CCT Tackles Egypt’s Vulnerability to Climate Change in Fayoum University
On April 2nd, CCT Coordinator Louise Sarant gave a presentation at the Faculty of Science, Fayoum University, on Egypt’s vulnerability to climate change.
In front of an audience composed of professors and students from the Fayoum Faculty of Science, she quickly addressed the root causes of climate change before moving on to the particular threats Egypt is facing. “When we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, we release large amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere that prevent our planet from keeping the climate stable,” she said, adding that our atmosphere today contains 42 times more CO2 than it did before the industrial era.
The first threat she tackled is sea level rise. She explained that over the past two decades, the annual rate of sea level rise has been 3.2 mm around the globe, which is twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years. “The Nile Delta is confronted to a double risk: while the sea rises by 3.2 mm every year, the land mass sinks by 2mm annually.” This land mass sinking results from the construction of the Aswan Dam, which put an end to the layers of silt which used to maintain the ground leveled and filled with nutrients.
Since the Delta is where Egypt’s prime agricultural land is, rising sea level combined to sea water seepages into the groundwater does not bode well for Egypt’s food production. The country lists as one of its priorities in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to identify new cultivation zones and to develop cultivars able to cope with higher salinity and rising temperatures.
The Delta is also one of the preferred locations for fish farming, a booming economic activity which occurs for the most part in the Northern Lakes of Manzalla, Borollos, Edku and Mariyut. Unfortunately, those shallow lakes offer little protection against sea level rise and temperature spikes. The industrial zone around Alexandria will also be very harshly hit by sea level rise, as well as parts of the coastal population that will have to abandon their homes. In Alexandria, some apartment buildings are located a mere 20 meters away from the shore, in an area frequently battered by furious storms and where two story high waves are no longer uncommon.
“Egypt emits the most CO2 of all of the African continent,” she continued. In 2014, Egypt emitted 237 M tons of CO2, which ranks Egypt as 25th biggest CO2 emitter worldwide. She added that given the growing part allocated to coal in the domestic energy mix, CO2 emissions will probably keep rising in the next few years.
In 2002, the World Bank issued a report in which it attributed 20,000 premature deaths in Cairo and Alexandria to high air pollution levels. “Climate change won’t necessarily spur the appearance of new diseases but increase the prevalence and potentially the severity of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, asthma, heat strokes… etc.”
She concluded the 30 minute presentation by explaining that while Egypt is vulnerable to multiple threats caused by climate change, the country can still decide to reduce its vulnerability by assessing the real risks it faces, take action, and become a regional renewable energy leader if it wants to.
Faculty of Science, Fayoum University, Fayoum city.
Louise Sarant, CCT Coordinator