Cyprus Mail

Climate change and rising heat may force many to move, says study

CLIMATE change can result in a significant deterioration of living conditions for people living in the Middle East and North Africa, and consequently, many people may have to leave the region, according to a research by the Cyprus Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry.

The definition of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) applied in the research encompasses the larger region between Morroco and Iran including Cyprus. The 29 countries included have a current population of about 550 million people.

The temperature during summer in the already very hot MENA will increase more than two times faster compared to the average global warming. The goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius, agreed at the recent UN climate summit in Paris, will not be sufficient to prevent this scenario, the researchers found.

On average in the MENA, the maximum temperature during the hottest days in the recent past was about 43°C, which could increase to about 46°C by the middle of the century and reach almost 50°C by the end of the century.

“Such extremely hot days will occur five times more often than was the case at the turn of the millennium. In combination with increasing air pollution by windblown desert dust, the environmental conditions could become intolerable and may force people to migrate,” a Cyprus Institute announcement said.

Another finding suggests that heat waves could occur ten times more often than they do now. Between 1986 and 2005, it was very hot for an average period of about 16 days, by mid-century it will be unusually hot for 80 days per year. At the end of the century, up to 118 days could be unusually hot, even if greenhouse gas emissions decline.

“In future, the climate in large parts of MENA could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy,” said Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and Professor at the Cyprus Institute.

The strongest rise in temperature in MENA is expected during summer and not during winter, which is more common in other parts of the globe. This is primarily attributed to a desert warming amplification in regions such as the Sahara. The hot and dry surfaces of deserts cannot cool by the evaporation of ground water.

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