The Syrian crisis has now become one of the largest humanitarian crises of our time. The numbers are staggering. About half of the Syrian pre-conflict population has been displaced, over 200,000 people have been killed, millions of Syrians have been injured or traumatized and millions more have fled to neighboring countries and elsewhere. Yet, we know surprisingly little about the actual living conditions of those who are suffering from the crisis. For the people who have remained in Syria, information is either very scarce or unavailable. For the people affected by the Syrian crisis who have migrated to Europe, we have mostly anecdotal information that mixes victims of the Syrian crisis with other types of migrants. For those Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries and registered as refugees, we have a substantial amount of information but to date this information has been little exploited to study the welfare of refugees.
This week in Doha, the marble corridors of the Qatar National Convention Center resonate with voices from around the world. Over half way through the conference, as ministers arrive and the political stakes pick up, a sense of greater urgency in the formal negotiations is almost palpable. But in the corridors, negotiations are already leading to deals and dreams and action on the ground.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the discussions by saying we need optimism, because without optimism there are no results. He reminded us all that Superstorm Sandy was a tragic awakening. He reiterated the call for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, a global agreement and 100 billion in climate finance by 2020.
Meanwhile our focus was firmly on the region ...
When we look at the Middle East and North Africa, the challenges of climate change are evident. Farmers have been planting in drylands and dealing with climate variability and water shortages since the beginning of agriculture. They understand adaptation here, but no one is prepared for what we could face if the world doesn’t act to stop human-induced climate change now.
We published a report last week examining the science of climate change, and the findings should be alarming to anyone. If governments don’t take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, globally we’re headed for a 4 degree Celsius increase. The rise will be even higher across the Arab world, and the effects on water, agriculture, and livelihoods will be far more pronounced than what people here already face. Climate models show that over the last 30 years, temperatures in the Middle East and North Africa have increased 50 percent faster than the global average.
Aggressive mitigation is needed to slow greenhouse gas emissions, but here and in much of the world, adaptation is now critical to survive the changes that are already underway.
In a new report released today, Adaptation to a Changing Climate in the Arab Countries, we draw on the knowledge and expertise of the Arab world in adapting to changing climates. The authors, the majority of whom are from the region, consulted with civil society, academia, and governments, and worked in partnership with the League of Arab States.