Symposium on Middle East and Climate Change: Crisis and Opporunity?

Tue, September 12, 2023 2:45 PM at JMC Library, 332 Case Hall

Symposium on The Middle East and Climate Change: Crisis and Opportunity?
With Dr. Shira Efron, Dr. Alon Tal, Dr. Suleiman Halasah and Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed

Tuesday, September 12, 2:45-4:45pm,
JMC Library, 332 Case Hall (3rd floor)

The symposium will be live-streamed on our YouTube Channel: @serlinginstituteforjewishs8606.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a climate hotspot. Already the most water-stressed region worldwide, it is warming and drying up at twice the average pace, making some parts of it likely unliveable by mid-century. Climate change could also increase instability in the region, acting as a ‘threat multiplier’ that exacerbates existing problems. While MENA countries differ in their ability to adapt to climate effects and related security risks, ultimately these transnational impacts reach across borders, undermining regional and global resilience. This creates a clear impetus for regional cooperation. The timing for such cooperation is now opportune, for several reasons. First, climate change initiatives are springing up frequently across the MENA region, illustrating that the topic is at least declaratively high on national agendas. Second, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) respectively are the hosts of COP27 and COP28, putting a spotlight on the region. Further, the flurry of diplomatic activity in the region indicates that MENA countries see more merit in diplomacy than in conflict, creating space for interest-based collaboration. And because of the cross-border nature of climate effects and their multiplied associated risks – political instability and mass migration, for example – there is a built-in incentive for regional cooperation. Finally, environmental issues are perceived as softer grounds for cooperation that can help to build trust and test the water for dialogue, coordination and even de-escalation in areas of ‘hard’ security. This panel discussion will unpack the climate threats as well as opportunities facing the MENA region. The participants will also discuss how environmental and science diplomacy build bridges and trust in the Middle East.

Dr. Shira Efron  is director of research at Israel Policy Forum and  the co-chair of the subgroup on regional cooperation of Israeli President Herzog’s climate forum. Dr. Efron is currently on sabbatical from the RAND Corporation, where she founded and led the Israel program between 2016-2022. At RAND, she led and participated in several studies at the nexus of climate change and national security, including on Gaza’s water crisis and the implications of climate change for the U.S. Air Force. Several of her studies directly addressed food security challenges in the MENA region, such as making the case for the Global Dry Land Alliance and a project on GCC food security challenges in partnership with the UAE-based Emerge85. Previously, Dr. Efron was a fellow at several think tanks in Washington, D.C., including the Center for American Progress and Middle East Institute, and at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). She has a PhD and MPhil in policy analysis from RAND’s Graduate School, an MA in international relations/international business from New York University.

Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Ankara University. He did his first post doctoral research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where he worked in the Environmental Sciences and Energy Research Department. His second post doctorate was at the University of Minnesota, in the Solar Energy Laboratory of the Mechanical Engineering Department. Dr. Abu Hamed has published extensively in a wide variety of journals, and has been recognized with several awards, including the Dan David Prize. Tareq served as the Vice Chief Scientist and The Director of Engineering Research for Israel’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Space. Tareq is currently the Executive Director of the Arava Institute and a researcher at the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center.

Dr. Suleiman Halasah is a research associate at the Institute for Science Innovation and Society at The University of Oxford, UK, and the co-director of the Jordan-Israel Center for Community, Environment, and Research (JICCER) at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.  Dr. Halasah also directs a Jordanian consulting firm, i.GREENs, that focuses on energy, water and environment. Dr. Halasah earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Jordan in Amman, and Master of Science and a Doctor of Philosophy in Desert Studies from Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, Israel.

Dr. Alon Tal’s career has been a balance between academia and public interest advocacy.  He is presently a professor at Tel Aviv University where he previously served as chair of the Department of Public Policy.  Between 2021 and 2022, he was member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and served as chair of the subcommittee for Environmental and Climate Impacts on Health. Tal has held faculty appointments at Stanford, Ben Gurion, Hebrew, Michigan State, Otago and Harvard Universities.  He has founded several environmental organizations, including the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, the Arava Institute, and Zafuf, the Israel Forum for Population, Environment, and Society. Between 2010 and 2013, Tal served as chair of Israel’s Green Party, “the Green Movement.” His most recent book, Making Climate Tech Work: Policies that Drive Innovation, is due out with Island Press in 2024.

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