The Regional Impacts of Climate Change

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7.1. Regional Characterization and Baseline Conditions

This chapter addresses 21 countries of the predominantly arid and semi-arid region of the Middle East and central Asia (see Figure 7-1 and Box 7-1). The region extends from Turkey in the west (2610'E) to Kazakstan in the east (8630'E), and from Yemen in the south (1242'N) to Kazakstan in the north (5030'N). The relief is mostly low. The highest point is Communism Peak in Tajikistan (7,495 m); the lowest point is the Dead Sea in Israel (-395 m). Many countries in the region are landlocked.

Box 7-1. Middle East and Arid Asia
Iran, Islamic Republic of
Kyrgyz Republic
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates


Figure 7-1: The Middle East and Arid Asia region [compiled by the World Bank Environment Department Geographic Information System (GIS) Unit].

Although it is common to separate semi-arid, arid, and extreme arid parts of a country/region, they are amalgamated for most purposes in this chapter and (for conciseness) referred to as "arid" unless a specific distinction is needed. In the Second Assessment Report (SAR), much of this region was discussed in the chapters on deserts (see IPCC 1996, WG II, Chapter 3) and rangelands (see IPCC 1996, WG II, Chapter 2).

Because there are few statistics specifically for arid parts of the region, statistics for whole countries have been used. Data collection is sparse for many countries in the region, for a range of social and physical reasons. Economic and social statistics often are unavailable for countries that were part of the FSU. In addition, with the exception of Kazakstan, few countries have studied the impacts of climate change in this region. The brevity of this chapter reflects the lack of available published literature. This lack of data would have to be addressed in the near future, especially for some sectors (e.g., fisheries).

The region is vulnerable to climate change because it is dry and water availability is thus limited. In some countries, the ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change will be reduced by a lack of infrastructure.

The region covers approximately 9% of the world's land area. It is dominated by arid (50%) and semi-arid (11%) lands. The total population is 433 million, or 8% of the global population. Annual population growth rates range from -6.5% (Kuwait) to +5.8% (Afghanistan), compared with a world average of 1.6% for 1990-95. Half of the population lives in urban centers (compared with a world average of 45%), and 6 of the 21 countries are more than 80% urbanized. The population density varies between 6 persons/km2 (Kazakstan) and 831 persons/km2 (Bahrain); the regional average of 38 persons/km2 is lower than the world's mean density (44 persons/km2).

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