Weather Warning

Jordanians have ignored the threat posed by climate change for too long.

By Osama Al Sharif

The big story this summer was not political or economic; as much as both spheres remain mired in turmoil and uncertainty. It was—and will continue to be—the environmental catastrophes pummeling various regions of our planet.

There was the chain of killer hurricanes that struck the Caribbean nations and southern US states, the record-breaking rise in temperatures in many parts of the world, including Jordan, especially in July and August, the devastating floods that ravaged parts of China, Thailand, Sri Lanka and even some European countries, and the droughts that killed people and cattle in East Africa, India, and parts of the Middle East.

Global warming deniers are on the defensive as reams of new facts and figures continue to pile up proving that unless something is done our planet is heading towards an apocalypse.

The Middle East is no exception to the troubling phenomenon of global warming and its destructive effects. While we are unlikely to see biblical type floods or hurricanes plowing through the region anytime soon, we are witnessing the effects of global warming in terms of scorching summers, drier and milder winters punctuated by unexpected storms. Recent studies are predicting increasingly severe storms and deadly heat waves dominating our climate for decades. More pessimistic studies suggest that certain areas, such as the Gulf region, may become uninhabitable before the end of the century.

The Levant is particularly vulnerable and Jordan is finding itself in the eye of the proverbial storm. The Department of Meteorology announced that this summer was the hottest in the Kingdom’s recorded history. A US study of our region’s climate suggested that northern Jordan will experience more frequent and longer-lasting droughts, and lower rainfall. The study also looked ahead to the period between 2070 and 2100, suggesting a forecast where the average temperature will increase by 4.5 degrees Celsius.

The California Department of Water Resources, which carried out the study, predicted that average rainfall in the Kingdom is expected to decrease by a third, and multiple drought-type occurrences are expected to triple in frequency, from about 8 in 30 years to about 25 in 30 years, according to Haaretz which published a synopsis of the findings.

Jordan is already one of the world’s poorest countries in terms of water resources and per capita share. Water scarcity is directly linked to food security and one can predict that traditional farming will soon be on the decline. Droughts lead to soil erosion and desertification and both influence climate swings even more.

President Trump’s rash decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement earlier this year was disheartening. The agreement took many years to negotiate and even the most hopeful scenarios do not foresee a reversal of global warming to begin for decades. Time is running out and what we saw this summer: hurricanes, droughts, floods, polar ice melting and heat waves are only a glimpse of what awaits our planet in the years to come.

But what can Jordan do? It takes the entire nations of the world to reverse the damaging man-made phenomenon that took centuries to create. The government has done well by encouraging private sector investments in massive renewable energy projects. Our carbon footprint is negligible, but Jordan can become a model for other countries in the region by adopting and implementing a smart strategy to cut emissions and increase the size of renewable and clean energy contribution to our annual energy consumption.

In this regard, Jordanians need to become aware of the benefits, and drawbacks, of nuclear energy in light of the national strategy to build a nuclear reactor. Solar and wind will not meet the entire energy needs of the Kingdom. Our choices must rest on the best possible, and achievable, options. Regional stability should speed up the process of inter-regional cooperation in water, oil, and natural gas projects. Climate change does not recognize political boundaries and the leaders of this region must look beyond ideological differences.

But we need to change our individual attitudes as well. Arson and illegal logging are responsible for the quick deforestation of our northern mountains. Illegal drilling is drying up aquifers and turning others into unusable brackish wells. Farming of water-thirsty fruits and vegetables is draining our water resources. New innovative methods in agriculture, such as hydroponics, using recycled water and no soil must be introduced and encouraged through government grants and zero-interest loans.

Our sense of the environment we live in must change dramatically and this must begin at school. Such a process needs intervention at the highest level so that governments and legislative chambers embrace it as a national priority. This might not be enough to appease Mother Nature, but we have no option but to try. Our survival depends on it.