Rising temperatures, rising tension: climate change and the risk of violent conflict in the Middle East

Rising temperatures, rising tension: climate change and the risk of violent conflict in the Middle East

Climate change could fuel further conflict in the Middle East

Climate models are predicting a hotter, drier and less predictable climate in the Middle East, a region already considered the world's most water-scarce and where, in many places, demand for water already outstrips supply. This report addresses the links between climate change, peace and conflict.

It finds that the legacy of conflict in the region undermines the ability of countries and communities to adapt to climate change. The history of hostility and mistrust greatly complicates efforts to collaborate over shared resources, to invest in more efficient water and energy use, to share new ways to adapt to climate change and to pursue truly multilateral action on climate change. Ultimately, climate change presents an even more serious challenge than it would otherwise. 

The report goes on to assert that climate change itself poses real security concerns to the region such as:

  • increased competition for scarce water resources, complicating peace agreements
  • intensified food insecurity, thereby raising the stakes for the return or retention of occupied land
  • hindering economic growth, worsening poverty and social instability
  • destabilisation could lead to forced migration and increased tensions over refugee populations
  • increased militarisation of strategic natural resources 
  • growing resentment and distrust of the West (as a result of perceived inertia). 

Nevertheless there is much that national governments and authorities, civil society and the international community can do address the challenge of climate change, and in so doing, address some of the threats it may pose to regional peace and security. They can promote a culture of conservation in the region, help communities and countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foster greater cooperation on their shared resources.

[adapted from the authors]

This report is also available in Arabic and Hebrew, please see further information on the right hand side.

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