NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) —
The eastern Mediterranean and Middle East are warming almost twice as fast as the global average, with temperatures expected to rise by up to 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century if no action is taken to reverse the trend, a new report says.
The region will face “unprecedented” heat waves, more severe and long-lasting droughts and dust storms and rainfall shortages that will “put at risk water and food security” for the region’s 400 million people, according to a summary of the report released on Tuesday.
The eastern Mediterranean and Middle East are more susceptible to warming trends because of their unique physical features, such as large stretches of desert and lower water levels, the study said.
The report was prepared by an international team of scientists under the supervision of the Center for Climate and Atmospheric Research of the Cyprus Institute and the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry. Originally published in June in the journal Reviews of Geophysics, it aims to highlight the impact of climate change on the region ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Egypt in November.
Arid climate zones will expand northward and snow-capped mountains in more northern climates will shrink during this century, said Dr. George Zittis, who drafted the report. Although sea levels in the region are projected to rise at a rate similar to other global estimates, many Mediterranean countries are unprepared to deal with it, he said.
“This would entail serious challenges for coastal infrastructure and agriculture and may lead to salinization of coastal aquifers,” Zittis warned. Saltier waters from rising sea levels and low rainfall can seriously damage crops and fisheries.
The region’s most vulnerable groups, including the elderly, children and pregnant women, will face major health challenges, said Max Planck Institute director Jos Lelieveld, who participated in the study. Many European nations already have initiatives to help vulnerable people in extreme weather.
The region is fast overtaking the European Union as a source of greenhouse gases and becoming a major source of emissions on a global scale, the paper suggests. China, the US, India and the EU are currently the world’s biggest polluters. Several Mediterranean countries are also part of the European bloc.
If the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is met, it would limit the region’s temperature rise to about 2 degrees Celsius, the study said. The report urged the region to rapidly reduce its dependence on greenhouse gas emissions, especially in the energy and transport sectors.
The study’s predictions for the region are in line with other scientific studies, including a major report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this year. The UN climate report has labeled the Mediterranean a climate change “hotspot” that is vulnerable to drought, coastal erosion and heat waves.
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