The number of climate refugees could increase dramatically in future. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia have calculated that the Middle East and North Africa could become so hot that human habitability is compromised. The goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius, agreed at the recent UN climate summit in Paris, will not be sufficient to prevent this scenario. The temperature during summer in the already very hot Middle East and North Africa will increase more than two times faster compared to the average global warming. This means that during hot days temperatures south of the Mediterranean will reach around 46 degrees Celsius (approximately 114 degrees Fahrenheit) by mid-century. Such extremely hot days will occur five times more often than was the case at the turn of the millennium. In combination with increasing air pollution by windblown desert dust, the environmental conditions could become intolerable and may force people to migrate.
More than 500 million people live in the Middle East and North Africa - a region which is very hot in summer and where climate change is already evident. The number of extremely hot days has doubled since 1970. "In future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy," says Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and Professor at the Cyprus Institute.
Lelieveld and his colleagues have investigated how temperatures will develop in the Middle East and North Africa over the course of the 21st century. The result is deeply alarming: Even if Earth's temperature were to increase on average only by two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times, the temperature in summer in these regions will increase more than twofold. By mid-century, during the warmest periods, temperatures will not fall below 30 degrees at night, and during daytime they could rise to 46 degrees Celsius (approximately 114 degrees Fahrenheit). By the end of the century, midday temperatures on hot days could even climb to 50 degrees Celsius (approximately 122 degrees Fahrenheit). Another finding: Heat waves could occur ten times more often than they do now.