Climate migrants flee Iraq’s parched countryside, but cities offer no refuge
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 with new global climate projections ahead of the United Nations climate summit in November.
The study’s authors, including researchers from the Climate and Atmosphere Research Center at the Cyprus Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, blamed increasing greenhouse gas emissions for the region’s rising temperatures. The area’s arid landscapes and low water levels 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 worldwide, overtaking both the European Union and India.
“In the EU we see a downward trend in emissions, but this is not the case for the Middle East,” Zittis said in a telephone interview. Most countries in the region, he said, are committed to the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) by this century.
The report highlights the urgent need to decarbonise the energy and transport sectors in the Middle East by introducing a more widespread use of renewable energy, even as the economies of several countries in the region, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, rely heavily on “fossil fuel use.”
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The researchers found that summers in the region have become drier and extreme precipitation and rainfall have occurred in less frequent but stronger spurts. The heat waves will limit outdoor activities and affect important Mediterranean crops such as olives, wheat and barley.
The demand for fresh water will increase as the population grows and resources come under pressure, the report said. According to Zittis, the region is likely to see an increase in migration from rural areas to urban areas, both internally and across borders.
In southern Iraq, where temperatures have risen by 1.8 degrees Celsius in the past three decades, families have sold off their belongings and moved to urban centers such as Basra, the region’s largest city.
Zittis says the transition will not be an easy one and that “perennial droughts” and competition for resources will spark conflict. “If there is social instability, it could be the result of climate change,” he said.