*Hale Kıvanç Bökeer
The world energy production and consumption is seriously affected by the global climate change. Certain security implications rise for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Europe. These impact the international and national security, as well as the economic and social security of the nations. This article aims to explore some of the direct influences of climate change on energy and the impacts of some of the recent political developments in these regions. A brief analysis of the potential security implications due to disruptions of the war in Ukraine and Russian response to the European countries is also laid out. As a conclusion, the article recommends adaptation and mitigation measures to address some of the economic and political challenges on energy systems presented by climate change.
What started to be an innocent summer heatwave that northern hemisphere experienced this year has turned out to be significantly above seasonal temperatures, especially from June to August. It has reached beyond historical records causing heat-related fatalities mainly among the elderly and vulnerable across many countries across Europe, Asia, North America, and the Middle East. This extreme heat and its results of lack of moisture, also generated numerous wildfires that have increased the death tolls and loss of land and property, which resulted in a large scale disruption regarding the prosperity and agricultural productivity of these regions.
This year’s expected, but dreadful dust/sand storms, flash floods, droughts, and critical temperature rises in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has continued the repeating pattern of frequent experiences for the recent decades of dangerous climate shocks. This increasing frequency of such climate change demands serious and urgent reflection on the state of democracy and governance, especially in a region were most are ruled by authoritarian leaders. Apart from the regional political challenges, these leaders are now tested with the threat of climate change, where the meaning of human rights activism, the rights to life, access to clean water, access to healthcare and education, upstage the political rights to organize or mobilize their agenda interests. It is vitally important for the Middle Eastern governments to acknowledge these changing conditions and prepare urgent responses such as, to minimize water shortages during heatwave periods, support drip irrigation; expand the use of heat and drought tolerant crops; and invest in alternative water-supply technologies, like recycling. The governments of this region need to be supported to expand their urban green areas and allocate funds for climate-related public health measures, establish cooling centres and implement reimbursement programs for air conditioners and air filters to counter heatwaves, as well as poor air quality during the summer wildfire season, to support the climate resilience in their low-income neighbourhoods.
Apart from the severe climate change factors, corruption in these regions, where the local populations are marginalized for the benefit of a very small circle of elites has also brought with it air and water pollution, dangerous urban planning practices, dangerous infrastructure, and uncontrolled agricultural management, which contribute just as much to the weather-related traumas of the past which are now called the disastrous consequences of climate change. The rising temperatures and the frequency of these heat waves is expected to target more those, who are the least responsible for the climate change. Particularly, this vulnerable part of the population like the children, elderly, outdoor workers and low-income groups are at risk. There is also evidence that the high temperatures and heatwaves can exacerbate existing mental health issues and increase the likelihood of interpersonal violence. Within this framework, it is also equally important to evaluate climate change from a public health point of view and implement policies around it.
For these very reasons, rather than criticizing democracy, as a Western substance, or a reason to blame the rise of fundamentalists and endorse brutal suppressions against civic actors and the wider population, MENA’s regional leaders should direct their focus on the crucial reality of the climate change and take necessary measures for immediate united action, while time is running out. The oil waiting yet to be extracted in the middle-east region should not be considered as a guarantee for the MENA leaders anymore. The issues related to democracy and governance versus hard security matters that serve their authoritarian regimes are now facing life or death situation. MENA leaders should become aware seriousness of their situation and lack of time for action. Now is the time to unite to save the future for their region, which is under serious threats that will severely risk the lives of millions, including theirs.
The Mediterranean Basin is also currently affected with a dry summer of high temperatures and leading to more extreme prolonged and extreme heatwaves ad droughts. These heatwaves impact heavily on the human physical well-being, as well as, increasing the risk of food insecurity, resulting in crop failures, as previously experienced in India last year. This year, besides the expected heat wave impacts, the global wheat supply chain had to encounter great disruptions due to the war in Ukraine.
The usage of personal water and agricultural water increases the water scarcity in countries that face serious water shortages with increased demands. This effects the everyday lives of the population, in addition to its serious effects on food insecurity.
Vulnerable part of the population like the children and the elderly, the outdoor workers and low-income groups are at particular risk as they have more limited access to air-conditioned environments and urban green spaces.
Europe’s drought and Russia’s energy blackmail is also a growing concern for the other part of the hemisphere. This summer Europe has experienced two interlinked crisis due to severe droughts that links climate change concerns and energy security, with overarching implications for its wider region with centring Germany and Russia.
Germany having a leading member of the Greens political party as country’s Foreign Ministeridentified climate-energy crisis in Europe, by calling it a “climate emergency” and “the most challenging security issue of our time.” She earnestly recommended European countries to invest in renewable sources and reduce their dependency on Russia for energy.
The increased frequency of the climate emergencies, like the current heat waves and droughts affecting Europe are forcing the European population to restructure their energy systems for green sustainability in a velocious manner than they can endure. Germany is in the centre of this puzzle as being Europe’s largest economy and the most important consumer of Russian hydrocarbons. Russiadoesn’t hold back on anything to stop liberating the European national from carbon emissions and their dependence on Russian energy supplies.
A third of all natural gas used in Europe was provided by Russia. Yamal pipeline, which runs through Belarus and Poland with a flow capacity of 33 billion cubic meters per annum, and the more powerful North Stream pipeline through the Baltic Sea, which can transport 55 billion cubic meters per annum and the pipeline via Ukraine with 40 more annual cubic meters and the pipeline via Turkey 31.5 more annual cubic meters have been the prominent transportation routes.
