Water Security Dimension of the Climate Change   in the Eastern Mediterranean

Could threat of climate change  force water  cooperation ?


Expert on Hydropolitics

1 July 2014


The Eastern Mediterranean denotes the countries geographically to the east of the Mediterranean Sea.These countries are CyprusGreece, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,Turkey,EgyptState of Palestine,Lebanon,SyriaJordan,Israel An increase number of people believe that climate change affect is increasing and threatening the stability of the some region of the world.The roots of destabilization, migration, and local conflict around the world can often be traced to a lack of fresh water.

As a result, the importance of fresh water to economic development, quality of life, ecosystem sustainability, and political stability is gaining renewed global recognition. In some  countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, the situation is approaching crisis proportions. People living in this part of the world have only one-sixth as much fresh water available per capita as the global average.   Middle Eastern “water war” is always on the world  agenda .It is important but  the need for regional cooperation in the effective management of water resources is no less important


The likely effects of climate change

The likely effects of climate change on the water resources of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region have been  under investigation by several researchers . Several   simulations show about a 10% decline in precipitation across the region by both the middle and the end of the century, with considerable variation between countries and international river basins.

The Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East  are likely to be greatly  affected by climate change, associated with increases in the frequency and intensity of droughts and hot weather conditions. Projected precipitation changes are quite variable. Annual precipitation is expected to decrease in the southern Europe–Turkey region and the Levant, whereas in the Arabian Gulf area it may increase.

In much of the Eastern Mediterranean  Countries , climate change coupled with population growth is likely to reduce per capita water resources considerably.But this lack of water budget  can be compansated by desalination plant generated by theirs  own  natural gas  based electricity  power plant . Every countries has their own natural gas reserves including PA .

Therefore we should consider that natural gas reserves  in the Eastern Mediterranean will play very important role of  future of the region .

As much as half the total water needs of the region may need to be provided through desalination and imported in the form of virtual water by midcentury,İsrail has already produced about  400 million m3 desalinated sea water in a year.


Potential impacts

Hot conditions  may become the norm by the middle and the end of the century in the region . Climate change in the region will have important negative consequences for humans and ecosystems, especially due to heat stress and reduced water resources; and population growth and economic development may aggravate the situation. Experts says(J. Lelieveld 2012)” analysis of meteorological data  for the 20th century and projections for the 21st century with the regional PRECIS climate model  indicate substantial climate changes in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East”.The PRECIS results indicate a continual and gradual future warming, being strongest in the north. In comparison with the reference period (1961–1990) the mean temperature  rise over land within the  region  will be about 1–3°C in the near-future (2010–2039)

Need of Regional Cooperation   on Water

Regional cooperation in the management of this precious resource is becoming more important then before because of  expected climate  change effects on water resources. We have enough reason to think so.Accounts of conflict related to water indicate that only seven minor skirmishes have occurred in this century and that no war has yet been fought over water. In contrast, 145 water-related treaties were signed in the same period.

War over water seems not to be strategically rational, hydrographically effective, or economically feasible.İn another words there wouldn’t be any country that gains  practical advantage  from water wars.

Shared interests along a waterway seem to consistently outweigh water’s conflict-inducing characteristics. Furthermore, once cooperative water regimes are established through treaties, they turn out to be impressively resilient over time, even between otherwise hostile riparians and even as conflict is waged over other issues. These patterns suggest that the most valuable lesson to be learned from the history of international water disputes is that this is a resource whose characteristics tend to induce cooperation, inciting violence only as the exception.

We have seen the latest case  of this example on  Read Sea -Dead Sea Agreement signed in 9 december 2013 .Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have signed a water sharing pact aimed at one day replenishing the rapidly drying Dead Sea.With peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians apparently stagnating. This agreement offers the prospect of successful co-operation at a time of political difficulty.

We also have to be aware of  political intention behind of the agreement to be closer Palestinian Authority to İsrael and visa versa. Palestinian signature is most strategically important thing  that Israel is really receiving with this deal That signature is apparently worth millions of cubic meters of water to Israel.

Water seems to  play as an important role for  a big step forward for constructive dialogue  in the region.But it doesn’t seem to be a golden key to open all locked doors .It seems more  to be a water -politics tool to use in  regional complex politics.


New Paradigm of İnternational Security

The end of the Cold War  led to a  new  definition  of  the  concept  of  international security. From an essentially military focus, it widened  and  deepened  to  the  extent  of  integrating  a series of new concerns, among them environmental issues and the threat they pose for human security(3).

Climate  change  progressively  became  a  security issue for Western countries, leading to a necessary change of policies.

