Middle East Now Produces Almost as Much Greenhouse Gas as EU, Contributing to Higher Temps

A climate change conference for Middle East and east Mediterranean policymakers this week will emphasize the need for renewable energy sources as the area now emits almost as much greenhouse gasses as the entire European Union, according to the Associated Press.

This year's focus of the second International Conference is to urgently suggest that the region switch from fossil fuels to renewable resources despite the region's dependence on the fuels for energy production.

In an interview before this week's conference, George Zittis, a scientist at the Cyprus Institute's Climate and Atmosphere Research Center, said that the switch can't happen overnight.

"We need to completely decarbonize, even go negative, in greenhouse gas emissions," Zittis said.

The conference is organized by the Cyprus government and brings together top scientists and policymakers from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Greece to present the results of a two-year study compiled from contributions by 220 experts and to present policy recommendations to countries in the region. It focuses on the east Mediterranean and Middle East, which together are recognized as a global "climate change hot spot."

Zittis acknowledges that governments have to make the switch within the next two decades to avert potentially "irreversible effects" such as desertification.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Middle East is a "hot spot"
A climate change conference for Middle East and east Mediterranean policymakers this week will emphasize the need for renewable energy sources as the area now emits almost as much greenhouse gasses as the entire European Union. Above, an offshore drilling rig in the waters off Cyprus' coastal city of Limassol as a boat passes with a skier on July 5, 2020. Petros Karadjias/AP Photo

Former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius, Jordanian Prince El Hassan bin Talal, U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network President Jeffrey Sachs and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades will address the conference.

Zittis said regional governments should take heed and expedite the move to renewables because the accelerated temperature rise combined with reduced precipitation could mean extended heat waves that would ramp up energy costs for greenhouse gas-spewing desalination plants and electricity-hungry air conditioning units.

Natural gas is a cleaner-burning fossil fuel that could act as a transitional source of energy for the region until renewables such as solar and wind come online on a mass scale, Zittis said.

A hotter region would also mean less moisture in the soil—a key ingredient to keeping air temperatures cooler once that moisture evaporates. The growth of cities in the Middle East and east Mediterranean also means a loss of arable land that could hold such moisture. Zittis said temperatures in urban settings are on average two to four degrees Celsius higher than outside cities.

Scientists will also urge policymakers to ensure that new houses, buildings and vehicle engines are as energy efficient as possible.

Experts will also need to come up with strategies on how countries will need to adapt to a changing climate in order to get a handle on the higher expenditures that will flow from that. Zittis also said that scientists are warning of possible mass migrations from countries in the Middle East as water gets more scarce and temperatures rise.