Thanks To Climate Change, The Middle East And North Africa Are Basically Screwed


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

230 Thanks To Climate Change, The Middle East And North Africa Are Basically Screwed
Even with the Paris agreement enforced, the regions will become hard to live in. karinkamon/Shutterstock

Man-made climate change is a problem that simply won't go away. It will increase the likelihood of conflict in water-scarce regions for one thing, and there’s already some evidence that it played a vital role in sparking the initial uprising in Syria back in 2011.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia have been studying the effects of climate change on the notoriously dry and hot Middle East and North African regions for some time, and they have come to a chilling conclusion. Even with the Paris climate change agreement enforced by all signatories, who have pledged to limit warming to no more than 2°C (3.6°F), these parts of the world will still become so hot as to be uninhabitable within the near future.


Their study, published in the journal Climatic Change, notes that the peak summer temperatures in the region will rise almost twice as fast compared to the global average. Temperatures will regularly reach 46°C (114°F), and extremely hot days will occur five times more often than they have done since the year 2000.

By 2050, in this already optimistic scenario, temperatures will not fall below 30°C (86°F) at night. Combined with increasing air pollution and powerful sandstorms, the environment will become increasingly difficult to live in, and a massive prolonged exodus is likely.

If the Paris agreement is not adhered to, things become far, far worse. Under the business-as-usual model, by 2100, people living there will experience 200 extremely hot days per year.

“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,” lead author Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and a professor at the Cyprus Institute, said in a statement.


The possible outcomes, based on the business-as-usual model (RCP8.5) and the Paris agreement model (RCP4.5), during the winter months (DJF) and the summer months (JJA). The temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin, which scale with degrees Celsius. Lelieveld et al./Climatic Change

The team used 26 different cutting-edge climate change simulations to make their predictions, which considered two scenarios: The first assumes that greenhouse gas emissions fall from 2040 onwards, which generally agrees with the Paris agreement’s objectives; the second assumes that nothing is done at all, and the world will warm on average by 4°C (7.2°F) as a result.

It is a sobering thought that, no matter what anyone does, some parts of the world – the low-lying islands and the dry, sun-scorched areas near the equator, for example – are inexorably doomed, at least to an extent.

As this study points out, the deserts will become incredibly hostile to life. They do not buffer heat well, and they are unable to cool efficiently through water evaporation. More than almost anywhere else in the world, the greenhouse effect will be amplified there to a vastly disproportionate degree.


Most people look on at the refugee crisis happening across Europe and despair and argue over the resilience of its myriad possible causes – war, revolution, sectarian violence, economic collapse, and so on. In the near future, another type of refugee will become commonplace: climate refugees. And this time around, the driving cause is certainly not up for debate.


  • tag
  • climate change,

  • heating,

  • Middle East,

  • deserts,

  • North Africa,

  • paris agreement,

  • summers