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Arab states among "most vulnerable" to climate change impacts: report

by Mohammad Ghazal

AMMAN, June. 28 (PNA/Xinhua) — The Arab countries are in many ways among the world's most vulnerable to potential impacts of the climate change, a regional report said Sunday.

The Arab world, which has already been haunted by aridity, recurrent droughts and water scarcity, are now facing an increase in average temperatures, less and more erratic precipitation and rise in sea level, said the report issued in Amman by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED).

According to the report, water scarcity in the Arab world will become more acute in 2025. As the temperature continues to rise water flow in the Euphrates may decrease by 30 percent and that of the Jordan River by 80 percent before the turn of the century.

The report said water is scarce across the region, with available water resources below 1,000 cubic meters per capita per year in all Arab states expect Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Although the Arab region occupies 10 percent of the planet, it owns less than 1 percent of the world's freshwater resources.

"The predicted impacts of climate change in the Arab region, mainly increased temperatures as well as reduced and more erratic precipitation, will exacerbate an already critical state of vulnerability and place more stress on the limited fresh water resources," the report said.

The region's fast growing population and the large amount of fresh water consumed by every person make the problem chronic and serious. Around 80 percent of the fresh water was devoted to agriculture.

The report said climate change is likely to raise the sea level, which is a serious problem because the Arab region's economic activity, agriculture, and population centers are concentrated in the coastal zone highly vulnerable to sea level rise.

The coastal zone in the Arab region has a total length of 34, 000 km, more than half of which is inhabited. Most of the region's major cities and economic activities are in the coastal areas such as the Nile Delta, according to the report titled "Arab Environment: Climate Change. The Impact of climate change on Arab countries."

Climate change are also threatening the Arab world's food production, along with it, people's basic need, as harsher and expanding aridity and changes of the season span may reduce agricultural yields in half, the report said.

Tourism will also be affected by climate change, a rise of 1 to 4 Celsius in average temperature will cause a drastic decline in Tourism Comfort Index of the region as the summers will be hotter, water become more scare and ecosystems degraded, and there will be more extreme weather events.

The report listed that bleaching of coral reefs will affect tourism of the Red Sea basin countries, mainly Egypt and Jordan, and beach erosion and rise in sea level will take a toll on coastal tourist destinations, namely Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

The deteriorating biodiversity in the Arab countries will be further damaged by intensifying climate change, the report said, adding that up to 40 percent of all the species in these states will die out when temperature rises 2 degrees Celsius.

Furthermore, the report said land use and urban planning regulations in the Arab region largely ignore basic adaptation requirements of climate change. An estimated 75 percent of buildings and infrastructure are at direct risk of climate change impacts mainly of rise in sea level, higher intensity and frequency of hot days and storm surges.

To address the issue, the report called for improving efficiency in water resources management, especially in irrigation and ways to develop new water resources including innovative desalination technologies.

It also suggested people of the region develop new kinds of crops that can adapt to higher temperatures and different spans of seasons and also those that need less water and withstand higher levels of salinity.

The report urged exploring and promoting of alternative tourist destinations less vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

Meanwhile, it said when choosing construction materials and techniques for buildings, roads and utility networks one should take into consideration low-emission requirements and the risk of rising temperatures and storm surges.

The report was issued in a ceremony attended by Prince Hamzah Ben Al Hussein who underlined the need for joint actions among Arab states to face challenges imposed by climate change. (PNA/Xinhua)

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