Picture an agricultural region that today provides jobs to thousands of seasonal workers each year. Now imagine that same region as it might look like in the year 2070, when average temperatures are 3.5 degrees C warmer than today and rainfall has dropped by 35 per cent.
Whatever it looks like, it’s not likely the farms there will still be productive enough to support all those agricultural workers. So what happens to them, where do they go and how do they provide for their families now that their main source of income has dried up like the topsoil?
Those are the types of questions a European research project launching this month aims to answer.
The “Climate Change, Water Conflict and Human Security” project, also known as CLICO, kicks off this week with a series of conferences in Bellaterra, Spain. The €3.8 million, three-year effort brings together researchers from 14 institutes to study what effects climate and water issues might have on social tension and conflicts in several regions across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Their goal is to come up with a list of specific actions that can guarantee the peace and security of the population in each area.
It’s also worth noting that this project marks the first time researchers from Israel and Palestine have come together to work jointly on water problems existing in both communities.
CLICO researchers will focus on the potential for water-related conflicts in related to water resources in 11 regions:
- The island of Cyprus, where average rainfall has fallen more than 20 per cent over the past four decades. During the summer of 2008, the island had to import hull water tanks from Greece.
- The Andalusian-Moroccan biosphere, where droughts have already brought on fierce competition for water on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar and have contributed to waves of immigration from Northern Africa as farming income there has declined.
- Niger, which saw a severe drought in 2005 that reduced crop yields by 224,000 tonnes and affected some 3.5 million people.
- Alexandria, Egypt, which could see 30 per cent of the city flooded by a sea level rise of 0.5 metres. Such flooding could displace at least 1.5 million people, destroy 195,000 workplaces and cause an estimated $30 trillion in land and property damage.
- Sudan, where droughts, flooding and desertification have already contributed to the massive humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
- The desert of Sinai in Egypt, which has seen rainfall decrease by 20 to 50 per cent over the past 30 years. Droughts and sudden flooding also threaten the lives of local Bedouin tribes.
- The River Sarno basin, Italy. In 1998, the banks of the River Sarno overflowed and caused the worst flooding ever seen in Italy. The disaster caused the deaths of 155 people, and damage was estimated at over €500 million.
- The Seyhan River basin, Turkey, which is an agricultural region expected to see temperature increases of more than 3.5 degrees C and rainfall decreases of 35 per cent by 2070.
- The Jordan River basin, which as of 2008 had experienced five consecutive years of drought, leaving many people in Palestine without access to water for most of the day.
- The Nile River basin, which saw flooding in 2006 that killed 600 people, left 35,000 homeless and affected a further 118,000 people.
- The Ebre River basin, which is one of the ecosystems most threatened by climate change in Spain. Rising sea levels bring salt water into the river basin and flooding threatens the local population’s means of living.