Russia started this campaign of reducing the natural gas and oil supplies to Europe around the end of the second half of 2021. European states have then started exploring substitute sources and channelled their interests to the energy producers the Middle East and North Africa region to eliminate the pressure imposed on them. This pratice has gained critical acceleration due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, late February and the gradual energy sanctions and self-imposed boycotts on Russia.
The importance of other energy resources, like coal, nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind have also increased with the energy shortages Europeans had to encounter, especially when Europe’s preference was towards greener options than gas and oil.
Sadly, as the nuclear and hydroelectric power generation had to be substantially reduced, by 11% and 20% respectively, the preference of pioneering nuclear power producer countries, like Germany and France inclined towards the most dirty energy fuel option which is coal. Germany’s leading energy producer, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk,(RWE) is rapidly substituting gas with coal due to shortages caused by the Russia despite certain groups accusing energy companies and political leaders for using the war in Ukraine as an excuse to continue mining more coal and running the environment. The European Union is currently facing a critical energy crisis, and EU nations are trying to identify alternatives to the Russian gas following the invasion of Ukraine.
Increasing the production of nuclear energy was urged to be the solution for climate change, however the high summer temperatures, shortage of water in the rivers and draughts are causing problems for the cooling of these power plants. This year’s unprecedented droughts in Europe ended up grim and critical productivity consequences, in the sectors of energy, industry, and agricultural and internal waterways transportation. This situation is now the awakening for the European voters to understand the security challenges created by climate change. Sustainability, in the form of climate protection, raises energy prices and therefore clashes with affordability of energy, which is the driver of modern economies (Aldy et al. 2009; see also Vieira and Dalgaard, this volume). It seems voters and elites prefer to prioritise affordability over sustainability, therefore separating the two elements and promoting the traditional view of energy security over new perspectives focusing on sustainability (Elkind 2009).
After this summer’s devastating droughts, a cold winter is in the prospect for Europe. As Russian energy blackmail will continue to use Europe’s remaining energy dependence, this is will have major implications on Russian economy with higher costs. Russia stared an economic battle between Moscow and Brussels by raising the prospects of recession and energy rationing in some of Europe’s richest countries, limiting the gas supplies through the major pipeline to Europe. Germany, Austria, Italy and Hungary are particularly dependent and therefore more vulnerable to the situation.
To find an alternative supply to the Russian gas and oil, EU is also exploring to obtain more gas from other countries, including in the Middle East, in addition to importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States.
LNG is super-chilled natural gas, which is a fossil fuel. It is currently considered a bridge fuel, with a role to play in displacing dirtier fossil fuels such as oil and coal. It is also seen serving hard to decarbonize sectors. It is also more expensive than Russian natural gas.
But on the road to climate neutrality, gas has so far played a crucial role as the energy carrier for the transition period. And modern gas-fired power plants emit less CO2 than coal-fired power plants. As the European and Asian suppliers started to contract charter LNG tankers, gas prices are expected to even rise higher.
It looks like with the immediate urge to prevent power cuts, the coal-burning power stations will be activated again this winter. This will cause carbon emissions to rise. Germany, the Netherlands and Austria are already doing this. In the meantime, some Europeans are voluntarily cutting their energy consumption, including limiting their use of electrical appliances and usage of daily water supplies to save money while companies are bracing for possible consumption restrictions. In Germany, relatively painless measures are put in place such as switching off spotlights on public monuments, turning off fountains, and imposing cold showers on municipal swimming pools and sports halls. Other countries are yet to even start. No matter what, it will not be possible to compensate the lack of Russian energy supplies and the energy prices will continue to increase as supplies become insufficient to demand.
The picture is clear that Europe is becoming vulnerable by the day, on every energy front, be itgeopolitics or insurgence. However, what is also to be delicately considered is the wild and harsh response of the nature to the insensitivity that human nature has accumulated through the economically and politically driven harmful strategies towards the environmental impassiveness.
In the longer term, the energy efficiency and renewable energy will increase under the public pretext of energy security in addition to the increasing vitality to tackle the climate change concerns in a more strategic and target oriented manner.
In terms of ‘knowledge politics’, there is a clear difference between the politics of climate change and energy security. Climate-change politics are ‘cosmopolitan’ (Beck and Sznaider, 2006). The most important way to the energy sovereignty would be the global transformation towards a rise inalternative energy production and investment for more renewable energies for greater energy efficiencies. The faster, the renewable energies are expanded, the better, it will be for the globalfuture.
The only fortunate conclusion and consequence of this unfortunate energy and climate crisis is that it may pave the way for Europe to lead world efforts towards greener energy production and consumption. The concentration should focus on what is good for the sake of the climate, and energise the cosmopolitan campaign for action on climate protection at local, national, and global levels. In that way, climate-change priorities should seek to capture energy policy, rather than conventional energy interests and energy policy capturing climate-change policy agendas.
Hale Kιvanç Bökeer is a Ph.D.student and she has a Master of Arts Degree at the Human Relations Department of the Institute of Social Sciences at the Ankara University. Hale has a Bachelor of Arts in IAED from the Bilkent University, Ankara and graduated from the British International School in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
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