Iraq is on the verge of an environmental breakdown, and climate change is not helping. The country's fragile environment and the increasing scarcity of natural resources — particularly water — are a result of poor environmental management, as well as several political and historical factors. However, as climate change impacts add to the existing pressures, the environmental collapse turns into a security issue.
In many ongoing armed conflicts, water has been used as a weapon of war, but it can also be a strong instrument of peace.
Climate change threatens conflict and poverty in the Arab region, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP). In a report published last week, the agency suggested climate risks could derail development gains, such as the decrease in infant mortality and the achievement of near universal primary education.
In November 2017, the U.S. government released its first ever Global Water Strategy – to our knowledge also the first of its kind globally. The opening page cites President Trump claiming that ‘[w]ater may be the most important issue we face for the next generation’. This priority may surprise observers of the current U.S. administration.
On November 17, adelphi hosted a high-level panel discussion on “How to prevent climate security risks?” at the German Pavilion at COP23. The panel discussion was an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved and to deepen the discussion on how to prevent climate-related risks and incorporate them into policy planning.
As global temperatures rise, warmer air and oceans are expected to fuel stronger hurricanes, with dangerous consequences.
The impacts of Hurricane Harvey continue to be felt in the southern US. The events have sparked early debate over the links between the hurricane and climate change. Commentary from scientists suggests that warming is likely to have intensified its impact. Nevertheless, many other factors are likely to have played a role. These include Houston’s population explosion, continued building in flood-prone areas and subsidence due to groundwater over-extraction, media reports suggest.
One of the most pressing—and distressing—climate change impacts faced by the world is storm surge, a storm-induced increase in water level exceeding normal, tidal levels. Storm surge is becoming more of a threat to coastal communities due to rising sea levels, since higher sea levels mean higher “normal, tidal levels” before surge even occurs. Affected communities face risks to their homes, infrastructure, and livelihoods, but what can we do about the problem, aside from abandoning coastal communities altogether?
EcoPeace Middle East is an organization that seeks to create lasting peace though environmental cooperation and protection of shared natural resources. The Jordanian project coordinator, Mohammad Bundokji, explains the innovative approach to peacebuilding that consists in generating positive mutual dependencies for water and energy.
In the Middle East, the consequences of climate change are already a reality of life. The region is one of the most water-stressed areas in the world, the average temperature is rising faster than elsewhere, and a massive reduction in rainfall is also expected for the coming years. Adding to the conflicts and quarrels – ranging from the Israeli–Palestinian conflict to Syria and Iraq as well as to rivalries between Iran and the Gulf states – access to and use of natural resources act as yet another crisis amplifier in the region: water is as important here as land ownership and as precious as access to oil.