Water Insecurity in the Middle East

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The effects of climate change threaten to harm economies, communities, and political stability around the globe. In the Middle East, a region which already suffers from political instability, increasing water scarcity is likely to increase the opportunity for conflict.

A draft of a new World Bank and Arab League  report to be released early next year, “Adaptation to a Changing Climate in the Arab Countries,” finds that “’water is key.’” According to Dorte Verner, a climate change expert at the World Bank, competition for limited water resources will increase in the coming decades.

Indeed, the draft report notes, even as water supplies dwindle because of pollution, industrial waste and climate change-driven temperature rise, there will be pressure to supply more. Countries are facing rising demands fueled by explosive population growth and rising per capita consumption.

‘With little prospect of securing economically feasible supplies, water scarcity is turning into a major crisis that threatens the socio-economic development of Arab countries, especially those with weak financial resources,’ the authors of one chapter wrote. ‘The fact that many Arab countries derive the bulk of their supplies from water resources shared by other nations makes water a politically contentious issue that may strain relations with neighbors or even lead to armed conflict.’

The Middle East’s water challenge has already reared its head, and by 2050, the situation is projected to be particularly bad in volatile places like Yemen, Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza, threatening lives, economies, and local and regional stability. Rippling global effects threaten American and global security.

Much of our economic and national security hinges on our ability and willingness to invest in new technologies and convert our energy economy in an effort to slow climate change and adapt to its effects. Now is the time take action on climate change.