Countries must work together to fight climate crisis
The latest scientific assessments highlight the fact that we should urgently take action when it comes to the climate crisis. This was demonstrated earlier this year by scientists in a report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” stressed Hoesung Lee, the IPCC chair.
Tackling climate change was one of the key topics addressed at a high-level summit that took place alongside the UN General Assembly in New York last week. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a stark warning when he pointed out in a speech to open the Climate Ambition Summit: “Humanity has opened the gates to hell. Horrendous heat is having horrendous effects. Distraught farmers watching crops carried away by floods. Sweltering temperatures spawning disease. Climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge.”
If governments around the world come together and take effective action, we still have the opportunity to curb and even resolve this environmental crisis. But if the international community does not approach the climate crisis with the sense of urgency that it deserves and does not take significant action, the situation on this planet will not be sustainable and it will only get more dangerous and unstable.
The burden has fallen disproportionately on low-income countries that have contributed the least to the problem
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
This means that, when it comes to tackling the climate crisis, some of the most critical steps to take include: reducing greenhouse gas emissions through investments in efficient infrastructure that reduces emissions; reaching net-zero emissions; setting up timelines for each country and committing to phasing out fossil fuels; helping poorer countries to use clean energy and build renewable infrastructure; and conserving water. The world is increasingly facing water stress or water scarcity, with demand frequently being higher than supply in some areas.
The problem with climate change is that it disproportionately affects certain regions and countries, which are themselves not among the highest contributors to the climate crisis. Unfortunately, developing countries, lower socioeconomic classes, older people, women and children disproportionately experience the impact of losses and damages caused by climate change.
According to a recent study by a team at Dartmouth College, global warming caused by only five countries — the US, China, Russia, Brazil and India — has caused $6 trillion in global economic losses. And these losses have reportedly not been suffered equally, with the burden falling disproportionately on low-income countries that have contributed the least to the problem.
Some regions in the world are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than others. The Middle East, in particular, will unfortunately get devastated by the climate crisis if it is not adequately addressed. This is due to the dry or semi-dry environment of the region. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani last week accurately told the UNGA that the Middle East will be at the forefront of “environmental catastrophe” if the international community does not take appropriate action.
To take action, two levels of cooperation need to occur at the same time: regional and global
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
One of the impacts of climate change can be witnessed in the rising temperatures seen around the world. And temperatures in the Middle East and North Africa are rising almost twice as quickly as in other parts of the world, according to a 2022 report by the Cyprus Institute’s Climate and Atmosphere Research Center and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. Countries such as Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Iran have also witnessed significant desertification.
Water scarcity is another critical problem for the Middle East and North Africa that has been, at least in part, caused by climate change. This region is already characterized as the most water-scarce in the world. Al-Sudani went on to warn: “Our two rivers (the Tigris and Euphrates) are exposed to the brunt of the effects of drought resulting from climate change. We have an urgent need to preserve rights to water resources and international river basins.” The Euphrates could be completely dried out by 2040, according to Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources.
In the long term, if some of the damage caused by climate change, such as water scarcity and a lack of agricultural resources, continues to increase in Iraq or other countries in the Middle East to the extent that freshwater resources are depleted, this will have an impact on national security and political stability.
To take action, two levels of cooperation need to occur at the same time: regional and global. Countries in the Middle East should establish a regional coordination system with the aim of reaching several objectives. These objectives include working together and helping each other reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, setting up timelines for each country to phase out fossil fuels and helping individual nations, particularly those experiencing financial hardship, to transition to clean energy and build renewable infrastructure. But it is also critical that all countries, especially the developed ones, take action too. This means that developing and poorer countries need support in order to adapt to and address the climate crisis.
In a nutshell, climate change requires immediate action in order to prevent irreversible damage to the planet. The Middle East is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions when it comes to the impacts of climate change. Coordination at the regional and global levels is a must in order to tackle this critical environmental crisis.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. X: @Dr_Rafizadeh