How Environmental Concerns Impact the Middle Eastern Economy :
From water shortages to declines in agrarian activities, the Middle East faces a severe climate crisis. Ordinarily, with only 1% of the world’s total renewable freshwater resources, it is the world’s most water-stressed region and is now more vulnerable to fallouts of the climate crisis. This article discusses the impacts of environmental challenges on the Middle Eastern economy and proposes green tech as a tool for mitigation and adaptation.
Despite its ecological vulnerabilities, the Middle East has one of the worst outcomes of air pollution on population health worldwide. The average urban resident in the largest cities of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is said to inhale polluted air that is ten times more than is deemed safe by the WHO. Inhabitants of this region are also some of the world’s biggest contributors to plastic waste, with areas like the Maghreb and Mashreq complicating the issue with poor waste management structures. In addition, the Middle East is witnessing a contraction in its coastlines, threatening biodiversity and employment for communities that thrive on them. The adverse economic consequences extend to the national level as reducing coastlines translates to a drop in tourism revenues.
Poor Resource Management
As stated earlier, unlike oil, water is one resource the Middle East does not have an abundance of. The scarcity of water across countries in the region has the potential to whittle away trust in the state and stir unrest. It also increases exposure to insecurity as economically fatigued citizens constitute a fertile pool for co-option by terrorists. The Syria conflict that erupted in 2007 has partly been attributed to droughts in areas of the country, which spurred migration to overpopulated urban centres. Consequently, non-state actors exploited the delicate situation.
Water has also become a tool for geopolitical advantage as countries like Turkey weaponize their aquatic sources. Adjoining countries that rely on outflows from these areas experience humanitarian crises among dependent local populations. The same applies to non-state actors for whom water can serve as both control and income-generation mechanisms. Taxes on access to water in terrorist-occupied areas and the deployment of water as field equipment against defiant territories are some usual tactics applied by terrorists.
Unfortunately, the Middle East is not proficient at managing its stores either. It currently pursues policies that are at odds with climate realities, subsidizing water rather than devising strategies for efficiency. All these combined results in potent threats to the region’s stability, a fact that also reflects on its economic outlook.
How Green Technology Can Help with the Middle East’s Challenges
Dire as the situation might look, the Middle East possesses unique traits to its advantage. It is a region of consistent sunlight which can be harnessed for use in renewable energy systems. This transfers reliance from its fossil fuel sector to clean energy while improving socioeconomic outcomes for the less economically buoyant countries of the Middle East. Additionally, the growth in its urban populations and the effects on water consumption can be transformed to an advantage through proper management and channelling of wastewater for agricultural purposes. This minimizes pressure on its freshwater reserves, the bulk of which is expended on agriculture. Asides from these, however, regional collaboration is needed to implement many of the broader solutions that the countries need. The combination of shared values and cultural histories will aid in actualizing responses to climate change if neighbours can resolve their many differences.