The large-scale lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic contributed to a temporary decline in carbon dioxide emissions. However, the emissions later restored their pre-pandemic levels, resulting in an increase in the Earth’s temperature as well as other climatic changes.
The adverse effects of climate change and environmental degradation increase in frequency and intensity every year. As a result, the scarcity of water and food increases and millions of people around the world are forced to leave their homes due to earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, desertification, prolonged droughts, rising temperatures, and coast erosion.
According to the World Bank, 216 million people in six regions may be displaced within their countries due to the impact of climate change.
First: Factors Causing High Harmful Emissions
Heat waves, droughts and floods caused by climate change have already affected billions of people around the world, causing irreversible changes in global ecosystems, prompting the world to develop a strategy to reduce 43% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to zero by 2050 according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reducing global warming to below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to reach 1.5°C as established in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Global emissions can be tracked by sector according to the latest data:
Emissions from the industrial and energy sectors have most contributed to recent global rise. The increasing use of coal has been the main factor that has led to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions (one of the most important causes of global warming) related to global energy which witnessed the largest annual rise ever in absolute terms, by 6% in 2021 amounting to 36.3 billion tons. The global economy experienced a massive boost after the Covid-19 crisis, and relied heavily on coal to power this growth, according to an analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The shift from natural gas to coal has increased global CO2 emissions from electricity generation by more than 100 million tons, particularly in the United States and Europe. Carbon dioxide emissions from oil have remained well below pre-pandemic levels due to the limited recovery in global transport activity in 2021, particularly in the aviation sector.
The rise in global CO2 emissions above pre-pandemic levels was driven largely by China, where they increased by 750 million tons between 2019 and 2021. In 2021, China’s CO2 emissions rose above 11.9 billion tons, accounting for 33% of the global total emissions.
India’s CO2 emissions largely increased in 2021 to rise above the 2019 levels, driven by growth in the use of coal for electricity generation. Coal power generation reached an all-time rise in India, jumping 13% more than its level in 2020. This is partly due to the slowdown in the growth of renewable energy to a third of the average rate recorded over the past five years.
Second: The Adverse Effects of Climate Change
Climate change causes serious and widespread disruption to nature, and affects the lives of billions of people around the world. Its negative impacts encompass people’s health, lives and livelihoods, as well as critical property and infrastructure, including energy and transportation systems, caused by heat waves, storms, droughts, floods, and rising sea levels, despite efforts to reduce those risks.
A report by the World Meteorological Organization, titled “State of the Climate in Africa 2020”, warned of the continent’s disproportionate vulnerability and estimated that by 2030, up to 118 million extremely poor African will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat. His will place additional burdens on poverty
alleviation efforts and significantly hamper growth in prosperity, leaving more people in entrenched and widespread poverty.
The report estimates that investment in climate adaptation in sub-Saharan Africa will cost between 30 and 50 billion USD annually over the next decade, or nearly 2%-3% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — enough to unlock jobs and economic development.
- Increase in average global temperature: Rising temperatures can lead to increased mortality, lower productivity and damage to infrastructure. High temperatures are also expected to lead to a shift in the geographical distribution of areas prone to climate change. These changes alter the abundance of several plant and animal species, and high temperatures lead to increased water evaporation, which– along with no rainfall– increases the risk of severe drought. Low temperatures (cold spells and cold days) can become less frequent in Europe.
- Drought: Climate change causes more drought and water scarcity across the world continents. Northern Italy, for example, is facing its worst drought wave in 70 years and the Italian government declared a state of emergency in five regions in early July. About a third of Italy’s population (17 million people) lives around the Po River, in addition to more than half the pigs and cattle in the country are being bred in this region. More than 43% of the US states are currently suffering from drought. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that the Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in more than 40 years, with more than 18 million people facing severe hunger in Ethiopia, Somalia and parts of Kenya.
- Freshwater: As the climate warms, rainfall patterns change, evaporation increases, glaciers melt and sea levels rise, all affecting the availability of fresh water. Droughts’ frequency and severity, and rising water temperatures are expected to lead to a decrease in water quality. Such conditions encourage the growth of algae and toxic bacteria, exacerbating the problem of water scarcity.
For example, Europe’s rivers generally originate in mountainous areas, and 40% of Europe’s fresh water comes from the Alps. However, changes in ice dynamics, glaciers and rainfall patterns may lead to temporary water shortages across Europe. Changes in river flows due to drought may also affect internal cargo and hydroelectric power production.
- Impact on food security: Food security is one of the most common topics and receives increasing attention especially with the spread of food insecurity. According to a FAO report, the prevalence of food insecurity has increased from 21.2% in 2014 to 29.3% in 2021. Evolution of the prevalence of food insecurity is shown below:
The number of undernourished people is expected to have risen worldwide between 83 and 132 million, and could reach 840 million by 2030. Food insecurity is exacerbated by climate change and variability, rising temperatures and fluctuating rainfall reduce the food supply per capita and increase the undernourished population. Drought also leads to the spread of malnutrition, hunger and undernutrition.
Rising temperatures have contributed to slowing the growth of agricultural productivity, and have affected crop quality and harvest stability. Droughts have also caused an increase in tree mortality. In general, extreme weather events have affected the productivity of all sectors of agriculture and fisheries, and the distribution and abundance of key fish resources, with negative consequences for food security and livelihoods. Droughts, floods and heat waves have contributed to reducing of food availability and increase in prices.
Third: Egypt Confronting Climate Change
Egypt shows its commitment to the climate agenda. In May 2022, it launched the National Climate Change Strategy to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is also preparing to host the 27th session of the UN Conference of the Parties (COP27). Egypt has made several efforts to combat climate change; according to the World Bank, Egypt is a pioneer in the issuance of the first green sovereign bond in the Middle East and Nort Africa (MENA) region – worth 750 million USD. The report showed that 46% of revenues were earmarked for the clean transport sector, and 54% for sustainable water supply and wastewater management.
The $200 million Greater Cairo Air Pollution and Climate Change Management Project aims to clean the air, and reduce emissions including greenhouse gases emitted when burning solid waste outdoors or due to the combustion of fossil fuels in engines. The project is building an integrated shelf for solid waste management, as Egypt seeks to introduce electric buses into Cairo’s public transport fleet.
The $8.1 million Sustainable Persistent Organic Pollutants Management Project safely disposed 1,090 tons of obsolete and highly hazardous pesticides in Egypt.
The Railway Improvement and Safety Project in Egypt enhances the safety and quality of service in the Alexandria-Cairo-Naga Hammadi Passenger Corridor. The project will also contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation in rural areas and to those suffering from underserved services, with a shift to better public transport.
We can emphasize that Egypt was not the only country that worked to combat climate change. Countries have provided extensive support to mitigate climate change, and have taken rapid steps towards implementing policies that will reduce the causes of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the main obstacle is the rapid transition to renewable energy sources and other low-carbon energy options. The world is going through an energy crisis as a result of the Russo-Ukrainian war, prompting some energy-poor countries to re-expand the use of coal after attempting to limit its use as part of its policy to control climate pollution.