This story was originally by Mohammad Ghazal at the Jordan Times
The temperature was 46°C degrees in Deir Alla’s Damia village in the Jordan Valley on August 28. Jamal Masalha sat near a fan to cool down, drinking a cold glass of water, but the veteran farmer was still frustrated, not only from the heat, but because he felt incapable of helping his plants withstand the scorching heat outside.
August 28 marked the peak of a heatwave that hit Jordan, raising temperatures 7°C-8°C degrees above their seasonal averages. The highest temperature across the country was recorded in Deir Alla, situated in the western part of the Jordan Valley and frequently referred to as Jordan’s food basket. This is where Masalha’s farm, which he inherited from his father, is located.
“Everything has changed over the past 30 years… It is becoming hotter every year; we are getting less rain and crops grow faster… challenges are mounting on farmers and many have already quit the profession,” told Masalha.
The farmer, whose extended family also farm in the village, said that the area has been subjected to frequent, drawn-out heatwaves which cause a cascading impact, decimating farmers’ income as yield drops. Early harvesting has become more common, and the high temperatures damage crops.
“For 10 years in a row now, we harvest some crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini early, and this floods the market with produce in a short period of time, forcing us to sell at cost or at a loss sometimes,” he said.
Some crops such as lemons, oranges, pomelos and other citrus fruits shrivel because of the extreme heat, he said.
“Climate change ramifications are certainly hitting us hard. We are aware that water is scarce in Jordan, and we are trying our best to cope with that, but what can we do about the erratic rainfall and the rising temperatures as farmers?” he asked.
How is climate change affecting Jordan?
Climate change ramifications are already evident in Jordan, especially pertaining to water and the agricultural sector, Belal Shaqareen, director of the Climate Change Directorate at the Ministry of Environment, told.
The government announced 2022 as “the most difficult year” the Jordanian water sector has ever seen. The country’s 14 largest dams, which have a total capacity of 280 million cubic metres (mcm), currently hold only 21 per cent of their capacity. Most of the country’s 12 groundwater basins have been depleted due to over pumping.
Jordan’s per capita share of water currently stands at 90 cubic metres per year, or 10 per cent of the water poverty line. Per capita water shares are 97.5 per cent lower compared with 1946 levels, which stood at 3,600mcm per year.
Jordan’s agricultural sector, which contributes around 5 per cent to the country’s GDP, receives around 49 per cent of Jordan’s available water resources. Even this quantity represents only around 60 per cent of the sector’s actual needs.
“Jordan is located in an area where the rise in temperature due to climate change is expected to be 20 per cent higher than other areas…Water-scarce Jordan is expected to witness drought, flash floods, less precipitation, erratic rainfall and rising heat… Farmers, for example, will need more water as evaporation will increase,” Shaqareen said.
Jordan’s Third National Communication on Climate to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) expects that increasing evaporative demand, owing to rising temperatures, could increase irrigation requirements by between 5 and 20 per cent or possibly more, by the 2070s.
The third report stresses that the timing of rain and intra-seasonal rainfall patterns are critical to smallholder farmers in Jordan. Seasonality influences farmers’ decisions about when to cultivate, sow and harvest. It ultimately contributes to the success or failure of their crops. Delays and below-average rainfall will likely have a negative impact on agricultural production, the report indicated.
According to the updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) report, all models predict a warmer climate with strong confidence in temperature increase.
By 2070 to 2100, average temperature increase could range between 2.1°C and 4.5°C. Projections predict a drier climate with medium confidence. By 2070-2100, the accumulated precipitation could decrease by a range of 15 to 35 per cent. This decrease will be more marked in the western part of the country, according to the report.
All projections indicated a warmer summer and a drier autumn and winter with medium confidence. The warming would be more significant in summer, and the reduction of precipitation would be more important in the autumn and winter than in spring. For instance, the median value of precipitation would decrease by 35 per cent by the autumn of 2070-2100. The dynamic projections predict more heatwaves. In pessimistic but possible predictions for a summer month, the average maximum temperature for the whole country could exceed 42-44°C, according to the NDCs projections.
