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How global warming induced natural resource shortages will cause violent conflict in the Middle East
Background on Climate Change
Implications for the Middle East
Global warming, or climate change, is no longer begging the question of when the effects of this phenomenon will begin to unfold; rather the changes in the climate are already being witnessed. There are many at risk populations all over the world. Many of these populations already are dealing with food and/or water shortages which will only become more problematic in the near future. Once resources become scarcer and exceed the carrying capacity of the local or regional population then this will introduce a new level of conflict that has the potential to easily become violent. There are few mitigation strategies that can help this point. Migration is always an option, but regional areas will be affected in similar ways. This analysis will how the effects of climate change will impact the Middle East and what the consequences of these effects might be including the potential for violent conflict.
Global warming, also called climate change, is a phenomenon that not only is a threat to other species on the planet; it also has the potential to cause mass disruptions to the average human life and will have implications for the control of vital natural resources. In is not likely that this will be something that threatens humans to the point of extinction, however much of the current and future populations will have a difficult time finding sufficient food and water to support their development. The world population has been estimated to include over seven billion people and it is constantly climbing. Many people have speculated that the carry capacity of the earth is on the brink and could easily be surpassed in the near future as the population is estimated to rise to nine billion (if the carrying capacity has not been passed already) (Roberts, 2011). The enormous human population is constantly in competition for resources such as food and water as well as emits pollution that further aggravates the issue. This population trend and control for the command of resources has built a momentum that will not be easily reversed.
The changing climate will have severe implications for at risk populations. Literally billions of people have the potential to suffer food and water shortages within this century; in some areas the implications will be evident at the turn of the century. Every attempt to address this situation from a political perspective has led in failure or legislation that has no real impact. Much of the resistance has been perpetuated by industrial nations that represent some of the main drivers of climate change; both today and historically. The world's biggest polluters, the United States and China, have made only relatively miniscule efforts to curb their greenhouse emissions which will have vast implications for most of the world's population.
Background on Climate Change
Global warming, also called climate change, is a phenomenon that not only is a threat to other species but also has the potential drastically change the climate so that it has severe and negative consequences for the human population of the planet. The definition of global warming is as follows (Britanica, N.d.):
The gradual increase in the temperature of the earth's atmosphere, believed to be due to the greenhouse effect caused by gases, such as Carbon Dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels or from deforestation, which trap heat that would otherwise escape from Earth; a type of greenhouse effect.
Global warming, which is at least partly due to the rising concentrations of greenhouses in the atmosphere, is generally noted by primary source of greenhouse gases which is carbon dioxide (CO2).
There are many different natural chemical compounds found in the Earth's atmosphere act as "greenhouse gases." Before humans began emitting these gases artificially, a concentration of these gases was already present. Greenhouse gases allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely however when sunlight strikes the Earth's surface, some of it is reflected back towards space as infrared radiation (heat) (Energy Information Administration, N.d.). Greenhouse gases absorb this infrared radiation due to their chemical composition and trap the infrared heat in the atmosphere. Many gases exhibit these "greenhouse" properties and some of them occur in nature (water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide), while others are exclusively human-made (like gases used for aerosols) (Energy Information Administration, N.d.).
Figure 1 - Carbon Cycle (Energy Information Administration, N.d.)
Global warming, which is represented by the additional greenhouse gases added by humanity contribution is usually represented by one of the main components of greenhouse gases which is carbon dioxide (CO2). Exponential increases in greenhouse gas emissions, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels, have led to a carbon dioxide concentration of roughly 401.22 parts per million in the atmosphere (CO2 Now, 2014). This is an important figure because several scientists have benchmarked the earth's highest level of CO2 that the Earth can sustainably support is somewhere around 350 parts per million (Hensen, Sato, Kharecha, Beerling, & Masson-Delmotte, 2008).
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international climate task force that includes scientists from all over the world, has stated that at 450 parts per million of CO2 levels that there is roughly a fifty two percent chance that catastrophic climate change will not occur (IPCC, 2007). This also assumes that humanity will take action to reduce their impact on fossil fuel emissions. The IPCC created various scenarios in which the fossil fuel uptake could be curbed over the course of the next decades. However, at the time of writing, the carbon dioxide emissions are consistent with the most alarming scenario outlined by the IPCC (IPCC, 2000).
The A1 storyline and scenario family describes a future world of very rapid economic growth, global population that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter, and the rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies. Major underlying themes are convergence among regions, capacity building, and increased cultural and social interactions, with a substantial reduction in regional differences in per capita income. The A1 scenario family develops into three groups that describe alternative directions of technological change in the energy system. The three A1 groups are distinguished by their technological emphasis: fossil intensive (A1FI), non-fossil energy sources (A1T), or a balance across all sources
Figure 2 - IPCC Scenarios (Le Queree, Raupach, & Canadell, 2010)
Figure 3 - Global Carbon Emissions
The political response to the climate change issue has not yet been effective in making any real change in the trend. Currently there opposing opinions expressed by many nations, both industrialized nations and the developing nations, about who is responsible and who should lead the mitigation efforts to address the issue. Some of the nations that are currently developing, such as China and India for example, have argued that they are responsible for only a fraction of the historical emissions that are currently in the atmosphere. These countries also argue that they need to develop their economies in order to alleviate poverty and provide a better quality of life for their citizens. Thus the argument is that the countries that have developed already using fossil fuels have the bulk of the burden in addressing the mitigation efforts.
However, countries such as the United States have disputed these claims and would prefer to concentrate on the current emissions that are being produced. When these countries developed, they did so without the knowledge that they were damaging the climate with their actions. Furthermore, most of the greenhouse gas emissions that have contributed to the total concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases were primarily emitted by previous generations. Thus the current generation should not be responsible for their predecessor's actions. The reality of the situation however requires that all parties make a substantial and immediate response to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
The problem is so severe that one report commissioned by the governments of more than 20 countries found that more than 100 million people, mostly in third world countries, will die as a result of climate change by 2030 if the world stays on its current path (Koebler, 2012). However, within the last five years it has been estimated that China will open two new coal fired power plants each and every week (Clayton, 2007). Furthermore, it is estimated that these power plants are built to be in operation for fifty years or more. Thus the infrastructure to continue producing emissions that will accelerate the problems has already been constructed. Therefore, under some of the assumptions outlined by the IPCC, many of these power plants will have to be either shut down or modernized to produce energy more efficiently and with fewer emissions.
Implications for the Middle East
Scientific evidence suggests that climate change will have significant impacts to food security, disease prevalence, population distribution, and water availability in the Middle East; it is projected that the likelihood of increased conflict as…[continue]
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