In This Review

The Power of Deserts: Climate Change,  the Middle East, and the Promise of a  Post-Oil Era
The Power of Deserts: Climate Change, the Middle East, and the Promise of a Post-Oil Era
By Dan Rabinowitz
184 pp, Stanford University Press, 2020
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Rabinowitz examines the exceptional vulnerability of most of the Middle East to climate change. Temperatures have risen and rainfall declined perceptibly in recent decades in what is already one of the most arid regions of the world. Well before the last decade’s political uprisings, long droughts contributed to significant population displacements and growing political discontent in Sudan and Syria. Virtually all the countries of the region are confronting dwindling rains, shrinking arable land, and rising sea levels. An Israeli sociologist and environmental activist, Rabinowitz persuasively argues that understanding the Middle East without factoring in climate change is “no longer tenable.” Although his political analysis is not always subtle or nuanced, his conclusions are powerful, and surprisingly hopeful: precisely those countries that have the most to lose in a post-oil future—the oil producers of the Arabian Peninsula (and, it might be added, North Africa)—are also well placed to embrace renewable energy, as beneficiaries of strong and reliable sunshine.