Of all the regions concerned about climate change, the Mediterranean is particularly vulnerable, due to temperature  increase,  precipitation  decline,  sealevel  rise  and  increase  in  extreme  weather  events leading to water and food scarcity and jeopardising the relatively fragile stability of the region. Although the  southern  shore  of  the  Mediterranean  will  be severely  affected  by  climate  change,  its  northern shore will also be directly affected by its societal consequences, notably since desertification in the Mediterranean will further intensify the migratory pressure on Europe(3).

Those dramatic environmental developments pose a number of key threats to international security, such as a rise in the number of weak states, risks for economic development and international conflicts over resources.  It  is  therefore  necessary  to  address these new challenges in a multilateral and cooperative way.

Yet the region suffers from a lack of cooperation between the various actors,  and  a  number  of  Mediterranean  dialogues coexist with little interaction, at the Euromed, NATO and OSCE level.

It should therefore be a priority to  promote  deeper  cooperation  in assessing climate change and its impacts water resources , as well as  in  the  fields of   connected sectors like energy and food(3).


Climate Change Effects  and Security Impacts for the Mediterranean

No doubt that during the 21st century humankind will face many new environmental security challenges that may pose fundamental new problems for the survival of individuals, states and global policy actors.

It is accepted that  climate change will have multiple direct and indirect physical and human or societal effects that pose multiple security dangers and concerns

These  new  environmental  security  challenges humankind faces in the 21st century cannot be solved by traditional and power-based security strategies, policies and measures. They require a shift from a unilateral national security concept to a cooperative and multilateral approach to security(3).

The  response  to  these  new  manifold  challenges requires an extended security approach which, besides the foreign and defence departments, also involves ministries and agencies responsible for environment, development, science and technology as well as economic policies and measures to adapt to these new challenges and to mitigate against their impacts.

“Soft” security agenda.

The  new  global  non-military  security  dangers  and concerns  in  the  Anthropocene,  and  the reconceptualized security concepts have already resulted in a new global, regional, international and national “soft” security agenda. The threefold contextual changes, with a) the end of the Cold War; b) with globalization; and c) with the emerging new security challenges  in  the  Anthropocene,  require  an international peace and security policy that differs fundamentally from the cooperative security and peace policies during the Cold War that aimed to overcome the global bipolar systemic and power conflict with a common security policy. Such a new international peace and security policy for the Anthropocene should combine the two goals of a sustainable development pattern with the vision of a sustainable peace (Brauch and Oswald Spring, 2009).

Four Conflict Scenarios

The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU, 2008) in its report World  in  Transition  –Climate Change as a Security Riskargued that “climate change  will  overstretch  many  societies’  adaptive capacities” which “could result in destabilization and violence, jeopardizing national and international security.”

But “climate change could also unite the international community, provided that it recognizes climate change as a threat to humankind and soon sets the course forthe avoidance of dangerous anthropogenic climate change by adopting a dynamic and globally coordinated climate policy.” If states fail to act early and proactively, climate change may trigger “numerous conflicts between and within countries over the distribution of resources, especially water and land, over the management of migration, or over compensation payments between the countries mainly responsible for climate change and those countries most affected by its destructive effects.”

The report argued that “climate changes amplifies mechanisms which lead to insecurity and violence” affecting specifically countries in transition, those with weak governance structures, and poor countries affected by resource scarcity (land, water, food) and often with high population growth. These local or national conflicts may spill over and destabilize neighbouring countries“through refugee flows, arms trafficking or combatant withdrawal.” The social impacts of climate change can thus transcend borders and expand “the geographical extent of crisis and conflict regions[1].”

To  address  the  possible  link a ges  between climate change and conflict, the WBGU identified “four conflict constellations in which critical developments can be anticipated as a result of climate change and Climate Change and Mediterranean Security(3).

These “conflict constellations” were“defined as typical causal linkages at the interface of environment and society, whose dynamic can lead to social destabilization and, in the end, to violence.” All four are relevant to the Mediterranean and the MENA region, which the WBGU referred to as one of the major “environmental hotspots.”

1: Climate-Induced  Degradation of Water

The MENA region is already one of the regions with high water scarcity and severe drought. Due to the projected population growth and the precipitation decline in the region, the access to safe drinking water and to green water for agriculture will further worsen. “This dynamic,” the WBGU argues, “triggers distributional conflicts and poses major challenges to water management systems in the countries concerned.” Both in the MENA region and in the Nile river basin “the countries which will suffer the greatest water stress are generally those which already lack the political and institutional framework necessary  for  the  adaptation  of  water  and  crisis management systems. This could overstretch existing conflict resolution mechanisms, ultimately leading to destabilization and violence.”

