A synthesis of peer-reviewed literature from 2010 to date and own modeling work on biophysical impacts of climate change on selected sectors shows that the region is highly affected by present and future climate change. These biophysical impacts paired with other pressures and a lack of resilience in some countries cause high vulnerabilities within these sectors and for social dimensions in the MENA region.
The agricultural sector, of which 70 percent is rain-fed, is highly exposed to changing climatic conditions. This is of critical importance as the agriculture sector is the largest employer in many Arab countries and contributes significantly to national economies. Impacts will be high in a 2 °C world, as, e.g., annual water discharge, already critically low, is projected to drop by another 15–45% (75% in a 4 °C world) and unusual heat extremes projected to affect about one-third of the land area with likely consequences for local food production.
As a consequence, deteriorating rural livelihoods associated with declining agricultural productivity will continue to contribute to migration flows, often to urban areas as already observed. The region could be heavily challenged by both rising food and water demand given its projected increase in population that may double by 2070.
As a result, the regions already substantial import dependency could increase and thus its vulnerability to agricultural impacts well beyond its country borders. A severe and sustained pressure on resources could contribute to further social unrest in the already unstable political environment that currently characterizes parts of the region. While the particular societal responses to such changes are hard to foresee, it is clear that extreme impacts would constitute unprecedented challenges to the social systems affected.