Sand and Dust Storms in the MENA Region: A Problem Awaiting Mitigation

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Tunisia

Publishing organisation: Arab Center Washington DC

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-07-29

Language: English

Authors: Achref Chibani, a Tunisian journalist


Achref Chibani is a Nonresident Fellow at TIMEP focusing on climate change in the Middle East and North Africa region. He is a Tunisian journalist, researcher, and civil society activist whose core areas of focus are climate change, renewable energies, and environmental protection. Achref is also currently Regional Coordinator of I Watch in Tataouine. Based in Tataouine, southern Tunisia, Achref is also an Early Career Researcher Representative at the MENA Social Policy Network. He was formerly a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Middle East Program. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChibaniAchref.

Project description:

The phenomenon of sand and dust storms (SDS) remains poorly understood and has received relatively little scientific or policy attention. Considering the growing prevalence of SDS across the Middle East and North Africa, the storms’ impact on health, society, and the economy must surely be addressed, and policies need to be instituted to alleviate their effects.

Impact reached:

2022 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 27) placed SDS higher on the climate change agenda, both in terms of scientific research on the phenomenon and the development of effective mitigation and adaptation strategies. I strongly believe that my paper contributed to this achievement.

Techniques/technologies used:

To write my paper, I have used a variety of techniques including data journalism, fact checking, and story telling.

Context about the project:

While there is now a significant body of literature that considers questions of climate change communication in the global north, there remains relatively little work that takes seriously how climate change messaging might need to be adapted to non-Western contexts and audiences. This is all the more pressing seeing as such communities are often located on the ‘front line’ of the climate crisis and face existential threats to their livelihoods and ways of life. My paper contends that climate change communication must attend to the relationship between global processes and local effects, and be carefully adapted to speak to particular communities’ needs, concerns and threats. To help unpack how such situated climate communication might be forwarded, the article considers the case of sand and dust storms in the MENA region.

The Middle East and North Africa offers an illuminating case study, which shines a light on broader questions of climate change communication. The region represents the confluence of a range of interlinking political, economic and environmental realities and relations that extend across a number of scales (local, national, regional and global). These include (but are not limited to), the region’s oil and gas reserves, its history of colonialism and neo-colonial resource extraction, climate migration, desertification and agriculture, and the significant effects that climate change will have on the region’s climate. All these factors work to make climate change communication in the region a particularly knotty problem.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Sand and Dust Storms (SDS) challenge our understanding of climate disasters, demonstrating the linkages between the local, national, regional, and global levels that together make up climate and ecological systems. Journalists can learn from this paper that only through climate change policies that successfully travel between these different levels and scales of operation will it be possible to build resilience to future climate stresses.

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