NASA : Earth is warming at a pace ‘unprecedented in 1,000 years’ alarming title of The Guardian of August 30th, 2016. The Cipher’s Katlin Lavinder wrote the following article that is quite self explanatory.
August 31, 2016
This July was the hottest month on record, that is, since the late 1800s (when records keeping began), according to NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA), and Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). It is likely 2016 will be the hottest year on record. [ms-protect-content]
The heat is being felt intensely across the Middle East, where unbearable temperatures are causing crop failures, disrupting economies, and displacing populations. A heat wave continues to boil in Iraq. “Parts of Iraq and Kuwait measured 129 degrees Fahrenheit in July, potentially the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the Eastern Hemisphere,” note Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, Co-Founders and Presidents of the Center for Climate and Security. Last month, these high temperatures caused the Iraqi government to shut down many buildings.
The heat index – which combines temperature and humidity – recently hit 140 degrees in Iran and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Israel have also been plagued by severe heat this summer.
High temperatures are not new to this region. What is new is an increase in the global baseline temperature and the length of extremely hot weather. “Since around October last year, we’ve been breaking records – month in and month out,” explains Gavin Schmidt. Schmidt, who is Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (the unit responsible for temperature measures) tells The Cipher Brief this is because “the underlying trends – the baseline – have shifted slightly up so we’re seeing warm fluctuations on top of an ever-rising trend.”
In addition, heat waves are getting longer. NASA found that July was the tenth month in a row to set a heat record for that month, compared to previous monthly temperature recordings.
“From one El Niño to the next, it’s warming; from one La Niña to the next, it’s warming; from one neutral year to the next, it’s warming,” says Schmidt. This is linked to an increase in greenhouse gases, driven largely by a rise in carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels and clearing out forests.
Heat is just one aspect of the long-term climate change trend that can lead to or exacerbate national security issues. “Coupled with precipitation decline, increasingly severe droughts, and rising sea levels, the heat waves and the actual climate of the [MENA] region cannot be separated from its political climate,” comment Werrell and Femia. They add, “If these problems aren’t addressed as a systemic whole, the region will likely not recover.”
At an event in Washington on the effects of climate change in Syria, Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute, noted that the World Economic Forum puts climate change and water at the top of its risk and impact index, alongside financial crises and unemployment/underemployment.
Mass global migration, as a result of food, water, and habitability insecurity due to climate change, is a top concern. Johannes Lelieveld, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, says, “Climate change will significantly worsen the living conditions in the Middle East and in North Africa. Prolonged heat waves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate.” More than 500 million people live in the MENA region.
Evidence points to climate change as a factor in the civil war in Syria – the country responsible for the greatest refugee crisis since WWII. Werrell and Femia explain that climate change has led to declining winter precipitation in the Middle East since 1971, with Syria extremely hard hit. A horrible drought in the country from 2007 to 2010, right before the civil war broke out, was two to three times more likely because of climate change, they say. This all contributed to a mass internal displacement of at least 1.5 million farmers and herders, just as political unrest was taking hold – which led to the civil war and today’s refugee crisis.
“What happens in MENA does not stay in MENA, as demonstrated by millions of refugees fleeing to Europe and other safer shores,” say Werrell and Femia.
Europe is certainly feeling more pressure from Syria than the U.S. Still, the refugee issue in Europe is touching America – with a rise in anti-immigrant political parties on the continent that fuel the rhetoric of some of America’s own political candidates. And the U.S. is taking in some of its own Syrian refugees as well.
Climate change – that is, increasingly hot summers (especially in the Middle East), less precipitation in some areas leading to drought, and rising sea levels (hitting coastal cities hard) – creates food and water insecurity, inhabitable conditions, and, thus, contributes to mass global migration. This can lead to conflict between peoples, political parties, and nations and exacerbate simmering tensions, like in Syria.
Kaitlin Lavinder is a reporter at The Cipher Brief.