Climate change: The years of living dangerously
BEIRUT - The Middle East, facing dwindling water resources and swelling populations, has a lot riding on a massive conference that opened November 30th in Paris to seek an agreement to counter climate change, arguably the most complex international crisis the world faces.
An unprecedented 150 heads of state or government attended the opening session of the 12-day conference, despite Islamic State (ISIS) attacks on the city on November 13th in which 130 people were killed in a frenzy of gunfire and suicide bombings.
About 40,000 people were expected to attend the conference, so security has been tight due to concerns that Western Europe faces more terrorist attacks.
Deadly as those attacks might be, scientists say that failure to secure a global agreement on climate change will be infinitely more catastrophic for mankind.
Rising sea levels caused by the polar ice caps melting threaten low-lying coastal cities of the region, from Casablanca to Beirut. An increase of 2 degrees Celsius in the Earth’s temperature would flood land on which an estimated 280 million people live, many of them in the Middle East.
Ferocious heatwaves, more intense than any human being has ever endured, would turn parts of the Arab world into a hell on Earth if carbon dioxide emissions continue at current rates, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology warned in October.
Water is already the core of disputes between Israel and the Palestinians, Egypt and Ethiopia, and between Turkey and Syria and Iraq, the vortex of a war that threatens to engulf the entire region.
But if supplies dwindle because of climate change, it could become the cause of a far more catastrophic conflict over vanishing resources.
The prospects that the Paris conference will succeed are not good. Previous efforts to find an agreement failed, mainly due to deadlock between rich and poor countries over sharing the financial burden of such a monumental task — about $100 billion a year beginning in 2020.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies in London warned in a strategic assessment that the Paris negotiations will be intense and difficult “and probably inconclusive.
“While Paris represents the culmination of decades of effort to secure a global deal, the resulting treaty will likely represent a milestone in an ongoing process rather than an endpoint in the complicated and lengthy transition to a low-carbon future.”