Why the Middle East Green Initiative is so important
The Middle East Green Initiative, launched last year by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has united top leaders from nine nations to coordinate their efforts in countering climate change. Everyone agrees that the future survival of humanity depends on green solutions and each country has now taken action to create its own national strategy. We at the Wildlife Alliance are looking forward to seeing the national green initiative strategies being unveiled at COP27 in Egypt this November.
Preparing these plans requires an enormous amount of desk-based work and fieldwork, as well as precise guidelines for industries and the public for on-the-ground implementation. However, recent climate events have shown how urgent it is to push ahead with these plans and put them into action as soon as possible.
Since June this year, massive floods in Pakistan have covered an area the size of Britain, the most severe flooding in the country’s recorded history, after five times more rain than usual fell. The damage is unprecedented: 33 million people displaced, crops wiped out, 7,000 km of roads destroyed, 500 bridges collapsed and 2 million homes destroyed. The floodwater might take six months to recede.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has lamented the lack of attention the world has given to climate change, particularly industrialized nations. Visiting the Pakistan flood disaster area, he said: “I have never seen climate carnage on this scale. I have simply no words to describe what I have seen today. This is insanity, this is collective suicide.”
To avoid more disasters, immediate action is needed. We should speed up the Middle East Green Initiative’s implementation of cuts to carbon dioxide emissions and its plans to increase vegetation cover and expand protected areas.
Leaders agree that we must shift to a low-carbon economy as soon as possible. However, realistically, we all know that this will take time. Therefore, the question remains: What do we do in the immediate future? What emergency intervention do we use now? Could we use new technology that allows us to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (decarbonization, aka direct air capture)? Or do we use solar geoengineering, which will lower the temperature of the Earth by spraying particles into the stratosphere to block some of the sun’s rays and send them back into space.
Several solar geoengineering technologies are being tested right now. They have shown an effective reduction in the amount of the sun’s rays that reach the Earth and a lowering of temperatures. However, there have been undesired effects that cannot be controlled, such as the freezing of crops that could cause famine and the disruption of rainfall, which could cause droughts across entire regions.
So, what should we do?
The Wildlife Alliance thinks that the use of climate control technology and carbon extraction are part of the solution but will only work if implemented alongside massive efforts to increase the vegetation cover on the planet. Without the restoration of natural vegetation, we will be unable to restore global cool air currents.
By deforesting 60 percent of the tropical belt’s forest cover, we have accelerated the warming of the planet. NASA has proven that the climate in Northern Hemisphere countries is directly impacted by the loss of tropical vegetation cover around the equator. We have ignored for too long the function of tropical rainforests in regulating the Earth’s temperature. Now that we have lost most of these forests, we are paying the price.
Without the restoration of natural vegetation, we will be unable to restore global cool air currents.
Dr. Suwanna Gauntlett
Tropical vegetation is no longer in place to maintain cool air currents and regulate global rainfall. For example, deforestation in the Congo Basin is increasing temperatures and reducing rainfall in Europe. And destruction of the tropical forest in the Amazon has a direct impact on heat waves and droughts in the US.
The immediate and accessible solution for maintaining the Earth’s temperature and rainfall at a stable level is to stop deforestation, strictly protect the forests that we still have and plant new forests as fast as we can.
As a conservationist, I understand the importance of working with governments to fast forward policies and help with on-the-ground implementation. This means, for the immediate future, mobilizing the resources needed to plant new forests faster and raising more funds for the direct protection of existing forests to stop deforestation.
- Dr. Suwanna Gauntlett is the founder and CEO of Wildlife Alliance. She has dedicated her life to protecting rainforests and wildlife in some of the world’s most hostile and rugged environments. Twitter: @dr_suwanna