacerbated the crisis since “Iraqi politicians have failed to negotiate with Turkiye and Iran, allowing them to take advantage of our water resources.”

Once a region of luscious greenery and a vibrant community of farmers, landowners and fishermen, it is now at great risk of desertification as farmers abandon their lands in hopes of landing better job opportunities elsewhere.

“This is their livelihood and main set of skills. If they move to urban areas they might not have access to job opportunities which can push them to unlawful activities, compounding local conflicts and putting pressure on an already fragile infrastructure,” environmental climate-security at The Hague’s Clingendael Institute, Maha Yassin told Fanack.

“The responsibility falls on the state to ensure these people are well taken care of to maintain civil security across the country,” she added.

More crisis for the crisis-riddled

Amidst this summer’s heatwave and crippling energy shortages, homes are plunging into darkness as power cuts become the norm in crisis-riddled Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Despite its abundant oil supply, the Iraqi electricity sector has seen years of neglect, deteriorating under the hands of corrupt leaders, according to analysts.

Similarly, cash-strapped Lebanon has been the subject of constant neglect and systemic corruption that crashed its economy and devastated its infrastructure. Unable to provide for itself, Lebanon relies on Iraqi oil imports to avert nationwide blackouts that now plague the country.

Syria’s power infrastructure as well has suffered heavy blows during the 11-year crisis causing frequent electricity cuts. Subsequently, many people in all three countries are turning to solar power to remedy the situation.

Syria’s state electric company has recently completed a 1-megawatt solar power station connected to the electricity grid, located between the central city of Homs and Syria’s Mediterranean coast. Only 50-250 houses will benefit from state solar energy.

Lebanese, on the other hand, are left to fend for themselves as many flock to private companies to purchase solar panels for their houses and businesses. As for the Iraqis, ambitions have been set to generate up to 12 GW of electricity from solar power by 2030, according to the Iraq oil report. However, political stalemate, disputes over payment terms and general political inefficiency have put the plans on hold.

“This is what sets Iraq apart from other oil-rich countries in the Gulf. Political instability and frequent protests push lawmakers to shelve important environmental projects,” Yassin said.

A huge impediment to decent living standards

While the peoples of crisis-affected MENA nations swelter the blazing summer heat, sandstorms add to their woes.

“Families have been going out less and less. People are forced to remain in their houses as if imprisoned and this is mentally taxing. You become easily irritable and unmotivated,” Obeid said.

Physical well-being is also at risk as Yassin puts it, “sandstorms compound pulmonary diseases such as bronchitis and asthma, while water pollution propagates cholera outbreaks and skin diseases.”

No country in the region is immune to climate change, but the effects are unequal and the solutions are unique.

“Climate change was never a top priority for MENA governments. The majority of environmental policies were developed as quick fixes. This has proven ineffective in an area that is prone to climate crises and has unequal mitigation capacities,” MENA Climate Change Expert Achref Chibani told Fanack.

In his 2022 research, “Sand and Dust Storms in the MENA Region: A Problem Awaiting Mitigation,” Chibani states that Gulf countries’ economic and technological advancements facilitate fielding faster and bigger projects to curb the climate’s impact, particularly sandstorms which he believes are only getting worse.

Saudi Arabia for instance is working on the “Saudi Green Initiative” and has invested several billion dollars in developing green belts, while the UAE has invested in new technologies that allow monitoring dust storms through a forecasting system to better prepare for any incoming threats.

Kuwait, on the other hand, reported dangerous air quality levels in some regions without discussing proper mitigation tactics.

Unlike Iraq, which suffers from similar breathing and temperature issues, most Kuwaitis enjoy day-long indoor cooling. Similar to Iraq though, Kuwaiti politicians delay finding solutions as inaction reigns over a comprehensive approach to tackle climate change.

North African countries at risk

According to Chibani’s observations, countries at most risk of climate crises are on the North African belt, while Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan sway behind. He says this is due to crops vanishing from North African fields, as well as threats of fiercer sandstorms, rising water stress, and soaring electric bills.

AlgeriaLibya, and Egypt are also dependent on the hydrocarbon industry and much of their revenue comes from exporting fossil fuels to Europe. Any negative diplomatic differences will therefore wreak havoc on economic security.

