Climate change may render parts of the Middle East -- now home to over 500 million people -- too hot for humans, according to a new study.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute say “very hot” days in the region have “doubled” since 1970.
"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," says Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute and Professor at the Cyprus Institute.
Researchers say that even if global temperature rise is capped at two degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era, “the temperature in summer in these regions will increase two times faster" than elsewhere in the world.
That means by mid-century, during the hottest part of summer, “temperatures will not fall below 30 degrees at night, and during daytime they could rise to 46 degrees Celsius.”
Further out, midday temperatures in the region could reach as high as 50 Celsius, and there could be a tenfold increase in the number of heat waves. Those heat waves are likely to last longer, too, with an average of 80 extremely hot days by the middle of the century compared to 16 now.
"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," says climate change expert Panos Hadjinicolaou, Associate Professor at the Cyprus Institute.
The study also looked at the amount of “fine particulate air pollution” in the region and found that dust in the atmosphere over Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria jumped 70 percent since the start of the century. This, they say, could be due to an increase in the number of sand storms caused by climate change.
The researchers created two models -- one in which global temperatures are capped by reductions in greenhouse gases, and another, a “business as usual” model where nothing is done to stem climate change.
Under both scenarios, the future of the region is not good, they say, adding that “climate change can result in a significant deterioration of living conditions for people living in North Africa and the Middle East, and consequently, sooner or later, many people may have to leave the region.”