The Regional Impacts of Climate Change

Other reports in this collection

7.3.6. Human Settlements and Urbanization

A high proportion (a mean of 50%; see Table 7-1) of the region's population lives in urban areas; the region contains 2 of the world's 25 megacities (Karachi, with a population of 9.9 million, and Istanbul, with a population of 7.5 million) (WRI, 1996). In many countries in the Middle East, rapid urbanization has increased the demand for resources, along with waste generation and management problems (UNEP, 1997). With increasing urbanization, problems of urban poverty, access to clean water and sanitation, food security, and air pollution-and thus general health-are issues that will have to be considered. In Middle Eastern countries, most urban houses have running water (approximately 90% of the population surveyed), as well as some sort of sewer and septic system for sewage disposal (WRI, 1996); rural areas, however, are not so well served.

Industrial development has resulted in major pollution problems in some countries, especially in the Middle East. Water and air pollution have affected the health of the population. Pesticide and herbicide use in agriculture also have increased, leading to contamination of food and water.

Political unrest has caused large populations to migrate to marginal lands, leading to further land degradation and water resource problems. In addition, the expansion of urban areas has encroached on some of the most productive lands, especially in countries in the Middle East-thus increasing the agricultural use of marginal lands. The introduction of modern production techniques, combined with industrialization, has had a negative impact on the lifestyles of nomadic populations in parts of the region. As a result of land degradation, there has been an increase in migration to urban areas, which has been detrimental to rural and urban areas (UNEP, 1997).

Although no specific studies of the effects of climate change on urbanization have been done for this region, it is likely that increased land degradation and intensification of agricultural systems will continue to increase population movement to urban centers. Domestic Energy Consumption

In general, decreasing rainfall will lead to a decrease in the production of biomass, which remains a major component of fuel use in some countries of the region. In some countries, population growth and land degradation may make adaptation necessary even before climate change becomes perceptible. Adaptation could take the form of either switching to new fuels or more efficient production and conversion of biomass (IPCC 1996, WG II, Section 16.2.3). It has been suggested that saline lands in coastal zones and arid regions could produce biomass using halophyte species. Although halophytes could assist in slowing degradation or rehabilitating degraded arid lands, their productivity is too low for them to be a significant source of biomass (IPCC 1996, WG II, Section 25.3.2). Energy, Industry, and Transportation

The region contains major fossil fuel reserves; it produced 14% of the world's energy in 1993 (Table 7-1). The energy sector in the region encompasses a range of activities, including coal, oil, and natural gas production; coke manufacture; production of refined petroleum products; and production of biomass fuels and renewable energy. Traditional fuels (e.g., fuelwood, animal dung, and crop residues) account for only 6% of the energy used in the region as a whole, compared with the world average of 12-15%. Nevertheless, up to 70% of the domestic energy consumption in some countries of the region (e.g., Afghanistan) is derived from traditional fuels.

In terms of the future economy of the region, oil exports from the Middle East are projected to decline absolutely but to grow as a percentage of global oil consumption-from about 20% in 1990 to more than 25% in 2025 and 33% in 2100. Total energy exports from the Middle East will double between 1990 and 2050, before declining to their 1990 level by the year 2100 (IPCC 1996, WG II, Figure 19-14). The Middle East is expected to increase its exports of natural gas and hydrogen derived from natural gas and solar electricity via electrolysis (IPCC 1996, WG II, Section 19.2.5).

The sensitivity of industry to climate change is widely believed to be low in relation to that of natural ecosystems and agriculture, and its adaptability is high.

Other reports in this collection