Tunisia, meanwhile suffers from limited natural freshwater resources, deforestation, soil erosion and rising sea levels. In addition to ravaging wildfires spread across North Africa and also Lebanon.

“Governments elevating the costs of electricity and water bills might make people more conscious of how much they’re wasting. However farmers need to switch to harvesting crops that consume less water for irrigation to further preserve our resources,” Chibani said.

Divided, we fall

Egypt will host the 27th UN climate Change Conference in November, which encompasses over 40 countries, in hopes of pushing a climate agenda suitable for the MENA’s challenges and needs.

However, Chibani notes that the region lacks environmental research that could contribute to future projects.

Until then, civil society and renewable energy seem to be the most productive remedies. Around 312 NGOs support the MENA’s environmental causes including bio-diversity, conservation, and protection. However, Yassin says that their existence is endangered by state corruption, scarcity of funds, and governmental pressures.

“Civil society groups run the risk of sounding like politicians when employing rhetoric that citizens perceive to be elitist and condescending. There needs to be more work done on climate change messaging for non-Western audiences,” Chibani noted.

Obeid points to the importance of civilian involvement in minute details such as conserving water and maintaining the cleanliness of public areas while keeping in mind that responsibility falls primarily on the governments that are not leading the way for people to follow.

“I estimate that in 30 years the MENA will have less water and more sand threatening its environment. Countries must cooperate, otherwise the whole region is in danger, particularly its poorer communities. Well-off countries need to help the economically vulnerable states to salvage what’s left of the region’s environmental richness,” Chibani said.

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The world retracting from globalisation

The world retracting from globalisation

Connectivity will drive the world’s exchange of goods and services as it were from home, in the future, notably in those emerging countries of the Middle East.  In the meantime, let us know why the world retracting from globalisation.

The above-featured image is of the Fourth wave of globalisation saw China’s increasing role as a global powerhouse.  Getty Images

Is the world retracting from globalisation, setting it up for a fifth wave?

By Elsabe Loots, University of Pretoria
Over the past 25 years there has been lots of research and debate about the concept, the history and state of globalisation, its various dimensions and benefits.

The World Economic Forum has set out the case that the world has experienced four waves of globalisation. In a 2019 publication it summarised them as follows.

The first wave is seen as the period since the late 19th century, boosted by the industrial revolution associated with the improvements in transportation and communication, and ended in 1914. The second wave commenced after WW2 in 1945 and ended in 1989. The third commenced with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the disbanding of the former Soviet Union in 1991, and ended with the global financial crises in 2008.

The fourth wave kicked off in 2010 with the recovery of the impact of the global financial crises, the rising of the digital economy, artificial intelligence and, among others, the increasing role of China as a global powerhouse.

More recent debates on the topic focus on whether the world is now experiencing a retraction from the fourth wave and whether it is ready for the take-off of the fifth wave.

The similarities between the retraction period of the first wave and the current global dynamics a century later are startling. But do these similarities mean that a retraction from globalisation is evident? Is there sufficient evidence of de-globalisation or rather “slowbalisation”?

Parallels

The drawn-out retreat from globalisation during the 30-year period – 1914 to 1945 – was characterised by the geopolitical and economic impact of WWI and WWII. Other factors were the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu pandemic ; the Stock Market Crash of 1929 followed by the Great Depression of the 1930s; and the rise of the Communist Bloc under Stalin in the 1940s.

This period was further typified by protectionist sentiments, increases in tariffs and other trade barriers and a general retraction in international trade.

Looking at the current global context, the parallels are remarkable. The world is still fighting the COVID pandemic that had devastating effects on the world economy, global supply chains and people’s lives and well-being.

For its part, the Russia-Ukraine war has caused major global uncertainties and food shortages. It has also led to increases in gas and fuel prices, further disruptions in global value chains and political polarisation.

The increase in the price of various consumer goods and in energy have put pressure on the general price level. World inflation is aggressively on the rise for the first time in 40 years. Monetary authorities worldwide are trying to fight inflation.

Global governance institutions like the World Trade Organisation and the UN, which functioned well in the post-WWII period, now have less influence while the Russian-Ukraine war has split the world politically into three groups. They are the Russian invasion supporters, the neutral countries and those opposing, a group dominated by the US, EU and the UK. This split is contributing to complex geopolitical challenges, which are slowly leading to changes in trade partnerships and regionalism.

