Global Warming Threatens Egypts Coastlines and the Nile Delta

Global Warming Threatens Egypts Coastlines and the Nile Delta
The Philae temples, and more notably – 60% of Egypts agricultural production could be lost to global warming if trends continue

Little by little, Egypt’s Mediterranean coastline is being swallowed up by the sea because of global warming, in some places as much as 100 yards a year.

Eventually priceless farmland in the low-lying Nile Delta, Egypt’s breadbasket, will be inundated. Two-third of the country’s 70 million population lives in the delta, which produces 60 percent of Egypt’s food.

As the polar ice caps melt, much of the northern delta, including the ancient port city of Alexandria, will disappear under the Mediterranean, scientists say.

Scientists believe that within 100 years, 20 percent of the delta will be on the seabed. If the doomsday scenario of Greenland and western Antarctica disappearing as well occurs, the sea will reach as far inland as Cairo’s suburbs.

Climate change poses serious dangers for the Middle East, one of the most volatile regions on the planet. Proponents of tough legislation against greenhouse gas emissions warn that global warming could lead to even greater instability in a region where history’s first battle was recorded in 1274 B.C.

The main problem, they say, is not just dwindling supplies of water, already a scarce commodity in the region, but flooding caused by rising sea levels.

This, along with thermal expansion of warming ocean waters, will critically affect food production, bringing hunger, political instability and potential cataclysm — not to mention hordes of hungry refugees pouring across the Mediterranean into southern Europe.

“We will pay for this one way or another,” General Anthony Zinni, who commanded U.S. forces in the Middle East until he retired in 2006, warned recently.”We will pay to reduce greenhouse gases today and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we’ll pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.”

In May 2007, the British government, which has championed the struggle against global warming, sought to focus global attention on the security threat posed by climate change.

“Resource-based conflicts are not new,” said Margaret Beckett, then Britain’s foreign secretary. “But in climate change we have a new and potentially disastrous dynamic.”

Beckett said that the Middle East, with 5 percent of the world’s population but only 1 percent of its water, would be particularly affected by climate change.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq would be especially hard hit by a drop in rainfall, with some 2 million displaced in the Nile Delta by rising sea levels.

Beckett said the Nile, lifeblood of Egypt since the time of the pharaohs, could lose 80 percent of its flow into the North African country. Egyptian officials say the Nile flow could drop by as much as 70 percent over the next 50 years.

Beckett’s dire predictions echoed the European Commission which warned in January that global warming could touch off a chain of regional conflicts over dwindling resources, worsening poverty, famine, mass migrations unprecedented in modern times and the proliferation of infectious diseases such as malaria, cholera and dengue fever.

Christian Aid, a leading relief agency, estimates that global warming will create at least 1 billion refugees by 2050 as water shortages and crop failures drive them from their homes.

Water will be a critical element in any peace negotiations between Israel with the Palestinians and Syria, but the Jewish state says its rainfall has decreased by 100 millimeters a year, threatening final status talks.

Increasingly, international monitors say that climate change and environmental degradation threaten to spark a series of wars in the Middle East.

The brutal conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, which still splutters on despite peacemaking efforts, is seen to be in large part the result of worsening drought and desertification and thus a matrix of what may lie ahead.

In May 2008, the World Economic Forum warned that climate change and energy security were among the greatest risks facing the Middle East.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that by 2080 up to 3.2 billion people — one third of the planet’s population — will be short of water, with up to 600 million short of food and up to 7 million facing coastal flooding.

Many of those will be in the Middle East, joining the millions of Palestinians and Iraqis who are already refugees.

The impact of these events will be greatly worsened by rapid population growth in the Middle East and North Africa, from 127 million in 1970 to 305 million in 2005.

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