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Climate Change, Energy Security Pose Risk To Mideast Stability

Given such an interlocking and complex risk environment, the WEF said that the countries of the Middle East could only face down the challenges by acting in concert with one another.
by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) May 18, 2007
Climate change and energy security are among the greatest risks facing the Middle East, as a scarcity of natural resources disrupts the social fabric and Western states try to move away from hydrocarbons, the World Economic Forum said on Friday. The region is also vulnerable to any downturn in the booming Chinese economy, as well as geopolitical tensions relating to both the conflict in Iraq, and Iran's nuclear program, the WEF said.

"The Middle East is a focal point for global risk and its mitigation," the WEF said in its "Middle East at Risk" report.

"This is particularly clear with geopolitical risk... but it is also true of two of the great intersecting global risks of the early 21st century -- energy security and climate change," it added.

Climate change is expected to lead to an overall rise in temperatures across the region, giving rise to political tensions between regions and states with access to fresh water and those without, the report said.

There is already a growing lack of freshwater supplies, due both to global warming and increasing overuse of existing sources, the report said, quoting a World Bank report that water available per person in the Middle East and North Africa could fall by half by 2050.

In a global context, the WEF said that climate change could encourage use of hydrocarbon substitutes by Western and other countries, undermining the Middle East's most valuable export.

In addition, the very fact that there is such a concentration of hydrocarbon resources in the Middle East could hasten the end of the "oil era" in the long term, as geopolitical concerns lead major Western countries to diversify their sources of energy supply.

The Middle East also suffers from international terrorism, as a direct victim of attacks, a perceived centre of instability, and a perceived source of terrorism in terms of personnel, training and ideology, the report noted.

The region is also highly vulnerable to a failure to conclude global trade talks and a subsequent backtracking from globalisation, the WEF said.

This applies both to states already integrated into the global economy such as the Gulf states, and countries such as Saudi Arabia where the benefits of free trade have not been felt throughout the population.

For the former, the petrochemicals and energy intensive industries such as aluminium could be hit by protectionism in other regions, the WEF said.

For the latter, "a backlash from globalisation would most likely reduce exposure to global competition, allowing protected industries to remain uncompetitive and reducing productivity growth as a result."

Given such an interlocking and complex risk environment, the WEF said that the countries of the Middle East could only face down the challenges by acting in concert with one another.

"Many of the mitigation measures can only be managed and controlled by acting in frameworks of regional cooperation," it advised.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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US Trying To Weaken G8 Climate Change Communique
London (AFP) May 17, 2007
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