Europe is already looking for new suppliers for oil and gas and early indications of the potential expansion of the Chinese influence in Asia are evident.

A less connected world

De-globalisation is seen as

a movement towards a less connected world, characterised by powerful nation states, local solutions and border controls rather than global institutions, treaties, and free movement.

There’s now talk of slowbalisation. The term was first used by trendwatcher and futurologist Adjiedji Bakas in 2015 to describe the phenomenon as the

continued integration of the global economy via trade, financial and other flows, albeit at a significant slower pace.

The data on economic globalisation paint an interesting picture. They show that, even before the COVID pandemic hit the world in 2020, a deceleration in the intensity of globalisation is evident. The data which represent broad measures of globalisation, includes:

  • World exports of goods and services. As a percentage of world GDP, these reached an all-time high of 31% in 2008 at the end of the third globalisation wave. Exports fell as a percentage of global GDP and only recovered to that level during the early stages of the fourth wave in 2011. Exports then slowly started to regress to 28% of global GDP in 2019 and further to a low of 26% during the first Covid-19 year in 2020.
  • The volume of foreign direct investment inflows. These reached a peak of US$2 trillion in 2016 before trending lower, reaching US$1.48 trillion in 2019. Although the 2020 foreign direct investment inflows of US$963 billion are a staggering 20% below the 2009 financial crises level, they recovered to US$1.58 billion in 2021.
  • Foreign direct investment as percentage of GDP started to increase from a mere 1% in 1989 to a peak of 5,3% in 2007. After a retraction following the global financial crises, it peaked again in 2015 and 2016 at around 3,5%. It then declined to 1,7% in 2019 and 1,4% in 2020.
  • Multinational enterprises have been the major vehicle for economic globalisation over time. The number of them indicates the willingness of companies to invest outside their home countries. In 2008 the UN Conference on Trade and Development reported approximately 82 000. The number declined to 60 000 in 2017.
  • Data on world private capital flows (including foreign direct investment, portfolio equity flows, remittances and private sector borrowing) are not readily available. However, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data show that private capital flows for reporting countries reached an all-time high of US$414 billion in 2014, followed by a declining trend to US$229 billion in 2019 and a negative outflow of US$8 billion in 2020.

These declining trends are further substantiated by the evidence of deeper fragmentation in economic relations caused by Brexit and the problematic US/China relations, in particular during the Trump era.

What next?

The question now is whether the latest data is:

  • indicative of either a retraction from globalisation similar to that experienced after the first wave a century ago;
  • or it is merely a process of de-globalisation;
  • or slowbalisation in anticipation of the world economy’s recovery from the impact of Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine?

The similarities between the first wave of globalisation and the existing global events are certainly significant, although embedded in a total different world order.

The current dynamics shaping the world such as the advancement of technology, the digital era and the speed with which technology and information is spread, will certainly influence the intensity of the retraction of the already embedded dependence on globalisation.

Nation states realise that blindly entering into contracts and agreements with companies in other countries, may be problematic and that trade and investment partners need to be chosen carefully. The events over the past three years have certainly shown that economies around the world are deeply integrated and, despite examples of protectionism and threats of more inward-looking policies, it will not be possible to retract in totality.

What may occur is fragmentation where supply chains becoming more regionalised. Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz refers to the move to “friend shoring” of production, a phrase coined by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

It is becoming obvious that the process of globalisation certainly shows characteristics of both de-globalisation and slowbalisation. It’s also clear that the global external shocks require a total rethink, repurpose and reform of the process of globalisation. This will most probably lead the world into the fifth wave of globalisation.The Conversation

Elsabe Loots, Professor of Economics and former Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Pretoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Mideast nations wake up to damage from climate change

Mideast nations wake up to damage from climate change

The MENA region is the most water-scarce in the world and possibly the most vulnerable to climate change.  Water scarcity is also caused or made worse by conflicts, population growth, poor water management, deteriorating water infrastructure, and governance issues.  All the above is millennia old and could only be aggravated by the increasingly apparent Climate Change impacting big and small countries.  In the meantime, critical drivers behind water scarcity in MENA include rising agricultural demand and expanding irrigated land from aquifers decreasing pockets of water.  The immediate effects are as elsewhere, the whole of the Mideast nations wake up to damage from climate change.

