Global Warming

Climate Change to Affect the Gulf Making Life “Impossible”

It has been suggested that the environment in and around the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea will soon “exceed a threshold for human adaptability.”

Life in the Arab Gulf region, Yemen, parts of Iraq and great swaths of Iran, in other words, will no longer be possible. This ominous scenario, posited in one of 6,000 papers referenced in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warrants only a single line and is easily missed.

The Middle East is already more vulnerable to climate change than most regions because of limited water supplies and long summers that are already very hot. Rising temperatures will only reduce the availability of water, stoking tensions already straining relations between neighboring states.

The Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which once watered the flowering of civilization in ancient Mesopotamia, rise in the Armenian Highlands. Facing the rising threat of desertification, Turkey is increasingly diverting water from these rivers for its own agricultural needs and depriving its southern neighbor, Iraq, of supplies. Downstream in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, lack of fresh water has already led to a public health crisis and violent protests this year, raising the specter of a future blighted by water wars.

The body adapts to increases in environmental temperature through perspiration and subsequent evaporative cooling. As anyone who has waited in vain for a taxi in Abu Dhabi knows, extreme heat plus the proximity of a large body of water – such as the Gulf – equals high humidity, which prevents the body from regulating its internal temperature through evaporation. This is “wet bulb temperature,” or “TW” – a combination of temperature and humidity, or “mugginess.”

In the current summer climate experienced around the Gulf, when the actual temperature is at about 40 degrees, the wet bulb temperature is between 28 and an extremely uncomfortable 30 degrees. It has rarely exceeded 31

In the current summer climate experienced around the Gulf, when the actual temperature is at about 40 degrees, the wet bulb temperature is between 28 and an extremely uncomfortable 30 degrees. It has rarely exceeded 31.

The MIT scientists estimate that the maximum wet bulb temperature, or TWmax, at which even the fittest human being could not survive outdoors for more than six hours before suffering hyperthermia, or fatal overheating, is 35 degrees. If climate change is not checked, say the researchers, between 2071 and 2100 most of the territory bordering the Gulf, Red Sea and Arabian Sea will experience wet-bulb temperatures permanently between 31 and 35 degrees.

By the end of the century, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Dhahran and Bandar Abbas will regularly exceed 35 degrees, at which point life in the region will, to all practical intents and purposes, be over.

Yes, air-conditioning – if it can still be afforded and, indeed, be politically justified in the face of impending global climate-change catastrophe – might be able to cope indoors and in cars. But no one would be able to work or even survive outside, which would mean an end to construction and the vital businesses of tourism, ports and airports, while the rate of deaths from heat-related illnesses among the young and the elderly would become intolerable.

Climate change is altering the Bavarian Alps

It’s unseasonably warm on Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. Thirty years ago, September would have brought freezing temperatures and the first snow flurries. Today, tourists explore the bare, snowless, moon-like rockscape in T-shirts and shorts.

The glaciers have all but disappeared too. The Northern Schneeferner has shrunk to a mere 25 percent of its 1950 volume. On the Southern Schneeferner, it’s even worse as only 6 percent is left.

As temperatures increase, the permafrost — a layer of sediment, rock or soil that remains frozen for more than two consecutive years and that stabilizes the mountain rock — is retreating too. That and increased rainfall, have caused the rocks to lose their stability, leading to more than a thousand rockfalls in the Alps in the past year.

A number of Alpine huts have already begun to subside as the ground beneath them shifts, he said. Anchors for cable cars and other infrastructure will also need to be stabilized. Some traditional climbing routes have been closed for safety reasons too.

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