Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East areas (EMME) may become climate change hotspots, with the region warming up almost twice as fast compared to the global average, according to a study published in the journal Reviews of Geophysics.
If all stays the same, projections indicate overall warming of up to 5°C, possibly higher in the summer due to unprecedented heatwaves that can be incredibly disruptive. In addition, this area may experience low rainfall, compromising water and food security. The authors suggested that this will have an impact on all economic sectors, with devastating effects on the health and livelihood of 400 million people living in this area.
The report — which was prepared in preparation for COP27 to take place in Egypt in November 2022 — includes a detailed assessment of recent climate change analyses and covers a wide range of possible future pathways. It identifies this region as a climate change hotspot, partly due to the fact that it’s rapidly overtaking Europe as a source of greenhouse gases and becoming a major emitter in the world.
The team also points out that these extreme weather conditions will have a very disruptive impact on society. With heatwaves lasting longer than usual, it will most likely increase the risk of droughts and dust storms, as well as torrential rains and flash floods.
“Business-as-usual pathways for the future imply a northward expansion of arid climate zones at the expense of the more temperate regions,” explains Dr. George Zittis of the Cyprus Institute, first author of the study. In addition, although the sea level in this area is expected to rise at a pace similar to global estimates, the authors warn that many countries are not prepared for the advancing seas. “This would imply severe challenges for coastal infrastructure and agriculture and can lead to the salinization of coastal aquifers, including the densely populated and cultivated Nile Delta,” warns Zittis.
“People living in the EMME will face major health challenges and risks of livelihood, especially underprivileged communities, the elderly, children, and pregnant women,” said Jos Lelieveld, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Institute Professor at the Cyprus Institute and coordinator of the assessment. “Since many of the regional outcomes of climate change are transboundary, stronger collaboration among the countries is indispensable to cope with the expected adverse impacts. The need to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement has become more important than ever”.
The study points out that meeting the Paris Agreement targets may limit the temperature increase to about 2°C by the end of the century, rather than the projected 5°C if no measures are implemented. The authors emphasise the need for a rapid implementation of decarbonization measures focussing on the energy and transportation sectors, which dominate greenhouse gas emissions in the EMME. In addition, local populations need to be able to cope with limited water resources and frequent weather extremes.