Climate Change Is Making the Middle East Uninhabitable!

Over the last decade, war in the Middle East has led to social unrest, ineffective governments, and dilapidated energy infrastructure. The devastation is worsening significantly with basic amenities including water and electricity becoming scarce, making it more difficult for citizens of these nations to survive the extreme heat caused in part by changing temperatures.


In these last few months alone, Middle Eastern countries such as Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq have all recorded temperatures higher than 50 degrees Celsius.ᶦ Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry have predicted that ‘The Middle East is warming at twice the global average and by 2050 will be 4 degrees Celsius warmer as compared with the 1.5 degree mark that scientists have prescribed to save humanity.’ᶦᶦ


This is not shocking news for people in the Middle East. Many would remember Lake Urmia in Iran which at one point was the largest lake in the Middle East and sixth largest saltwater lake on Earth, yet over the last three decades has ‘shrunk to a fraction of its former size, with reports of it holding just 500 million cubic metres of water, compared to 30 billion cubic metres when it had been full’.ᶦᶦᶦ A study by the Iranian Energy Ministry found the demise of the lake was more than 30% attributable to climate change.ᶦᵛ Although, efforts to revive this lake are increasing, Charles Iceland, the Global Director of Water at the World Resources Institute has warned that in the Middle East ‘both declining rainfall and increasing demand in these countries are causing many rivers, lakes, and wetlands to dry up’.ᵛ Thus, unless urgent action is taken, the demise of Lake Urmia will be one of many lakes in the Middle East to slowly disappear as water becomes scarcer and surrounding areas become increasingly uninhabitable.


The effect of water shortages has increased social unrest with protests erupting in Iran where people called for the death of the Supreme leader.ᵛᶦ In Iraq, people ‘blocked roads, burned tires, and in anger surrounded power plants that had to be secured by armed forces,’ᵛᶦᶦ the resulting violence led to at least three deaths. Even the wealthy elites in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon are seeing air conditioning as a privilege which in the latter country stopped working altogether due to power outages this summer.


Currently, it is the poorer of the oil-rich countries which are facing the full effects of climate change, the richer have already started facing higher temperatures and so it’s only a matter of time before water, food and electricity shortages becomes a serious problem in these areas too.

ᶦ A Vohra ‘The Middle East Is Becoming Literally Uninhabitable.’ (August 24th 2021) <https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/08/24/the-middle-east-is-becoming-literally-uninhabitable/> Accessed on 05/10/21

ᶦᶦ J Lelieveld, ‘Environment and Climate, Extreme Heat’ < https://www.mpg.de/10856695/W004_Environment_climate_062-069.pdf> Accessed on 05/10/21

ᶦᶦᶦ D Dudley ‘Iran’s Lake Urmia: How A Dying Salt Lake Is Being Brought Back From The Brink.’ (May 14th 2021) < https://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2020/05/14/irans-lake-urmia-how-a-dying-salt-lake-is-being-brought-back-from-the-brink/?sh=2a1ab52d165d> Accessed on 05/10/21

ᶦᵛ F Pleitgen, C Otto, A Dewan and M Tawfeeq, ‘The Middle East is running out of water, and parts of it are becoming uninhabitable.’ (August 22nd 2021) < https://edition.cnn.com/2021/08/22/middleeast/middle-east-climate-water-shortage-iran-urmia-intl/index.html> Accessed on 05/10/21

ᵛ C Iceland ‘‘The Middle East is running out of water, and parts of it are becoming uninhabitable.’ (August 22nd 2021) < https://edition.cnn.com/2021/08/22/middleeast/middle-east-climate-water-shortage-iran-urmia-intl/index.html> Accessed on 05/10/21

ᵛᶦ A Vohra ‘The Middle East Is Becoming Literally Uninhabitable.’ (August 24th 2021) <https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/08/24/the-middle-east-is-becoming-literally-uninhabitable/> Accessed on 05/10/21

ᵛᶦᶦ A Vohra ‘The Middle East Is Becoming Literally Uninhabitable.’ (August 24th 2021) <https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/08/24/the-middle-east-is-becoming-literally-uninhabitable/> Accessed on 05/10/21

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