The above image is of:

An Afghan girl warms up her hands as she is resting from carrying the water in Balucha, Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 14, 2021. The Middle East is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change, and already the effects are being seen. This year’s annual U.N. climate change conference, known as COP27, is being held in Egypt in November 2022, throwing a spotlight on the region. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

Mideast nations wake up to damage from climate change

CAIRO (AP) — Temperatures in the Middle East have risen far faster than the world’s average in the past three decades. Precipitation has been decreasing, and experts predict droughts will come with greater frequency and severity.

The Middle East is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change — and already the effects are being seen.

In Iraq, intensified sandstorms have repeatedly smothered cities this year, shutting down commerce and sending thousands to hospitals. Rising soil salinity in Egypt’s Nile Delta is eating away at crucial farmland. In Afghanistan, drought has helped fuel the migration of young people from their villages, searching for jobs. In recent weeks, temperatures in some parts of the region have topped 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).

Mideast nations wake up to damage from climate change

Fishermen navigate on the Shatt al-Arab waterway during a sandstorm in Basra, Iraq, May 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)

This year’s annual U.N. climate change conference, known as COP27, is being held in Egypt in November, throwing a spotlight on the region. Governments across the Middle East have awakened to the dangers of climate change, particularly to the damage it is already inflicting on their economies.

“We’re literally seeing the effects right in front of us. … These impacts are not something that will hit us nine or 10 years down the line,” said Lama El Hatow, an environmental climate change consultant who has worked with the World Bank and specializes on the Middle East and North Africa.

“More and more states are starting to understand that it’s necessary” to act, she said.

Egypt, Morocco and other countries in the region have been stepping up initiatives for clean energy. But a top priority for them at COP-27 is to push for more international funding to help them deal with the dangers they are already facing from climate change.

One reason for the Middle East’s vulnerability is that there is simply no margin to cushion the blow on millions of people as the rise in temperatures accelerates: The region already has high temperatures and limited water resources even in normal circumstances.

Mideast nations wake up to damage from climate change

Trash piles up in the heavily polluted Litani Rver, in Saghbin, Bekaa valley, eastern Lebanon, June 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Trash piles up in the heavily polluted Litani Rver, in Saghbin, Bekaa valley, eastern Lebanon, June 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Middle East governments also have a limited ability to adapt, the International Monetary Fund noted in a report earlier this year. Economies and infrastructure are weak, and regulations are often unenforced. Poverty is widespread, making job creation a priority over climate protection. Autocratic governments like Egypt’s severely restrict civil society, hampering an important tool in engaging the public on environmental and climate issues.

At the same time, developing nations are pressuring countries in the Mideast and elsewhere to make emissions cuts, even as they themselves backslide on promises.

The threats are dire.

As the region grows hotter and drier, the United Nations has warned that the Mideast’s crop production could drop 30% by 2025. The region is expected to lose 6%-14% of its GDP by 2050 because of water scarcity, according to the World Bank.

In Egypt, precipitation has fallen 22% in the past 30 years, according to the World Bank.

Mideast nations wake up to damage from climate change FILE - A horse cart driver transports wheat to a mill on a farm in the Nile Delta province of al-Sharqia, Egypt, on May 11, 2022. The Middle East is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change, and already the effects are being seen. This year's annual U.N. climate change conference, known as COP27, is being held in Egypt in November, throwing a spotlight on the region. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

A horse cart driver transports wheat to a mill on a farm in the Nile Delta province of al-Sharqia, Egypt, on May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe. The Eastern Mediterranean recently saw its worst drought in 900 years, according to NASA, a heavy blow to countries like Syria and Lebanon where agriculture relies on rainfall. Demand for water in Jordan and the Persian Gulf countries is putting unsustainable pressure on underground water aquifers. In Iraq, the increased aridity has caused an increase in sandstorms.

At the same time, warming waters and air make extreme and often destructive weather events more frequent, like deadly floods that have repeatedly hit Sudan and Afghanistan.

The climate damage has potentially dangerous social repercussions.

