New scientific reports suggests that coastal flooding for Middle East and North African countries will be much worse than estimated six years ago. What countries are bracing for the severe effects of climate change? Egypt sets the stage.
In 2007, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that global sea levels would rise between 8 inches and two feet over the next century. That was cause for concern along North Africa’s coast, especially in Egypt where rising sea levels would ostensibly drown Alexandria and much of the northern part of the country. Today, new evidence says it could be worse.
Scientists working for Environmental Research Letters believe that global sea levels will increase between 12 inches and 3 feet over the next century, or a 60 percent increase over the IPCC model.
For North Africa, this is a major worry, where much of the countries’ agricultural land is harnessed.
In Egypt, this means “Many of the towns and urban areas in the north of the Delta will suffer from the rise in the level of the Mediterranean with effect from 2020 and about 15 percent of Delta land is under threat from the rising sea level and the seepage into the ground water,” Environment Minister George Maged told a parliamentary committee in 2008 as reports began to flow over the future of sea levels.
The Nile Delta region is home to approximately half of Egypt’s 80 million people. The UN’s Environment Program says that a rise in only 0.5 meters (20 inches) would displace at least 4 million people and damage 1,800 square kilometers (700 square miles).
It gets worse still with a one-meter (39 inches) rise, which would displace at least 6 million people and damage more than double the farmland.
Efforts are already underway to limit the immediate impact of global warming in Alexandria.
In 2009, the local government spent approximately $300 million to build concrete walls to protect the city’s beaches, and in some areas sand is being dumped to help replenish deteriorating beaches.
Many of those barriers have yet to be completed.
According to an Alexandria government official, since the January 2011 uprising, no work has been done on the challenges facing the coast from climate change.
But there is hope, writes Shin-pei Tsay and Victoria Herrmann in a Carnegie Endowment brief on coastal water levels and the threat to major urban areas. Following a plan similar to what New York City has implemented may be a way of staving off the worst scientists’ predict, but it means more than erecting barriers.
“To help stave off these potentially devastating outcomes, coastal cities and communities should align comprehensive climate protection with economic development strategies,” they write.
“New York City, one of the world’s largest economic engines, is doing just that. PlaNYC began in 2007 as an economic development initiative, but when it became clear that the city would experience significant future impacts from climate change, the plan was transformed. Now it is a cutting-edge example of a city climate plan,” the paper continued.
For the MENA region, where vast numbers of population and agriculture exist today, the threat of rising sea levels is one that needs more action and more care if the region is to be able to cope with the environmental changes faced by climate change.
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