Climate change has exacerbated drought in the Fertile Crescent

Climate change has exacerbated drought in the Fertile Crescent

ClimateWire | The Middle East’s Fertile Crescent is experiencing one of the most severe droughts in its history – and climate change is making the situation worse.

Rising temperatures, caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, are the main driver of ongoing drought in parts of Syria, Iraq and Iran, according to a new analysis by the scientific consortium World Weather Attribution, which looks into the links between extreme weather events and climate. It changes.

The researchers found that the heat made droughts in Syria and Iraq 25 times more likely than they would have been in a world without global warming, and about 16 times more likely in Iran.

The current drought is classified as “severe”, according to the scales used by the US Drought Monitor. But in a cooler world, with no man-made climate change, drought would never have crossed the drought threshold, the analysis concludes.

The region – the cradle of irrigation and agriculture for thousands of years – is now preparing for historic water shortages and agricultural failures. Such events will worsen as temperatures continue to rise.

The consortium’s analysis concludes that severe droughts can be expected once a decade in Syria and Iraq and twice a decade in Iran in the current climate, where global temperatures have already risen by more than 1 degree Celsius over the past 150 years. If global warming reaches 2 degrees Celsius, the frequency is likely to double.

The study relies on a combination of historical climate data and climate models, which simulate the world with and without the impact of climate change. Such simulations can tell scientists how much global warming will affect any given extreme weather event.

The analysis looked at the last three years of drought, examining affected areas in Iran and in the Tigris and Euphrates river system, including Iraq and Syria. The researchers investigated rainfall and temperature patterns to determine if climate change played a role.

While they did not find a clear signal of global warming in the region’s rainfall patterns, they did find a strong effect on rising temperatures in the region. Higher temperatures can cause more water to evaporate from the landscape, making drought more likely and more severe.

The multi-year drought has affected some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

After more than a decade of conflict in Syria, more than 12 million people – half the country’s population – currently face hunger, while nearly 3 million others are at risk of food insecurity, according to estimates by the United Nations World Food Programme. Drought has driven up food, water and energy prices, and a cholera outbreak has made the need for clean, reliable water supplies even more urgent.

After decades of conflict, the United Nations estimates that more than one million Iraqis remain internally displaced today, and that up to 3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Environmental crises have exacerbated the problem in recent years.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that more than 55,000 people in central and southern Iraq were displaced due to climate change and environmental degradation between 2016 and 2022 alone.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environmental professionals.

(tags for translation) Anthropocene

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