2: Climate-Induced  Decline in Food Production

In the MENA region the self-sufficiency rate in food and especially cereals has been declining rapidly since the 1960s and it is projected by the FAO to drop rapidly until 2030 and 2050. Climate change and bioenergy development  will  affect  food  security  in  its  “four dimensions – availability, accessibility, stability and utilization.” Globally, with: “Global warming of 2-4 °C, a drop in agricultural productivity is anticipated worldwide.

This  trend  will  be  substantially  reinforced  by desertification, soil salinization or water scarcity. In

North Africa, the areas suitable for agriculture are already largely exploited. This may well trigger regional food  crises  and  further  undermine  the  economic performance of weak and unstable states, thereby encouraging or exacerbating destabilization, the collapse of social systems, and violent conflicts.”

This situation will become even more dramatic in the 10 countries in the Nile River Basin that are already severely affected by a vicious circle of repeated droughts, hunger and famine and that connect the militarily strong downstream country Egypt with the less powerful upstream countries which are already seriously affected (Brauch, 2002, 2006, 2007).

3: Climate-Induced  Increase in Drought and Flood

This  third  conflict  constellation  has  also  severely affected the Mediterranean region that has been confronted with drought throughout history. When the precipitation comes in autumn, it often comes in intensive flash floods that cause a high number of casualties, affected people and economic damages in many MENA countries due to the higher degree of social vulnerability (Brauch, 2003, 2003a). Both on the global and regional Mediterranean level an increase of the number and intensity of natural hazards has been projected that may affect “many cities and industrial regions  in  coastal  zones.”  However,  in  the

Mediterranean these extreme weather events may be less likely to become a direct trigger of violent conflicts.


4: Climate-Induced  Increase in Migration

Migration from the MENA region to the European Union has already become a major issue of domestic or internal security and of the intergovernmental policy coordination on justice and home affairs. In some cases, massive environmentally-induced migration has increased: “The likelihood of conflict in transit and target regions. It can be assumed that the number of environmental migrants will substantially rise in future due to the impacts of climate change.  The increase in drought, soil degradation and growing water scarcity in combination with high population growth, unstable institutions, poverty or a high level of dependency on agriculture means that there is a particularly significant risk of environmental migration occurring and increasing in scale.”

Transboundary  environmental  migration  prevails  as South-South migration, but Europe will face increased migratory pressure from Africa, and Western and Southern Asia, most at risk from climate change.

There are no reliable international sta tistics on environmentally and climate induced migration as environmental factors do not entitle a migrant to gain a refugee status. Interviews with migrants from source and host countries are too small to permit generalizations.

Throughout history massive movements of people have occurred as a result of the natural variability of the climate primarily in cold periods (in climate pessima), e.g., in Europe between the fifth and eighth century AD.

Even though the environmentally forced migration cannot be quantified it has become a reality that will become more urgent due to climate change, water scarcity, degradation and stress as well as to soil degradation, desertification and drought.


Water Security and the Example of Darfur

The example of Darfur in Sudanese Africa is often raised as a climate change fueled conflict over scarce water resources. While water scarcity due to global warming was one driver of the conflict, political and social drivers were also important factors in the conflicts.

Un Secretary General Ban Ki Moon described the beginings of the conflict in a Washington Post artice from June 2007:
“Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change. Two decades ago, the rains in southern Sudan began to fail. According to U.N. statistics, average precipitation has declined some 40 percent since the early 1980s. Scientists at first considered this to be an unfortunate quirk of nature. But subsequent investigation found that it coincided with a rise in temperatures of the Indian Ocean, disrupting seasonal monsoons. This suggests that the drying of sub-Saharan Africa derives, to some degree, from man-made global warming.”


Temperatures in Darfur increased by an average 0.7 degrees between 1990 and 2005. The impacts were severe including the decline of flora and fauna with substantial migrations of herds south, conflicts between tribal groupings over water access and use, and extensive famines which in 1984 killed about 100,000 people, while several hundred thousand more barely survived by adapting through solidarity, consumption of wild plants and migration (displacement). (See Conference TranscriptionClimate Change and Security in Africa, Paris, 20/01/2009)

Referring to the conflicts in Darfur, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in 2008 “Climate change is already having a considerable impact on security. If we keep going down this path, climate change will encourage the immigration of people with nothing towards areas where the population do have something, and the Darfur crisis will be only one crisis among dozens of others.”

Water remains a source of conflict in Darfur, with a major conference held in June 2011 to discuss the water situation and how to manage and adapt to sharing and use of this scarce resource.

