by Raed Omari

AMMAN – The Middle East is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change, threatening Jordan’s development, a senior development economist has warned.

Delivering a public lecture on Sunday, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University, highlighted recent indicators of ecosystem change and its consequences for humanity.

“The Middle East is one of the most fragile regions to be negatively affected by ecosystem change,” Sachs said during the lecture, hosted by the Columbia University Middle East Research Centre.

He indicated that scientific research has proved that “2010 has been a year of global climate change”, adding that recent major consequences have included record temperatures and heatwaves, Russian and Israeli fires as well as major drought in Jordan, the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan.

The Columbia University scholar indicated that the Eastern Mediterranean will be deeply affected by climate change, pointing out that countries bordering the Mediterranean will witness droughts in the coming decades.

“The world is wrecking the Mediterranean Basin region without any responsibility … it is very likely that this region will dry up in a matter of decades,” he said.

Referring to the findings of scientific research conducted at the Earth Institute, Sachs pointed out that “there is apparently a warming and drying trend for the Eastern Mediterranean region”.

In the lecture, Sachs explained that without “collaborative” efforts, climate change will severely impact vulnerable countries’ agriculture, ecology, public health, industry and tourism sectors.

Among the expected effects of climate change are rising temperatures, declining precipitation, increased rates of evaporation, the death of the Dead Sea and the Aral Sea, heatwaves, and the spread of diseases such as malaria, he said.

Sachs indicated that ecosystem change will also result in several geopolitical consequences.

“Ecological stresses are the direct causes of wars, violence and disturbances around the world,” he said.

He said the entire world, particularly the US, should work collaboratively to reduce the effects of climate change to avert “disastrous” consequences.

Sachs asserted that the solutions to ecosystem change lie in sustainable development, an issue which he said “has not yet been taken adequately by several countries around the world.”

He claimed that global powers still believe in military and political action to solve tension and wars, while “it is sustainable development that brings about peace and harmony in turbulent countries”.

In the case of Jordan, Sachs pointed out that the Kingdom’s sustainable development process faces several challenges, including job creation for a rapidly growing population, climate change, energy resource management, education and capacity building.

However, the scholar indicated that if the country’s sustainable devolvement process is carried out in collaboration with other countries, Jordan can become a “leading country” in overcoming the effects of climate change effects.

He noted that Jordan is home to some of the highest solar radiation rates in the world, highlighting that if Jordan harnesses solar power, it can provide Europe and other countries with their electricity needs.

Sachs has also served as special adviser to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, director of the UN Millennium Project and special adviser to former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals. Sachs is also president and co-founder of Millennium Promise Alliance.