Vulnerability of North African Countries to Climatic Changes: Adaptation and Implementation Strategies for Climate Change
By Prof. Ali Agoumi, Regional Climate Change Program Coordinator, Changements climatiques au Maghreb, Morocco
The North African countries are in an arid to semi-arid region with a Saharan climate in the south, an oceanic climate in the west and a Mediterranean climate in the north. The central part of North Africa, composed of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, had 65 million inhabitants in 2000 and is projected to have more than 72 million in 2010. More than two-thirds of the population is concentrated on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts in the north of the region.
In these countries, the life of the population is very much linked to the climate and its fluctuations. The economy is very dependent on water, agriculture, tourism and coastlines. This is particularly striking in Morocco and Tunisia.
Climate data gathered in the region during the 20th century indicate heating, estimated at more than 1°C, with a pronounced trend in the past 30 years. These data also show a marked increase in the frequency of droughts and floods. The region experienced one drought every 10 years at the beginning of the century, to a current state of five or six years of drought per ten years. The general circulation models, even though they are not accurate enough for the region, since there is no mesh model, converge to estimate probable warming in the region in the order of two to four degrees in the 21st century.
Climate change in this part of North Africa, which emits low levels of greenhouse gases (between 1.5 and 3.5 emission tonnes of CO2/inhabitant/year), represents a veritable threat to the region's socio-economic development and to its population. The extreme vulnerability of the region, coupled with the possible impacts climate change represents, stresses the need for adaptive strategies in key sectors in the region for the long-term sustainable development of these countries.
The objective of this analysis is to show how three key sectors of the region (water, agriculture and coastlines) might fare over the coming decades, and with what consequences to the population, if true adaptive policies are not devised and implemented in region. The analysis is based on the results of the technical studies and research conducted to date in North Africa, particularly those incorporated into the national communications of these countries, presented at the Seventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The pressing need for structural approaches to adapting to events caused by these climate changes is emphasized within the analysis. The case of water, a vital factor for the populations of North Africa, will serve as a basis for this illustration.
This analysis also places emphasis on the inadequacies of the studies and research conducted to date for assessing and evaluating the region's vulnerability, and also suggests future research directions. Suggestions are made for actions to be taken by the countries in the region, both at the technical level and the political level, to enable efficient and lasting adaptation to the deleterious effects of climate change.
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