Friday, December 18, 2009

Egypt's climate change situation

Abdel-Moneim Said, in Al-Ahram (Egypt): As if Egypt needed any more problems, let alone a problem of the magnitude of global warming. We already have to deal with the consequences of a population explosion and the strains it is placing on economic and social development. We already live in a region that has more than its fair share of political tensions and military conflicts. But there is no getting around the fact that global warming is happening. We're stuck with it and must deal with its consequences.

…Egypt is among the 20 countries ranked most vulnerable to global warming. Among the scenarios predicted by climatologists is that global warming will hasten the evaporation of the Nile, leading to severe water shortages. According to a report by the Council of Ministers Information Centre, the anticipated rise in Egypt's average temperature by an average of 1.5 degrees centigrade by 2050 and 2.4 degrees by 2100 will severely reduce the productivity of agricultural land. More alarming still is the prediction that 30 per cent of the Nile Delta will be vulnerable to flooding. The densely populated Delta is home to two-thirds of Egypt's inhabitants. Also facing submersion are the industrial zones and commercial projects which have been constructed along 240km of Egypt's Mediterranean coat, with a hinterland 160km deep facing flooding from the sea.

Many experts also warn of the threat to Egyptian antiquities. The rising sea level would engulf a third of Egypt's coastal heritage sites. In Alexandria the Citadel of Qait Bey, Al-Chatby necropolis, the Roman amphitheatre, Anfoushi Square and the catacombs of Kom Al-Shoqafa could vanish. Further to the east, water will cover large parts of Rosetta, submerging many of the port city's historical buildings. Tel Al-Firma, one of the most important historical sites in northern Sinai, could meet the same fate, along with Al-Tina plain and ancient Biluzium, which contains a vast array of archaeological sites including Tel Al-Kanayes, Tel Al-Makhzan, Tel Al-Muslim, Tel Al-Louli, Tel Al-Mafraq, Tel Abu Seifa and Tel Abu Wasifa.

The Council of Information and Decision Support Centre report further concludes a 50cm increase in sea levels by 2050 would displace 1.5 million Egyptians in Alexandria alone. A UN Economic Cooperation and Development Organisation report estimates that global warming could lead to 3.5 million environmental refugees in Egypt. Other studies make grimmer predictions: from five to six million people displaced from areas vulnerable to flooding. On top of this, medical experts warn of the health risks of global warming, citing increased incidence of sun and heat stroke, malaria, pulmonary diseases, heart and vascular diseases and skin cancer.

It is a nightmarish set of scenarios. …. Is it foolish to suggest we begin setting the money aside, starting from now?

Satellite image of Alexandria, Egypt

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