The Middle East remains one of the world’s most vulnerable regions when it comes to ecological threats, a global report says.
The study, compiled by the Australian-based Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), also found almost half of the world’s population will live in countries facing high and extreme ecological risks by 2050.
The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) was identified as one of three regions most at risk, alongside Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
The Ecological Threat Report (ETR) 2021 also said the number of people who were forcibly displaced from their homes last year was 82.4 million – the highest figure recorded.
“Water and food scarcity is already a real problem facing the world and it’s only getting worse,” said Steve Killelea, founder and chairman of the IEP.
“The countries in the Middle East facing the heaviest ecological risks, with the least resilience, are Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, Iran and Syria.”
He added other countries in the region were also facing significant challenges from water shortages but had the resources to cope.
These included the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel, said Mr Killelea.
The report also identified a clear relationship between ecological degradation and conflict in the worst hit nations.
Out of the 15 countries with the lowest scores, 11 are currently experiencing conflict.
Another four nations were classified as having a substantial fall in peace levels.
The ETR is compiled by measuring a range of factors from food and water availability, population growth and societal resilience, with a view to identify the countries most at risk of experiencing significant deteriorations in peace.
The report made bleak reading for those hoping the message about the need to tackle climate change was beginning to resonate.
The majority of the population in the world’s three biggest polluters, China, the US and India, do not believe climate change is something to be concerned with, the ETR stated.
Countries must wake up to climate threat
China is the world’s biggest polluter, producing more than 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, according to recent data released by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
However, less than one in four people there (23.5 per cent) believe climate change is a serious threat.
In the US, which produces almost 5.5 million tonnes, the number was less than one in two (49.2 per cent).
In India, the third biggest carbon dioxide producer with more than 2.6 m tonnes, the amount of people who believe we should be paying serious attention to climate change is 35 per cent.
“Without the buy in of the citizens of these countries, climate change action is unlikely to be effective,” said Mr Killelea.
“There is an urgent need for people to realise climate change is real.
“While addressing climate change won’t remove problems like food poverty, conflict and displacement it will only turbo charge these issues if unaddressed and make them significantly worse in the coming decades.”
Spanish and Portuguese speaking nations made up 12 of the 20 countries with the highest percentage of citizens who felt climate change was an urgent issue.
Mr Killelea also said the issue of food security was continuing to pose significant challenges for many nations around the world.
Pandemic prompts food shortages
Since 2014, the global number of people without adequate access to food has increased each year, growing in total by 44 per cent.
That figure is projected to increase by 50 per cent by 2050, according to the report.
A key driver surrounding food security has been Covid-19, according to Mr Killelea.
“Due to lockdowns and border closures, Covid-19 has amplified food insecurity further and will likely have a long-lasting negative impact on world hunger due to stagnant economic growth,” he said.
The report also highlighted a possible food security crisis in Afghanistan.
“With almost two-thirds of its people facing difficulties in securing adequate and regular nutrition, Afghanistan has one of the highest levels of food insecurity,” the report stated.
“The World Food Programme estimates that in 2020 one in three Afghans faced acute food insecurity.
“With the takeover of the Taliban in mid-2021, this situation may worsen.”
Overpopulation is also going to be a major source of concern in the decades to come, particularly in the Sub-Saharan region, where 11 countries are expected to double in population by 2050 in that area alone.
“Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of food insecurity, with 66 per cent of the population deemed food insecure,” he said.
“By 2050, sub-Saharan Africa's population is projected to be 2.1 billion, a 90 per cent increase from today.”