Egypt – March 20th, 2013
Millions of Egyptians could be forced permanently from their homes, the country’s ability to feed itself devastated. That’s what likely awaits this already impoverished and overpopulated nation by the end of the century, if predictions about climate change hold true. The World Bank describes Egypt as particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming, saying it faces potentially “catastrophic” consequences.
A big reason is the vulnerability of Egypt’s breadbasket — the Nile Delta, a fan-shaped area of rich, arable land where the Nile River spreads out and drains into the Mediterranean Sea. Although the Delta makes up only 2.5% of Egypt’s land mass, it is home to more than a third of this largely desert country’s 80 million people.
The Delta was already in danger, threatened by the side effects of southern Egypt’s Aswan Dam (the main reservoir created by the dam, Lake Nasser, is visible by the bottom of the full image). Though the dam, completed in 1970, generates much-needed electricity and controls Nile River flooding, it also keeps nutrient sediment from replenishing the eroding Delta. Here, some sediment can be seen along the delta coast.
Add climate change to the mix, and the Delta faces new uncertainties that could have a potentially more devastating effect on Egypt. Scientists generally predict that the Mediterranean, and the world’s other seas, will rise between one foot (30 centimeters) and 3.3 feet (one meter) by the end of the century, flooding coastal areas along the Delta.
A rise of 3.3 feet (one meter) would flood a quarter of the Delta, forcing about 10.5% of Egypt’s population from their homes, according to the World Bank. The impact would be all the more staggering if Egypt’s population, as expected, doubles to about 160 million by the middle of the century. The Delta is already densely packed with about 4,000 people per square mile (2.6 square kilometer). Also hit would be Egypt’s food supply. Nearly half of Egypt’s crops, including wheat, bananas and rice, are grown in the Delta (click here for more information).