Climate change has made the Middle East ‘unliveable’

Scientists and environmentalists are sounding the alarm ahead of COP26, scheduled for Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November. Many countries are going from picturesque places to dusty lands, like Iran where Lake Urmia is drying up. In June, Kuwait recorded temperatures of up to 53.2 degrees. The region is warming at twice the global average.


Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Middle East is of the regions of the planet hardest hit by climate change and, at the same time, one of the least prepared to face its dramatic consequences.

Scientists and environmentalists are sounding the alarm given the serious environmental crisis the Middle East is experiencing, becoming "literally unliveable", so much so that last summer several countries morphed from picturesque vacation spots into dusty lands.

Over the years, increasingly extreme temperatures and severe periods of drought have ravaged the region, burning entire forests and enveloping cities in unbearable heat.

In June, temperatures of up to 53.2 degrees were recorded in Kuwait, but similar highs were reported in Oman, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia with temperatures above 50 degrees. Temperatures of up to 51.5 degrees and 51 degrees respectively have also been reached in Iraq and Iran.

For many, the worst is yet to come, because extreme weather phenomena are only just beginning. The Middle East region is warming up at twice the global average and by 2050 it will have a temperature of at least 4 degrees above the target of 1.5 set to save humanity.

According to the World Bank, extreme conditions will become normal and the scorching sun could last up to four months a year.

Germany’s Max Planck Institute notes that many cities could become "uninhabitable" before the end of the century, a trend made that worse by the fact that the region’s many wars and sectarian divisions prevent a united response to challenges that threaten collective existence.

The topic will be at the centre of the upcoming 2021United Nations Conference on Climate Change, better known as COP26, scheduled to open tomorrow 31 October until 12 November in Glasgow, Scotland, chaired by the United Kingdom.

Looking at certain countries, Yemen is at risk of greater floods and waterborne diseases as reported by the experts of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC).

In Iraq, climate change is bound to exacerbate the already pressing challenges to the environment, security and economy. Rising temperatures, periods of prolonged drought, desertification and salinisation have brought the agricultural sector to its knees.

The decline of the main rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, is destined to drain reserves, with inevitable repercussions on the economy and institutions in years to come.

In Iran much of the territory suffers from desertification and deforestation. Runoff from industrial and urban wastewater has contaminated rivers, coastal and groundwater. Wetlands and freshwater areas are drying up, like the once navigable Lake Urmia, now not far from being a dusty expanse.

Added to this are the oil and chemical spills that have damaged the flora and fauna of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Iranian governments have not yet promoted a sustainable development policy, favouring instead short-term growth targets to mitigate effects of international sanctions.

In Turkey, temperature rises and increasingly extreme weather phenomena have been reported, characterised by droughts and heat waves. Local greenhouse gas emissions make up 1 per cent of the global total and energy policy continues to favour coal, with large subsidies.

Bad news is coming also from Israel, a relatively small country whose regional impact far exceeds its size. Efforts to reduce emissions have so far been of little use – in half a century the temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees and relative rainfall rate has decreased. Between 20 and 40 more days per year with temperatures above 30 degrees are expected.

Finally, in Jordan, one of the countries in the world where the water emergency is highest, residents will be forced to live with a maximum of 40 litres a day per capita for all needs, a figure ten times lower than the US average, something already unavailable every day in all homes.

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