Many of those who lose the livelihoods they once made in agriculture or tourism will move to the cities in search of jobs, said Karim Elgendy, an associate fellow at Chatham House. That will likely increase urban unemployment, strain social services and could raise social tensions and affect security, said Elgendy, who is also a non-resident scholar with the Middle East Institute.

Mideast nations wake up to damage from climate change FILE - People cross the Diyala River, a tributary of the Tigris, where decreasing water levels this year have raised alarm among residents, near Baghdad, Iraq, June 29, 2022. The Middle East is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change, and already the effects are being seen. This year's annual U.N. climate change conference, known as COP27, is being held in Egypt in November, throwing a spotlight on the region. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

People cross the Diyala River, a tributary of the Tigris, where decreasing water levels this year have raised alarm among residents, near Baghdad, Iraq, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Adapting infrastructure and economies to weather the damage will be enormously expensive: the equivalent of 3.3% of the region’s GDP every year for the next 10 years, the IMF estimates. The spending needs to go toward everything from creating more efficient water use systems and new agricultural methods to building coastal protections, beefing up social safety nets and improving awareness campaigns.

So one of top priorities for Mideast and other developing nations at this year’s COP is to press the United States, Europe and other wealthier nations to follow through on long-time promises to provide them with billions in climate financing.

So far, developed nations have fallen short on those promises. Also, most of the money they have provided has gone to helping poorer countries pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions — for “mitigation,” in U.N. terminology, as opposed to “adaptation.”

For this year’s COP, the top theme repeated by U.N. officials, the Egyptian hosts and climate activists is the implementation of commitments. The gathering aims to push countries to spell out how they will reach promised emission reduction targets — and to come up with even deeper cuts, since experts say the targets as they are now will still lead to disastrous levels of warming.

Mideast nations wake up to damage from climate change FILE - Afghan farmer uses donkey to carry water canisters across the dried-out river near Sang-e-Atash, Afghanistan, Dec. 13, 2021. The Middle East is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change, and already the effects are being seen. This year's annual U.N. climate change conference, known as COP27, is being held in Egypt in November 2022, throwing a spotlight on the region. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov, File)

Afghan farmer uses donkey to carry water canisters across the dried-out river near Sang-e-Atash, Afghanistan, Dec. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

Developing nations will also want richer countries to show how they will carry out a promise from the last COP to provide $500 billion in climate financing over the next five years — and to ensure at least half that funding is for adaptation, not mitigation.

World events, however, threaten to undercut the momentum from COP26. On emissions cuts, the spike in world energy prices and the war in Ukraine have prompted some European countries to turn back to coal for power generation — though they insist it’s only a temporary step. The Middle East also has several countries whose economies rely on their fossil fuel resources — Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf most obviously, but also Egypt, with its increasing natural gas production.

Persistent inflation and the possibility of recession could make top nations hesitant on making climate financing commitments.

With international officials often emphasizing emission reduction, El Hatow said it should be remembered the countries of Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere in the developing world have not contributed substantially to climate change, yet are bearing the brunt of it.

“We need to talk about financing for adaptation,” she said, “to adapt to a problem they did not cause.”

Disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle has exceeded the safe limit

Disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle has exceeded the safe limit

Human disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle has exceeded the safe limit, our research shows

By Arne Tobian, Stockholm University; Dieter Gerten, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Lan Wang Erlandsson, Stockholm University

The above-featured image is credit to Scott Book/Shutterstock

Green water – the rainwater available to plants in the soil – is indispensable for life on and below the land. But in a new study, we found that widespread pressure on this resource has crossed a critical limit.

The planetary boundaries framework – a concept that scientists first discussed in 2009 – identified nine processes that have remained remarkably steady in the Earth system over the last 11,700 years. These include a relatively stable global climate and an intact biosphere that have allowed civilisations based on agriculture to thrive. Researchers proposed that each of these processes has a boundary that, once crossed, puts the Earth system, or substantial components of it, at risk of upset.

A comprehensive scientific assessment in 2015 found that human activity has already breached four of the planetary boundaries. Greenhouse gas emissions are brewing a hotter climate, the sixth mass extinction of species is unpicking the web of life that makes up the global biosphere, intensive farming is polluting the environment and natural habitats are being destroyed on a significant scale. Earlier in 2022, researchers announced that a fifth planetary boundary had been crossed with the emission and accumulation of chemical pollution and plastics.

