The World Today for August 06, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA

It’s Getting Hot in Here

As Americans and Turks worry about hazy skies from fires in the western US, Turkey and southern Europe, and deadly floods strike northern Europe and China, the Middle East is facing one of its hottest summers ever.

Temperatures in the town of Sweihan in the United Arab Emirates, for example, rose above 125 degrees Fahrenheit in early June, a record in the Persian Gulf country, according to NASA.

In the suburbs of Algiers, the capital of Algeria, shortages are forcing citizens to live without water service, prompting demonstrations. Similar protests have erupted in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen in recent weeks. Civil unrest in Iran has resulted in casualties. But activists are undaunted. Without water, there literally is no life.

“If the water stops flowing, so will everything else,” an Algerian journalist told the Economist.

In Lebanon, a power shortage is occurring at the same time water supplies have dried up, harbingering the potential total collapse of the Lebanese state, the Times of Israel wrote. Power shutoffs can last for 22 hours.

Experts were worried that pilgrims who journeyed to Mecca to perform the Hajj would suffer health problems, as Yale Climate Connections explained. Luckily, the heatwaves eased, Bloomberg reported. Coronavirus fears also led Saudi officials to reduce the number of pilgrims who could travel to the holy city to 60,000 from the normal two million or more.

The sense that the heat is likely to grow worse is driving speculation about the geopolitical consequences of climate change.

Water stress could cause more tensions in the region, the New Arab argued. Low precipitation, fast urbanization, rapid desertification and frequent droughts are already endemic to the Middle East. Meanwhile, the World Bank predicts that water scarcity will reduce global gross domestic product by six percent. The region can expect to see the worst of that decline. Mass migration, higher food prices and local unrest, wars over resources and other destructive trends are possible.

The challenge is also a chance for new alliances to form. Israel and the United Arab Emirates have been cooperating on water and sustainability since they normalized diplomatic relations last year, Foreign Policy magazine explained.

The irony, of course, is that the Middle East is suffering from climate change while also producing a large proportion of the carbon that produces greenhouse gases that cause the phenomenon. As the Brookings Institution wrote, however, Middle Eastern leaders have not “decoupled” their country’s income growth from carbon exports.

Scientists, meanwhile, are seeing more and more evidence for the need to take radical action to reduce emissions.

Anyone who doubts that need can visit the Arabian Desert to see for themselves.

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