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Climate Change, Water Security, and National Security for Jordan, Palestine, and Israel - January 2019

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The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is considered a climate hotspot due to its natural water scarcity, low levels of socio-ecological resilience, social tensions and political conflicts, and ongoing immigration crisis. Over the course of the century, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel are projected to experience an average temperature rise over the Mediterranean of ~1.4C to ~4C; a general decrease in precipitation of 25 percent regionally and up to 40 percent locally; a shift in rain seasons from winter and spring to autumn; a higher frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as droughts, flash floods, and forest fires; as well as a growing rate of desertification. Despite the effects of climate change being already observable in the region, the three countries have yet to fully recognize the connection between the negative impact of climate change on their neighbors’ national security, and the implications for their own national security. Based on this lack of understanding, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine have done little to develop a regional, integrated road map for climate related national security.

This report concludes that too little attention is being paid to the implications of climate related change for national and regional security. The term threat or risk multiplier is often used to describe the catalytic effect of climate-related change on states and societies. In this sense, it is not the climatic changes themselves that are said to cause insecurity. Rather, it is the adaptive capacity of a state that ultimately determines the extent to which climate related change impacts the socio-economic development and political stability of a country and, therefore, of a region. The adaptive capacity of a state is weakened if the country exhibits unstable political institutions with low accountability, political repression and/or corruption, social tensions, a history of intra or inter-state conflicts, as well as unsustainable livelihoods and damaged infrastructure, among others.

In the regional context of Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, climate-related changes are forecasted to impact a wide range of sectors where the adaptive capacity of the state might already be weak, particularly in Jordan and Palestine. These include:

  • reduced availability of natural water leading to greater difficulty to meet domestic water needs and resulting in rationing of water. The intermittent water supply fuels public animosity that is already present on non-water related issues.

  • reduced agricultural production as a result of less available water, higher temperatures, and extreme weather events. Lower exporting capacity and higher dependence on imported foods are likely going to cause higher food prices, lower and less stable incomes, and possible food shortages for some staple food products.

  • economic recession in the agricultural sector as a result of lower agricultural yield could lead to the erosion of livelihoods, internal displacement of people, and greater food insecurity.

  • increased pressure on physical infrastructure due to extreme weather events that leads to the collapse of infrastructure in the field of transport, electricity, and other essential services, as well as loss of life due to resulting accidents.

  • outbreak of new climate-related diseases, placing additional stress on already inadequate health services contributing to the overall deterioration of public health.

These impacts will have serious implications for the social and political stability of the region.
Systemic failure to respond to humanitarian and environmental crises creates dissatisfaction with the governing authorities. The built-up pressure from within may inadvertently ignite public turmoil that will challenge the resilience of the system. In the context of the highly inflammable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this could easily transmute into uprisings and mass riots that transcend national borders and threaten national security in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.

At the same time, Jordan’s acceptance of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees since the onset of the civil war has put the country before new challenges. The stark influx of refugees has already strained Jordan’s finances, its natural resources, as well as the patience of its people.