So far, it has been suggested that human use of freshwater is still within safe limits globally. But earlier assessments only considered the extraction of what is called blue water – that which flows in rivers and resides in underground aquifers. Even then, regional boundaries are likely to have been crossed in many river basins due to a sixfold increase in the extraction of blue water over the past century. Besides irrigating crops to sate growing demand from people and livestock, population growth and higher standards of living have raised global domestic and industrial water consumption, disrupting aquatic ecosystems and decimating the life within them.

By including green water in our assessment, we found that freshwater’s ability to sustain a stable Earth system is even more threatened than first reported.

Human disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle has exceeded the safe limit

The crossing of planetary boundaries could destabilise humanity’s safe operating space in the Earth system. Azote/Stockholm Resilience Centre

Red alert for green water

Radiation from the sun evaporates green water in the soil, cooling the environment and returning moisture to the atmosphere where it forms clouds and rain. This cycle sustains some of Earth’s most important ecosystems, such as the Amazon rainforest which makes up roughly 40% of global tropical forest, stores roughly 112 billion tonnes of carbon and harbours 25% of land-based life.

Research shows that clearing forests reduces the flow of moisture to the atmosphere, dampening how efficiently the Earth system can circulate water and ultimately putting ecosystems like the Amazon at risk of collapse. Global heating and changes to how the land is used, especially deforestation, are among the biggest factors responsible for humanity’s transgression of this planetary boundary. Their combined influence indicates that the planetary boundaries interact and need to be treated as one networked system.

Human disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle has exceeded the safe limit An excavator digs up soil in a tropical forest clearing.

Deforestation can halt the flow of green water in the hydrological cycle. Santhosh Varghese/Shutterstock

Food production also depends on green water. Around 60% of staple food production globally and 80% of cultivated land is rain-fed. In these areas, the only water reaching the crop is what rain provides. Even irrigated crops rely on rain to some extent.

We found that since the industrial revolution, and especially since the 1950s, larger parts of the world are subject to significantly drier or wetter soil. This shift towards extreme conditions is an alarming development due to the indispensable role of water in maintaining resilient societies and ecosystems

More frequent and severe dry spells mean prolonged and more intense droughts in many regions, like those currently affecting Chile and the western US. This limits photosynthesis in plants, which absorb less of the CO₂ heating Earth’s atmosphere. The land carbon sink, which currently soaks up about 30% of annual CO₂ emissions, is weakened as a result, and could even become a net source of carbon in the future.

Too much soil water is no good either. Water-saturated soils make floods more likely and suffocate plant growth. Abnormally large quantities of water evaporating from wet soils can delay the onset of monsoons in places like India, where the dry season has extended and disrupted farming. High humidity combined with high temperatures can also cause deadly heatwaves, as the human body quickly overheats when sweating becomes impossible in very moist air. Several regions, like South Asia, the coastal Middle East and the Gulf of California and Mexico, are experiencing this lethal combination much earlier than expected.

What can be done?

Growing scientific evidence suggests that the planet is both drier and wetter than at any point within the last 11,700 years. This threatens the ecological and climatic conditions that support life.

Our analysis shows that the sixth planetary boundary has been crossed. But ambitious efforts to slow climate change and halt deforestation could still prevent dangerous changes to the cycling of Earth’s green water. Along with other measures, switching farming practices to sustainable alternatives would prevent more soil being degraded and losing its moisture. Explicitly governing green water and its protection in policy and legal frameworks may also be necessary.

Research has shown that farming is a major cause of multiple planetary limits being breached. Shifting diets towards sustainable plant-based food is a simple yet highly effective option for keeping humanity within these boundaries.

Humanity is no longer in the safe zone. Immediate action is needed to maintain a resilient and nourishing freshwater cycle.


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Arne Tobian, PhD Candidate in Planetary Boundaries, Stockholm University; Dieter Gerten, Working Group Leader, Terrestrial Safe Operating Space, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Lan Wang Erlandsson, Researcher and Theme leader, Anthropocene Dynamics, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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