Thursday 6th March, 2008


Climate change danger in Mideast

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Climate change is likely to reduce agricultural production and exacerbate water shortages in the Middle East, threatening the region’s poor and elevating the risk of conflict over scarce resources, the UN warned.

Many countries in the Mideast already suffer from a shortage of arable land and limited access to water necessary to irrigate crops, but climate change could bring higher temperatures, droughts, floods and soil degradation, according to a report released by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“Changes in temperature, rainfall and climactic extremes will only add to the stress on agricultural resources in a region where land availability and degradation, food price shocks and population growth are already a major concern,” said the report.

Hunger and malnutrition caused by climate change will most likely affect those who are already poor, malnourished or dependent on local food production, according to the report.

Along with current overuse of renewable water resources, climate change will “severely worsen the situation of water scarcity in the region” by 2050, the report said. Many of the region’s irrigation systems are already under considerable environmental strain due to salinity, waterlogging and overuse of groundwater.

One of the stark conclusions from the report was that an additional 155 to 600 million people may experience an increase in water stress caused by a few degree rise in temperature.

“Once temperature increases reach 3 or 4C, the impacts will be strongest across Western Asia and the Middle East, where yields of the predominant regional crops may fall by 23 to 35 per cent with weak carbon fertilisation, or 15 to 20 per cent with strong carbon fertilisation,” said the report.

Many Mideast countries are already wheat and rice importers, and climate change may increase their reliance on imports at a time of rising prices.


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