The future projections also indicate more droughts, where the maximum number of consecutive dry days would top 30 days in the 2070-2100 period.
The areas most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are expected to be Jordan’s eastern and southern areas as well as the northern mountainous areas, according to exposure and vulnerability analysis carried by the third communication report. Climate change may also influence the seasonal patterns of respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and mortality, according to the report.
Negligible emissions, disparate impact
Countries under the Paris Agreement created a global framework for mitigating dangerous effects of climate change by limiting global warming to a hard maximum of a 2°C increase, and by vigorously pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C. The agreement also aims to strengthen and support countries’ ability to contend with the impacts of climate change.
Jordan’s total greenhouse gas emissions, standing at approximately 28 million tonnes of CO2, are inconsequential, as this figure represents around 0.06 per cent of the world’s total CO2 emissions.
The Kingdom, being the second poorest country in the world in terms of water scarcity, has enhanced its commitment to the international climate change governance system by raising its macroeconomic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target from 14 per cent to 31 per cent, as opposed to the “Business As Usual” method, according to the updated first NDC document submitted to the UNFCCC.
Jordan’s emissions are expected to grow to 38,151Gg, 51028Gg and 61,565Gg of CO2-eq in the years 2020, 2030 and 2040, respectively. The role of the energy sector and subsectors as leading GHG emitters is expected to progress in the future, with the sector forming 72.9 per cent of total emissions in the year 2006, to an anticipated 83 per cent in the year 2040, according to the third communication report.
With regard to energy subsectors, electricity generation and transport are the primary emitters. Their share of the energy sector’s total emissions falls between 39 and 43 per cent, followed by a share of around 7 per cent for the residential subsectors and 6 per cent for the industrial subsector. The commercial, agriculture and refinery processes as well as the transportation of fuel are marginal contributors to total energy sector emissions.
“Jordan is an affected country; it is not an emitter and it needs support in combating climate change ramifications… Although our emissions are negligible, we deal with climate change as if we are behind all emissions in the world. We are responsible for climate change, but we need support,” Shaqareen said.
“Climate change will have a diverse impact on Jordan that will be felt by all… There is a dire need to act today and immediately,” Shaqareen said.
Who is the most vulnerable?
No one is immune from the ramifications of climate change, said Shaqareen, but some groups will be hit harder than others.
About 25 per cent of the total of impoverished individuals in Jordan live in rural areas which are mostly dependent on agriculture. This demographic includes livestock keepers, smallholder farm households and landless former agriculturalists. In spite of the poor motivation of rural youth, agriculture is an important employer for rural communities, according to the third communication report.
This is a particularly important topic to address as more than 70 per cent of total agriculture in Jordan is rain-fed, according to the Agriculture Ministry.
The poor in rural areas in Jordan are expected to face the most severe consequences of climate change through the disruption of livelihoods that depend on natural resource management. The expected impacts of climate change, particularly reduced agricultural productivity and limited water availability, actively threaten the income of these populations, pushing the vulnerable into a more urgent state of insecurity. Families in poverty are at the greatest level of exposure to the impacts of climate change, and therefore deserve priority and consideration in the design of adaptive measures, the third communication report indicated.
Climate change will have an apparent socio-economic impact as decreased precipitation and flash-flood inducing erratic rainfall will negatively affect farmers.
“This will have a negative impact on the livelihoods of many,” Shaqareen said.
Changed rainfall distribution patterns will disturb rainfed agriculture, and with less rain, many households are expected to lose their primary source of income, he added.
“Even if we witness the minimum level of drought, there will be a negative impact on livestock breeders, for example, due to less vegetation in rangeland,” he said.
Shaqareen said that farmers will be forced to buy more fodder, creating an additional financial burden.
“Climate change is not just an environmental issue. There will be economic losses and a socio-economic impact, and the ramifications will force people to move from some areas to other areas and head towards cities. This will increase unemployment and poverty, and markets will become more competitive,” Shaqareen said.