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The Middle East could be left uninhabitable by climate change

The Middle East could be left uninhabitable by climate change

"In this century, parts of the Persian Gulf could suffer the impact of unprecedented events such as heat waves, derived from climate change, according to a study of high-resolution climate models," warns a research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The study "Persian Gulf could experience deadly heat" ("The Persian Gulf could experience a deadly heat wave") details a common context of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as that their reduction could avoid "deadly extreme temperatures"

The study, published in the journal Nature ahead of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Paris in late 2015, was prepared by Elfatih Eltahir, professor of engineering. MIT, Civil and Environmental Sciences, and by Jeremy Pal, Ph.D. from Loyola Marymount University.

The authors concluded that the climatic conditions of the Gulf, in addition to the shallow water depth and the intensity of the sun, “mean that in the area, in the absence of significant mitigation measures, climate change will probably impact the future space with conditions of habitation conducive to humans ”.

Using high-resolution versions of standard climate models, Eltahir and Pal concluded that many of the region's large cities could exceed the tipping point of human survival, even in shady and well-ventilated areas.

Eltahir noted that that threshold "as far as we know was never recorded in any location on Earth."

The MIT, founded in 1861 in order to promote knowledge and train students in science, technology and other areas to better contribute to their country and the world in the 21st century, warns: "The detailed climate simulation shows that it could be exceed a survival threshold if mitigation measures are not taken ”.

The research, which was supported by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science, revealed that the tipping point includes a measurement taken using a “wet-bulb thermometer” that combines temperature and humidity, reflecting the conditions that the human body can maintain without the need for artificial cooling, he explains.

The limit for human survival for more than six hours without protection is 35 degrees Celsius, according to the latest published research.


Map of the Middle East from the Köppen classification, February 20, 2016. Enhanced, modified and vectorized by Ali Zifan. Credit: Creative Commons.

The serious danger to human health and life itself appears when these temperatures are maintained for several hours, said Eltahir, something that according to the model will occur several times during the last 30 years of this century if the current context, used as a parameter, does not change. by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Even hotter and drier Middle East

The latest IPCC assessment warns of the likelihood of hotter and drier weather in most of the Middle East and North Africa.

"Higher temperatures and lower rainfall will increase the occurrence of droughts, a situation that is already materializing in the Maghreb region," says the World Bank, taking up the IPCC assessment.

"It is estimated that another 80 to 100 million people will experience water stress in 2025, which is likely to be the cause of increased pressure on groundwater, whose current withdrawal exceeds the potential recharge of aquifers in most areas", Explain.

Furthermore, agricultural crops, especially in rainy areas, are expected to experience greater fluctuation, ultimately reducing them to a significantly lower long-term average.

"In the cities of North Africa, a temperature increase of between one and three degrees could expose between six and 25 million people to coastal flooding," details the World Bank.

"In addition, the waves of water, the deterioration of water quality and the formation of ozone at ground level probably threaten public health and, in general, generate more difficult living conditions," he adds.

The World Bank report "Adaptation to Climate Change in the Middle East and North Africa Region" warns that this region is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

"It is one of the driest regions with the greatest water scarcity, with a great dependence on agriculture vulnerable to the climate and a large part of its population and its economic activity in coastal urban areas prone to flooding", he describes.

In addition, societies in this region have been under pressure to adapt to water scarcity and heat for thousands of years and have developed various technical solutions and institutional mechanisms to deal with environmental constraints.

Global models predict that sea levels will rise 0.1 to 0.3 meters by 2050 and 0.1 to 0.9 meters by 2100, recalls the World Bank.

In this region, the social, economic and ecological consequences are forecast to be relatively greater compared to the rest of the world. The risk is particularly higher in the low-lying coastal areas of the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Tunisia, and especially Egypt.

Climate change also poses many challenges for the cities of the region, which are centers of social, cultural and political activity. Sea level rise can affect 43 port cities, 24 in the Middle East and 19 in North Africa, according to the World Bank study.

“In the case of (the Egyptian city of) Alexandria, a sea level rise of 0.5 meters would leave more than two million people displaced and the losses of land, property and infrastructure would amount to some 35 billion dollars, besides the incalculable losses of the historical and cultural patrimony ”, it limits.

Translated by Verónica Firme

IPS News


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