Mahmoud Abd Al-Salam in an interview with Omar Shoshan – Chairman of the Jordan Environmental Union
Climate Change… Is It Too Late for Jordan?
Just ten years ago, the topic of climate change was not taken seriously. We would not listen, react, or give it attention. The alarm has since sounded, and today, climate change is highlighted in every newspaper, radio show, and television program. In light of this, raising awareness about climate change is the first key step towards finding practical solutions.
Youth participants have chosen the climate topic as one of the most important to address in the Jeel 01 Program. The next generation of leaders, the youth, can make a change and reverse the current situation before it is too late.
The youth discussed issues relating to climate change in Jordan, including Jordan’s impact on the global climate and the effects of climate change on Jordan in terms of water poverty and food security, as well as the steps we need to take to make a change. I highlighted these issues and many more during my interview with one of the most prominent local climate activists, Omar Shoshan, Chairman of the Jordan Environmental Union.
“Nature has the final say,” Shoshan initiated the conversation with these words. “Nature does not know wealth, nor does it know country borders. Today, we face a real and direct threat to the safety and peace of humanity,” he continued. I began asking him more questions in my quest for solutions.
Jordan’s impact on the global climate and how it is affected
The damage that climate change is starting to cause worldwide is unrelated to how much a country contributes to emitting greenhouse gases and adding to global warming. For example, floods afflicted Pakistan last summer, although the country is responsible for less than 1% of global emissions1. The same goes for Jordan. We announced our plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions with an increase in the reduction rate from 14% to 31% by 20302, but would that protect Jordan from the extreme consequences of climate change? Of course not.
“The major industrial countries, which are primarily responsible for the greatest deal of emissions around the globe, will be affected by the consequences of climate change. However, unlike developing countries, they have the resources to adapt and manage the environmental, social, and economic problems resulting from this crisis since they can allocate massive budgets to address the issue. Industrial countries will prioritize their interests and not support others afflicted with the climate crisis,” says Shoshan.
This is precisely what the term ‘climate injustice’ entails; the consequences of climate change will affect countries and their people differently. While the ongoing practices of some countries are the biggest contributors to the issue, other countries are set to bear the consequences of their contributions, such as ice melting, desertification, and extreme weather like hurricanes, floods, and fires. Moreover, people in many countries will be displaced in search of water and food if we do not act now and seek ‘climate justice’.
How does climate change affect our daily lives, and why does it trigger conflict?
Discussing climate change in an academic manner using complex terminology makes it harder for individuals to grasp the indirect effect of such issues on our daily lives. Shoshan explores the socioeconomic consequences with relatable examples, “Children residing in outlying areas, where they must walk to school each day, can feel this change through prolonged heat waves or rain; how do you think this would affect their educational process? How would it impact the shepherd trying to provide fodder for his cattle, his sole source of livelihood, when it comes to water scarcity?” He also indicated that said consequences could drive society towards conflict and directly threaten its peace.
Here, I will quote Dr. Muhanned Arabiyat, President of Generations For Peace, where I volunteer in the Jeel 01 Program. During a recent speech at the Local Youth Conference on Climate Change with the participation of young women and men interested in climate action from various governorates of the Kingdom, Dr. Arabiyat said, “If we start dealing with climate change as a national security issue that threatens the safety of individuals, we may put it on the list of priorities, and see it from a different perspective.”
According to a project document proposed by the World Bank, climate change and population growth will reduce the availability of water resources by 30% per capita by 2040. These factors will also lead to an increase in the demand for water3. This indicates that climate change will drastically affect our daily lives, not to mention the impact on agriculture and other sectors that depend on water… no industry is safe!
To better understand the impact of climate change on our lives as individuals, Shoshan referred to World Health Organization statistics: “About 23% of diseases in the region are environmentally based. Climate change has become one of the main causes of death, like diseases and traffic accidents.”
Institutional government role and how to beat the clock
The time ahead is indeed limited, but we still have room to build on any step we have previously taken and take new ones as well, especially since our legislative structure is excellent in terms of laws, presence in international conferences, and periodic international reports; according to Shoshan, who indicated that climate action is moving within three spheres: mitigation, adaptation, and financing.
“Not setting the priorities of Jordanian decision-makers is a problem that needs to be resolved. Today, we must plan strategically and work as interdependent institutions to focus our efforts on one goal. Jordan must work politically to form alliances within the region and developing countries to pressure major ones into supporting them in climate action like mitigation and adaptation. For example, the National Water Carrier Project cannot be implemented today without the support from funds like the Green Climate Fund. We need to strengthen our capabilities in the water aspect, enable value-added agriculture that achieves food security, and improve pastures. We are looking at a protracted crisis that affects all sectors, and we must live up to the challenge,” Shoshan explains, indicating that achieving positive results will entail collaboration between the government, civil society organizations, and the private sector.
Awareness and individual determination are the pillars of change
A simple step can continue for miles when practiced by millions around the world. In Jordan, we, as youth under the age of 30, make up about 63% of the population4, which means that we can make a significant impact. Shoshan explains, “Individual behavior is like a snowball; it gets bigger as it rolls. Simple practices may have the potential to influence political and economic decision-makers. Why did air conditioners turn into “inverters”? Because of the practices that created the need for them. Like energy-saving lighting and electric cars, all are industrial trends resulting from individual acts.”
As a young generation, we should move from defense mode into being initiators of change. Like any initiative, the starting point is creating awareness; We read, watch documentaries, and learn about successful experiences; we encourage our peers who lead local initiatives, however small; we also reduce consumption rates and do not underestimate any step that may contribute to protecting our planet.
Only then will we have a voice capable of causing change, whether through conscious behaviors or advocacy campaigns, a voice that pushes decision-makers towards climate justice.
Photo: Mahmoud Abd Al-Salam in an interview with Omar Shoshan – Chairman of the Jordan Environmental Union
This blog reflects the opinion of Mahmoud Abd Al-Salam, after he interviewed Omar Shoshan, one of the most prominent local specialists in the field of environment, as part of the “Jeel 01” Program implemented by Generations For Peace, with the support of the US Embassy in Jordan.
This blog was funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.