The Persian Gulf could soon become too hot for human survival because of climate change, a study released Monday shows. Extreme heat waves more intense than anything experienced so far on Earth will hit Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Doha, Qatar, and coastal cities in Iran starting in 2070 if climate trends continue, the study found.
“Our results expose a specific regional hot spot where climate change, in the absence of significant [carbon cuts], is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future,” said Jeremy Pal and Elfatih Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writing in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The Middle East is already grappling with extreme weather conditions. A heat wave across the gulf this summer saw temperatures climb to 122 degrees. But the study concluded that lowering greenhouse gas emissions now could eventually avoid the too-hot-for-humans climate.
“We would hope that information like this would be helpful in making sure there is interest [in cutting carbon emissions] for the countries in the region," Elfatih said of Middle East leaders. "They have a vital interest in supporting measures that would help reduce the concentration of CO2 in the future.”
The scientists used standard climate computer models to come up with the extreme future weather conditions. They predicted summer temperatures of 140 degrees in Kuwait City. Events such as the hajj, the annual pilgrimage that draws millions of Muslims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, could “become hazardous to human health," especially for elderly travelers, the study said.
“Under such conditions, climate change would possibly lead to premature death of the weakest -- namely children and the elderly,” the researchers concluded.
Wealthy nations would likely react to such conditions by increasing air conditioning usage, but less affluent nations such as Yemen would suffer.
“The new study thus shows that the threats to human health [from climate change] may be more severe than previously thought, and may occur in the current century,” Christoph Schär of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich writes in a commentary accompanying the study.