Security Impacts and Cooperation

Besides migration, it is clear that  the physical and societal effects of climate change will pose many other security threats, challenges, vulnerabilities and risks for the Mediterranean region

This requires to  be analysed from the perspective of international and Mediterranean security in the framework of the UfM, of the national security of riparian Mediterranean countries, whether source, transition or host, as well as for the affected human beings (human security).

The aforementioned physical effects and their impacts on human systems also produce various environmental security impacts for the region, the states and the peoples.

These  new  environmental  security  require a shift from a unilateral national security concept to a cooperative and multilateral approach to security in the Mediterrranean Region.


(1)Jonathan Chenoweth, Panos Hadjinicolaou, Adriana Bruggeman, Jos Lelieveld, Zev Levin, Manfred A. Lange, Elena Xoplaki, Michalis Hadjikakou

“Impact of climate change on the water resources of the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East Region: Modeled 21st century changes and implications”Water Resources Research Volume 47, Issue 6, June 2011

(2)J. Lelieveld&P. Hadjinicolaou&E. Kostopoulou& J. Chenoweth&M. El Maayar&C. Giannakopoulos& C. Hannides&M. A. Lange&M. Tanarhte&E. Tyrlis& E. Xoplaki .2012   “Climate change and impacts in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East”Springer Climatic Change (2012) 114:667–687 DOI 10.1007/s10584-012-0418-4

(3)Hans Günter Brauch 2010  Climate Change and Mediterranean Security.  International, National, Environmental and Human Security Impacts  for the Euro-Mediterranean Region during the 21st Century .Proposals and Perspectives.PAPERSIEMed.Published by the European Institute of the MediterraneanCoordination: Jordi Padilla –Júlia AnglèsLayout: Núria EsparzaISSN: 1999-7981March 2010

(4)BRAUCH, H.G. and Ú. OSWALD SPRING,2009  Securitizing the Ground: Grounding Security,Bonn, UNCCD, 2009; at: http://www.unccd.int/knowledge/docs/dldd_eng.pdf.

(5)NOAA October 27, 2011 – NOAA study: Human-caused climate change a major factor in more frequent Mediterranean droughts

(6)Martin Hoerling, Jon Eischeid, Judith Perlwitz, Xiao Wei Quan, Tao Zhang, Philip Pegion, On the Increased Frequency of Mediterranean Drought, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder Colorado USA, Journal of Climate 2011 ; doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00296.1 (abstract)

(7)Turkes¸ M, Kurnaz ML,Ozturk T, Altınsoy H. 2011. Climate changes versus ‘security and peace’ in the Mediterranean macroclimate region: are they correlated? Proceedings of International Human Security Conference on Human Security: New Challenges, New Perspectives, 27–28 October 2011, CPRS Istanbul, Turkey.


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Dursun Yıldız


Civil Engineer-Expert on Hydropolitics

He was born in Samsun in 1958. He was graduated from İstanbul Technical University Civil Engineering Faculty in 1981. After completing his military service in 1983 he began to work in State Hydraulic Works Technical Research and Quality Control Department. While working here he participated graduate professional education and investigation programs in Holland and USA Bureu of Reclamation and US Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1998 he participated first “EU Master Education” program and later “International Affairs Proficiency” program in Ankara University European Union Research and Application Center. In 2000 he completed his MS thesis in the topic of water politics in Hacettepe University Hydropolitics and Strategy Research Center.
He worked for five years as the section head and for following 10 years as department deputy Director in State Hydraulic Works Technical Research and Quality Control Department. During this period he published more than 100 technical and scientific reports and papers. Then he worked as the department Deputy Director in State Hydraulic Works Domestic Water Supply Department and worked at the Planning and Investigation Department of the same institution and retired in 2007.

Dursun YILDIZ while working in State Hydraulic Works he lectured in the topics of water works in Gazi University Engineering and Architectural Faculty, Civil Engineering Department and water resources and hydropolitics in Hacettepe University, Hydropolitics and Strategy Research Center.

Dursun YILDIZ worked also as a executive committee member , Vice President in Chamber of Civil Engineers and Vice President of Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects .

Dursun YILDIZ, experienced in water,hydro energy management and consultancy for 25 years, wrote ten books and besides published several papers and technical reports in the topics of water engineering and hydroenergy in national and international periodicals.
He has awarded Successful Water Resarcher Prize of Year of 2008 by Agriculturers Associations of Türkiye .

He is a member of Scientific Commitee of Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA).

He is a member of Water-Soil-Energy Working Group that has followed development of water,soil and energy sectors since 2009. He is head of Ada Hydro-Energy , Strategy & Engineering Consultancy Co. Since 2007

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