Climate change, water and future cooperation and development in the Euphrates-Tigris basin

Mueller, André; Adrien Detges, Benjamin Pohl, Michelle Helene Reuter, Luca Rochowski, Jan Volkholz, and Eckart Woertz 2021: Climate change, water and future cooperation and development in the Euphrates-Tigris basin. London: CASCADES.

This study examines future impacts of climate change on water resources and the ensuing economic and political challenges in the Euphrates-Tigris basin shared by Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. The study focuses on three different risks in connection with climate-related water challenges: (1) livelihoods and food security, (2) political stability and violence, and (3) interstate conflict and cooperation.

Drawing on a review of existing literature and publicly available data, expert interviews, and scenario-building workshops, it identifies social, economic, institutional, and political factors that will shape the future vulnerability and resilience to the effects of global warming. Based on an assessment of current interventions, the study derives recommendations for adaptation measures that riparian countries and regional institutions can implement to reduce future risks and to seize opportunities for increased cooperation and resilience building.

The main conclusion is that climate change has so far played only a minor role in changing the basin’s hydrology and freshwater ecosystems compared to direct human interventions (e.g. water abstraction, dam building). However, climate change impacts will gradually become more significant and may eventually outweigh those impacts. This way, climate change will complicate and aggravate water-related challenges that are already significant in the region, especially in Iraq and Syria, while the incurred economic losses, in turn, will reduce the government’s resources for an adequate adaptation response.