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Title: Integrated Human Futures Modeling in Egypt

The Integrated Human Futures Project provides a set of analytical and quantitative modeling and simulation tools that help explore the links among human social, economic, and ecological conditions, human resilience, conflict, and peace, and allows users to simulate tradeoffs and consequences associated with different future development and mitigation scenarios. In the current study, we integrate five distinct modeling platforms to simulate the potential risk of social unrest in Egypt resulting from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. The five platforms simulate hydrology, agriculture, economy, human ecology, and human psychology/behavior, and show how impacts derived from development initiatives in one sector (e.g., hydrology) might ripple through to affect other sectors and how development and security concerns may be triggered across the region. This approach evaluates potential consequences, intended and unintended, associated with strategic policy actions that span the development-security nexus at the national, regional, and international levels. Model results are not intended to provide explicit predictions, but rather to provide system-level insight for policy makers into the dynamics among these interacting sectors, and to demonstrate an approach to evaluating short- and long-term policy trade-offs across different policy domains and stakeholders. The GERD project is criticalmore » to government-planned development efforts in Ethiopia but is expected to reduce downstream freshwater availability in the Nile Basin, fueling fears of negative social and economic impacts that could threaten stability and security in Egypt. We tested these hypotheses and came to the following preliminary conclusions. First, the GERD will have an important short-term impact on water availability, food production, and hydropower production in Egypt, depending on the short- term reservoir fill rate. Second, the GERD will have a very small impact on water availability in the Nile Basin over the longer term. Depending on the GERD fill rate, short-term (e.g., within its first 5 years of operation) annual losses in Egyptian food production may peak briefly at 25 percent. Long-term (e.g., 15 to 30 year) cumulative losses in Egypt's food production may be less than 3 percent regardless of the fill rate, with the GERD having essentially no impact on projected annual food production in Egypt about 25 years after opening. For the quick fill rates, the short-term losses may be sufficient to create an important decrease in overall household health among the general population, which, along with other economic stressors and different strategies employed by the government, could lead to social unrest. Third, and perhaps most importantly, our modeling suggests that the GERD's effect on Egypt's food and water resources is small when compared to the effect of projected Egyptian population and economic growth (and the concomitant increase in water consumption). The latter dominating factors are exacerbated in the modeling by natural climate variability and may be further exacerbated by climate change. Our modeling suggests that these growth dynamics combine to create long-term water scarcity in Egypt, regardless of the Ethiopian project. All else being equal, filling strategies that employ slow fill rates for the GERD (e.g., 8 to 13 years) may mitigate the risks in future scenarios for Egypt somewhat, but no policy or action regarding the GERD is likely to significantly alleviate the projected water scarcity in Egypt's Nile Basin. However, general beliefs among the Egyptian populace regarding the GERD as a major contributing factor for scarcities in Egypt could make Ethiopia a scapegoat for Egyptian grievances -- contributing to social unrest in Egypt and generating undesirable (and unnecessary) tension between these two countries. Such tension could threaten the constructive relationships between Egypt and Ethiopia that are vital to maintaining stability and security within and between their respective regional spheres of influence, Middle East and North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.« less
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  1. Sandia National Lab. (SNL-NM), Albuquerque, NM (United States)
  2. Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C. (United States)
  3. United States Military Academy, West Point, NY (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Sandia National Laboratories (SNL-NM), Albuquerque, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Country of Publication:
United States