Sustainable Energy

Climate change could make North Africa and Middle East 'uninhabitable'

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Iraqis cool down from the scorching summer temperatures under public showers in Baghdad on August 12, 2011.
Ali Al-Saadi | AFP | Getty Images

Climate change could make sections of North Africa and the Middle East uninhabitable, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia have found that the region – already incredibly hot in the summer – could become so warm that "human habitability is compromised."

The researchers found that even limiting global warming to lower than two degrees Celsius – agreed at the United Nations COP21 climate change summit in Paris last year – would do little to stop the region from overheating, with summer temperatures increasing more than two times faster than the average pace of global warming.

"In future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy," Jos Lelieveld, director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and professor at the Cyprus Institute, said in a statement released this week.

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The team looked at how Middle Eastern and North African temperatures will develop during the 21st century.

They found that by the middle of the century temperatures in these regions would not drop lower than 30 degrees Celsius at night during the warmest periods, with temperatures potentially hitting 46 degrees Celsius during the day.

By the end of this century, "midday temperatures" on warm days could reach a staggering 50 degrees Celsius, with heat waves potentially occurring 10 times more than they do today.

"If mankind continues to release carbon dioxide as it does now, people living in the Middle East and North Africa will have to expect about 200 unusually hot days, according to the model projections," Panos Hadjinicolaou, associate professor at the Cyprus Institute, said.

Europe is in the midst of a migrant crisis, with thousands of people seeking to start a new life in the west. Lelieveld went on to say that the impacts of such temperature increases in the Middle East and North Africa – home to hundreds of millions of people – would only increase the amount of people migrating.

"Climate change will significantly worsen the living conditions in the Middle East and in North Africa," he said.

"Prolonged heat waves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate," he added.