Experts’ address universal concerns identified by former world leaders: World water crisis, energy, denuclearization of Korea “Atmospheric rivers” rising, drive growing flood hazards
A massive 180-km pipeline-canal megaproject to bring water from the Red Sea could prevent the Dead Sea from disappearing while improving the region’s environmental, energy and peace prospects, according to a book of insights into major global topics launched today by an association of 40 former government leaders and heads of state and UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).
Commissioned from leading experts on issues of universal concern, the authors include former Jordanian Prime Minister Abdel Salam Majali and Moneef R. Zou’bi, respectively the President and Director General of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences, who say the innovative Red-Dead Canal offers the potential to secure human well-being while promoting regional stability.
For years, Israel, Syria and Jordan have diverted more than 90 percent of the southward flow of the River Jordan to agricultural and industrial purposes, choking the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, causing “severe negative consequences on the ecosystem, industry, and wildlife in the area”, says Dr. Zou’bi. “Due to gradual water loss, the sea has split into two separate lakes and its coastline has receded significantly. The River Jordan is a shadow of its former glorious self.”
The Red-Dead Canal, as envisioned by Jordan, is a 180-kilometre, partially covered pipeline across Wadi Araba — a dry plateau stretching from the Gulf of Aqaba in the south to the Dead Sea in the north. It would carry around 1.5 billion cubic meters of water per year, pumped first to an altitude of 150 metres above sea level before flowing down a 580-metre decline.
Not only would the three-party project (Jordan-Israel-the Palestinians) restore most of the Dead Sea water level over time, it would generate hydroelectricity to power large desalination plants, relieving chronic fresh water shortages and helping to meet energy needs.
Says Dr. Majali, Prime Minister of Jordan from 1993–1995 and 1997–1998: “As a decision maker, I think that this project is innovative, forward looking and a potential peace asset that can contribute to regional interdependence and security.”
In addition to Dr. Majali, the former leaders of Canada, Colombia, Cyprus, New Zealand and Singapore are contributors to the wide-ranging book launched in the UK by the InterAction Council (IAC), a 32-year-old association created to pool the expertise of former world leaders and to speak out on issues of vital importance to the world community and current leaders alike.
Published by UN University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, and co-edited by UNU-INWEH Director Zafar Adeel and IAC Secretary-General Thomas S. Axworthy, the new book offers authoritative views on interlinked topics ranging from the Middle East and denuclearization of Korea to the water crisis and the future of energy.
Says the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, former Prime Minister Of Canada and IAC’s co-chair: “The InterAction Council selects issues and develops proposals for action within these areas and communicates these proposals directly to government leaders, other national decision makers, heads of international organizations and influential individuals around the world.”
“This latest publication makes an important and timely contribution to public dialogue and understanding of two of the world’s most pressing issue areas — peace and the environment.”
Says Dr. Adeel: “We have a new appreciation of the deep interconnections between water, energy and peace, particularly in the Middle East region in the context of recent developments. This tight nexus of global interests has driven the creation of this book and UNU-INWEH, the United Nations’ think tank on water, is continuing its engagement with the IAC in exploring these critical issues.”
In a major contribution to the book, Tolerance: An Under-Appreciated Virtue in our Sectarian Age, co-editor Dr. Axworthy, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Canada’s Munk School of Global Affairs, cites the history of sectarianism in Europe to suggest ways to promote tolerance today. The fires of European sectarianism, he says, only began to subside when 16th Century thinkers won the war of ideas through the promotion of tolerance.
Ahmad Moussalli, Professor of Political Science and Islamic Studies, American University of Beirut, meanwhile, assesses the interests of Russia, the United States, France, Israel, Iran, and the Gulf States in the Syrian crisis, with conditions in the Middle East favouring “extremism and rise of conflicts.”
Among other contributors, Robert Sandford, the IAC’s Senior Water Advisor, describes the consequence of increasingly saturated “atmospheric rivers…corridors of intense winds and moist air” 400 to 500 kilometres across, and thousands of kilometres long that “can carry the equivalent of about ten times the average daily discharge of the Mississippi River”.
“Perhaps the best-known atmospheric river in North America is what we call the Pineapple Express [which] begins as a narrow stream of hurricane strength wind. As it crosses the warm Pacific, that atmospheric river fills with water vapour. We now surmise that some 42 atmospheric rivers deluged California between 1997 and 2006.”
As global temperatures and evaporation rise, sending more moisture into the air, these heavily-laden atmospheric rivers are producing “flooding of the magnitude we saw in Australia and Pakistan in 2010, and possibly in parts of the Central Great Plains region of North America in 2011. Research is now being conducted to determine if an atmospheric river played a role in initiating the largest single natural disaster in the history of the Canadian province of Alberta in June, 2013.”
In his paper, “Come Hell and High Water: Hydro-Climatic Change and its Consequences,” Dr. Sandford predicts a rise in world temperatures of between 2 ̊C and 6 ̊C would result in further amplification of the hydrological cycle by 15 to 40 percent or more.
“This game change is not going to go away,” he says. “Researchers are concerned that the kinds of storms we will have in the future may be fundamentally different in character than what we are used to experiencing. At a recent international conference in Canada, it was demonstrated that many of our recent floods were similar in a number of ways. Each involved rotating low pressure systems that remained in the same place for an unusual period of time bringing continuous precipitation up from the south, resulting in long duration, heavy rainfall events that covered very large areas.”
“While exhibiting all these characteristics, another major flood in Colorado in 2013 was different, in that it occurred in September. Researchers are also examining other anomalies. The behaviour of the storms suggests that its precipitation may have been generated by processes of raindrop formation more typical of the tropical region where the storms originated than local temperate conditions. The Colorado State climatologist Nolan Doeskan, noted that the storms ‘shattered all records for the most water vapour in the atmosphere.’”
“From this we might surmise that the floods of 2013 offer us a glimpse into the wild weather we might expect in a warmer world.”
Says Dr. Sandford: “The loss of ice and snow in the Arctic will not only impact northern nations, cultures, and development subject to the immediate effects of this loss, but will also impact human well-being and prosperity further south in ways that will likely impact national water security, and will almost certainly affect agricultural productivity, human health, and economic sustainability at mid-latitudes.”
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