Climate-exodus from MENA

Map of the European Migrant Crisis 2015. Credit: Maximilian Dörrbecker (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Researchers from the Max Planck institute have calculated that summer temperatures in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could become so hot within the coming 30 years that human habitability is compromised. Hot summer days south of the Mediterranean could see temperatures around 46 °C that, together with all the desert dust and air pollution, could become intolerable and force people to migrate.

More than 500 million people live in MENA, a region that is already experiencing drought problems and conflict over water resources. The number of extremely hot days has doubled since 1970 while population has exploded, leading to overexploitation of groundwater basins. 

In a recent story by Reveal we could read how global leaders are becoming increasingly worried about water shortages. The growing water crisis in the Middle East is thought to have contributed to destabilizing the region, sparking civil unrest and war in Syria and Yemen.

According to a 2009 cable from the U.S. Ambassador in Yemen, “Water shortages have led desperate people to take desperate measures with equally desperate consequences” 

Of course, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that people become desperate when the most vital of resources for survival becomes scarce. The once arid region is turning more and more into a desert, both due groundwater depletion and shifting climatic zones. 

Even if climate change is limited to a global mean temperature increase of 2 °C warming over land will be stronger and extreme temperatures can increase well beyond +2°C. As such, heat waves and water shortages will only worsen over time as carbon emissions rise and unsustainable usage of aquifers continues. 

Climate-exodus expected in the Middle East and North Africa
In the Middle East and North Africa, the average temperature in winter will rise by around 2.5 °C (left) by the middle of the century, and in summer by around 5°C (right) if global greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase according to the business-as-usual scenario (RCP8,5)
The migration flows from the MENA region into Europe and elsewhere will most likely increase in the future as people have no choice but to move from their drying land. 


Out of the ashes into the fire

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