Climate Change to Bring More Heat Waves and Water Shortages in the Middle East and North Africa

November 24, 2014

WASHINGTON, November 23, 2014— In a world where global average warming reaches 4°C above pre-industrial level, summer temperatures are expected to be up to 8°C warmer in parts of Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq by the end of the century. Climate change will place already scarce water resources under intense pressure in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with major consequences for human life and regional food security. In countries—such as Jordan, Egypt and Libya—crop yields could drop by up to 30 percent by 2050 if temperatures rise by 1.5 to 2°C.  All capital cities in the region could face many more exceptionally hot days each year. Compared to the rest of the world, the MENA region will disproportionally suffer from heat extremes.

Dramatic changes are affecting people around the world already, damaging crops and coastlines, and putting water security at risk, according to a new World Bank report, Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal. However, the worst changes could be avoided by holding warming below 2°C, the report says.  

Today’s report confirms what scientists have been saying—past emissions have set the world on an unavoidable course to warming over the next two decades that will affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people the most, said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “We’re already seeing record-breaking temperatures occurring more frequently, rainfall increasing in intensity in some places, and drought-prone regions like the Mediterranean becoming drier.”

“These changes make it more difficult to reduce poverty and put in jeopardy the livelihoods of millions of people,” Kim said. “They also have serious consequences for development budgets, and for institutions like the World Bank Group, where our investments, support and advice must now also build resilience and help affected populations adapt.

The report, prepared for the World Bank Group by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, shows how rising temperatures are threatening the health and livelihoods of populations, crucially magnifying the problems each region of the world is already struggling with today. 

Decreasing crop yields are a threat common to the three regions of the world the report looks at—the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and parts of Europe and Central Asia. Climate-related pressure on natural resources and subsequent migration might increase the risk of conflict. Rising sea-levels—another projected effect of global warming as polar ice caps melt—could cause billions of US dollars-worth of damage to cities like Alexandria, Benghazi and Algiers, and to Egypt’s Nile river basin.

Declines in agricultural productivity will have strong repercussions for economic growth and social stability. The World Bank Group believes that economic development and climate protection can be complementary. Technological and behavioral changes are urgently needed to mitigate the harmful effects of global warming and reverse present trends. 

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