Sunday September 11, 2022

Greenhouse gas emissions play havoc, claims report

Greenhouse gas emissions play havoc, claims report

Illustrative image.

The Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (EMME) region has become a global hot spot, warming twice as fast as the world’s average rate, and a major emitter of greenhouse gases. Temperatures could rise by 5 degrees before the end of the century, which is more than three times greater than the maximum 1.5 degrees C set by the 2016 Paris climate change accords adopted by 195 countries. This region, with 400 million people is pumping out more carbon dioxide than India, which has a population 1.38 billion.

A study published in the authoritative US journal “Reviews of Geophysics,” showed that this region’s greenhouse gas emissions increased six-fold since the 1950s and 1960s while the global rate was 2.5 fold. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq account for 73 per cent of this increase.

The other countries included in the report are Bahrain, Cyprus, Greece, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.

The authors of the report from the Cyprus Institute and the German Max Placnk Institute said if the 17 countries in this region continue operating on “a business-as-usual pathway” there could be “unprecedented heatwaves” — with summer temperatures soaring to a deadly 8 degrees C — and “rainfall shortages that compromise water and food security.”

Extreme weather events, severe droughts, dust storms, advancing seas, torrential rain and flooding, fires, salination of coastal aquifers, and atmospheric pollution will the greatest toll among those at greatest risk: “underprivileged communities, the elderly, children and pregnant women,” stated Jos Lilieveld, director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry.

The report stated, “Virtually all socio-economic sectors are expected to be critically affected, with potentially devastating impacts on the health and livelihoods [of the inhabitants of the region], with worldwide implications.”

Unless climate change is addressed in this region there could be “northward expansion of arid climate zones at the expense of the more temperate regions,” warned Dr. George Zittis, coordinator of the project.

It is rarely mentioned that global warming also has a destructive impact on the cultural heritage of this region, where ancient civilizations flourished and medieval learning advanced science, philosophy, and medicine. The archaeologist heading research on this aspect of the study, Dr. Nikolas Bakirtzis told Rlixa that rising temperatures seriously affect work at ancient sites and tourism which helps finance upkeep of sites and excavation of new finds. Deteriorating socio-economic conditions have already increased destruction and looting of antiquities from vulnerable locations, he said.

“Since many of the regional outcomes of climate change are transboundary, stronger collaboration among the (regional) countries is indispensable to cope with the expected adverse impacts.

The need to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement has become more important than ever”, concluded Dr Lelieveld.

The study pointed out that “meeting the main Paris Agreement targets could stabilize the annual temperature increase in the EMME to about 2°C by the end of the century, rather than the devastating 5 degrees which is projected under a business-as-usual scenario.” The scientists argued “immediate and effective climate change action is urgent” in order to avoid a worst case scenario.

Dr. Bakirtzis said the research involved 13 different task forces comprised experts from the entire region and covering all aspects of global warming.

Cyprus, which launched the EMME climate change initiative in 2019 with the objective of developing a robust regional action plan, hosted core experts who drew up the report. It is to be presented next month at COP27, the UN Climate Change Conference at Sharm al-Shaikh in Egypt.

Unfortunately, Dr. Bakirtzis also observed, “The region faces too many challenges — war and socio-economic crises” — to give climate change priority.

As the most stable countries and most environmentally aware in the Eastern Arab world, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members could take the lead in the Middle East. First, GCC countries can continue efforts to promote reconciliation and trade among regional governments, including non-Arab Iran and Turkey. The object would be to advance economic growth and the welfare of citizens of these countries, particularly those who face the harsh consequences of global warming.

Second, GCC members can press parties to conflicts in Syria and Yemen to ceasefire and negotiate permanent peace deals.

Third, as the UAE has led the GCC in resuming relations with the Syrian government, the Federation could urge other Council members to follow suit and press the US and Europe to end the punitive sanctions regime which prevents Syria from reconstructing infrastructure ravaged by war and punishes the Syrian people. By ostracising and sanctioning Syria, the Western powers harm its neighbours, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq while all three are struggling with economic crises of different magnitudes as well as global warming.

Fourth, GCC members can exert their influence - both oil/economic and geo-political — on the West, Russia, and Ukraine to bring an early end to the Ukraine war on a “no-victor-no-vanquished” basis. Unless this formula is adopted, tensions between Ukraine and its backers and could simmer for decades and create instability in Europe.

This formula would mean that Moscow would withdraw from areas occupied since February 24th when Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Ukraine would regain that territory, and NATO would cease eastern expansion by formally agree not to grant membership to Ukraine.

The US, Britain and NATO are largely to blame for this war. If they had honoured verbal and written assurances given to Russia in the 1990s that NATO would not recruit former Warsaw Pact countries, the Ukraine issue would have been settled then and there would have been no war.

This is of fundamental importance because the Ukraine war has diverted the focus of the Western industrial powers largely responsible for global warming from this existential planetary crisis. The US and Europe are wasting billions of dollars on weapons instead of investing in solar, wind, and waterpower installations and developing and installing technologies which can reduce emissions in existing fossil fuel-powered electricity and manufacturing plants as well a vehicles and aircraft.

The world must adopt a wartime footing to conquer global warming, not waste resources in local conflicts.

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