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Adaptation to climate change in arid and semi-arid areas

Author(s): Insight from China and MENA region
Congress: 2008
Nathalie Rousset, LEPII, University Pierre Mendès France, Grenoble, France LEPII, BP 47 -38040 Grenoble cedex 9 – France; +33 (0)4 56 52 85 87; Fax +33 (0)4 56 52 85 71

Keyword(s): climate change - water - China - MENA region - adaptation - virtual water trade
AbstractMAGICC model estimates that the temperature will increase by 2 or 3°C between 2000 and 2050 and that precipitation patterns will be deeply perturbed. The tendency towards the decrease in rainfall is particularly strong in North Africa where the rainfall levels might drop from 10 to 30% by 2050. The water and agricultural sectors in North China and MENA region also appear to be particularly vulnerable to these negative evolutions. Climate change might seriously amplify the ongoing dynamics of increasing water deficits in the agricultural sector. Agroclimatic models indicate that the combination of more limited water and soil resources causes strong reductions in grain yields in North China and North Africa. This article points out that the successful adaptation to climate change in these two regions consists of implementation of a water policy centered, in a structural manner, on the increasing scarcity of this resource. Such a proactive strategy would reduce climate change impacts and adaptation costs while answering immediate issues. An evaluation method of alternative adaptation strategies is exposed. The objective is to transcend the traditional economic framework of cost-benefit analysis in order to propose a multicriterion method more suitable with the challenge of climate change. It combines the criterias reflecting their relative capacity to reduce the impacts, their economic efficiency by comparing their respective costs and benefits, their degree of flexibility reflecting their robustness in face of uncertain future climatic conditions, their degree of compatibility with existing institutions, and finally, the co-benefits which they would get independently of climate change. Four types of adaptation options are analyzed and evaluated: the acceleration of mobilization of new conventional water resources by constructing dams and implementing interregional transfers, the expansion of mobilization of unconventional water by developing the desalinization of sea water, the improvement of demand side management and water savings in various sectors, and finally, the promotion of “virtual water trade “, which implies structuring of imports and exports according to the water contents of commodities. The results highlight the challenges associated with various potential combinations of adaptation options to climate change for economic development of these areas. A particular attention is given to the imports of virtual water strategy based on the trade of agricultural products. It is shown that Chinese and Maghrebian socioeconomic conditions are particularly favourable to the implementation of such a strategy, which is not the case of other areas in the world like Sub- Saharan Africa. The compatibility of virtual water trade strategy with IWRM framework is underlined as well.
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