Temperatures in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean are rising almost twice as fast as the rest of the world, with far-reaching consequences for the health and well-being of the roughly 400 million people living in the region, according to a new study.
According to the study, the climate in countries including Egypt, Greece and Saudi Arabia is expected to warm up by around 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century. Such a rapid increase will cause longer heat waves, more severe droughts and frequent sandstorms from the beaches of Lebanon to the deserts of Iran.
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The changes will also affect vegetation and freshwater resources, increasing the risk of armed conflict, the report said. It was first published in June in the Review of Geophysics, but was recently updated to include new global climate projections ahead of the November UN climate summit.
The authors of the study, including researchers from the Climate and Atmospheric Research Center of the Cyprus Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, blamed the increase in greenhouse gas emissions from rising temperatures in the region. The area’s arid landscapes and low water level also make it more vulnerable to climate change, they said.
According to Georgios Zittis, one of the authors of the report, the Middle East has become a “dominant emitter” of greenhouse gases globally, surpassing both the European Union and India.
“We are seeing a downward trend in emissions in the EU, but this is not the case in the Middle East,” Zittis said in a telephone interview. Most countries in the region, he said, are committed to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which aims to limit global warming this century to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius).
The report underlines the pressing need to “decarbonise” the energy and transport sectors in the Middle East with a more widespread use of renewable energy, even though the economies of several countries in the region, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are heavily dependent on ” fossil fuel exploitation “.
The researchers found that summers in the region became drier and that extreme rainfall and precipitation occurred with less frequent but stronger spurts. Heat waves will limit outdoor activities and affect major Mediterranean crops such as olives, wheat and barley.
Demand for fresh water will increase as the population grows and there is pressure on resources, the report said. According to Zittis, the region is likely to see an increase in migration from rural to urban areas, both internally and across borders.
In southern Iraq, where temperatures have risen 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.8 degrees Celsius) over the past three decades, families have sold their belongings and moved to urban centers such as Basra, the largest city. of the region.
Zittis says the transition will not be easy and that “multi-year drought” and competition for resources will spark conflict. “Where there is social instability, this could be the result of climate change,” he said.
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