Climate change is expected to have a detrimental impact upon human development and poverty in Jordan. This will occur by increasing the severity of resource scarcity, which in turn makes access to natural resources more difficult. The poor are expected to be the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as they possess the least assets and resources to adapt to its impacts. Increasing the ability of the poor and local communities to adapt to climate change, in the coming years, is extremely important. To date the Government of Jordan has little policy or programming in place to do this.
Jordan feeling the heat:
A comprehensive analysis of available climate data (1961 – 2005) published in the Second National Communication on Climate Change in Jordan (2009) has revealed clear trends in temperature and rainfall. Both maximum and minimum temperatures in selected meteorological stations have shown significant increasing trends between 0.3°C – 2.8°C. This is parallel to an observed 5 – 20% decrease in precipitation in the majority of meteorological stations across the country. Only 2 out of the 19 stations show an increase of 5 – 10% in precipitation.
Climate change projections for Jordan show an increase in temperature of less than 2°C, by the year 2050. Warming was found to be stronger during the warm months of the year while less warming is projected to occur in the cold months of the year.
Results of the vulnerability assessment contained in the Second National Communication report anticipate detrimental impacts especially on water and agriculture. On water resources, the impact of climate change is expected to be significant as a result of reductions in precipitation and projected changes in its spatial and temporal distribution. The analysis of the incremental scenarios had shown that changes in precipitation and temperature would highly affect the amounts of monthly surface run-off in the Yarmouk and Zarqa River Basins. It was found that the most vulnerable scenarios to climate change impacts on water resources are those when temperature will be increased by more than 2°C and precipitation will not be increased. Even in some scenarios, the increase in precipitation by 20% does not compensate for the 2°C increase in temperature.
For the agriculture sector the results showed that climate change could have significant impacts in particular on rainfed agriculture. The livestock sector and overall food production in the country were identified as most significantly impacted through climate change impacts on rainfed cultivation and on arid and semi-arid rangelands. The report also identifies some expected impacts on health conditions, including physiological disorders, skin rashes and dehydration, eye cataracts and damage of public health infrastructure, and deaths and injuries.
Can the poor adapt?
Development and climate literature identifies major impacts of climate change on livelihoods and poverty through the examination of current documented cases throughout the world. Climate change is expected to reduce the capacity of poor to cope with social and environmental pressures and degrade developmental gains especially related to the achievement of the MDGs. The impacts are also expected to be gender-based with roles of men and women impacted in a way related to climate change. Women will be obliged to exert more effort in securing and managing scarce natural resources while men will be pressured to seek additional/alternative income sources that may see them migrating from rural to urban areas.
The main areas of poor households’ vulnerability to climate change include:
- Dependence on natural resources that are vulnerable to climate change;
- A lack of assets which hinders effective adaptation;
- Settlements in high-risk areas (i.e. drought prone); and
- Low levels of education and professional skills that prevent members of poor households for shifting to climate-resilient sources of income.
There is a considerable gap in our collective understanding of the details of social vulnerability to climate change in Jordan. A comprehensive impact assessment study should be conducted to identify the major direct and indirect climate change impacts on poverty and socio-economic factors in Jordan, with special focus on geographical areas most prone to climate change impacts. An informed judgment can de derived at this stage, based on national climate assessment studies and international case studies that the following social groups can be most affected by climate change. These include:
- Farmers depending on rainfed agriculture;
- Farmers depending on small scale irrigated agriculture;
- Families dependent on livestock management;
- Populations more prone to heat waves; and
- Population suffering from the lack of proper access to safe and affordable drinking water.
The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) has recently started to assess the adaptive capacities of local communities around protected areas regarding the impacts of climate change. For the first time in Jordan the RSCN has developed an Adaptive Capacity Index produced from results of both a literature review and semi structured interviews. The Adaptive Capacity Index was generated based on several factors formulated from specific indicators and determinants including human, social, physical, environmental and economic indicators. The RSCN recommends some adaptation interventions including: (i) supporting water harvesting practices; (ii) water collecting wells; (iii) infrastructure restoration; (iv) best agricultural practices; (v) encouraging changing current crops to more feasible drought tolerant crops; (vi) encouraging the use of gray water for irrigation; (vii) enhancing market access of local agricultural and traditional products; (viii) raising awareness regarding climate change; and (ix) providing assistance and guidance to local communities in addition to improving governance systems while considering gender.
This is a rich, urgent and yet unexplored field for sustainable development in Jordan. Climate change is not only a global phenomenon with theoretical dramatic consequences, but a present danger to the future of sustainability in Jordan and other semi-arid countries. The cost of inaction is much higher than any visionary action to be taken very soon.