Apocalypse Soon as Climate Change Hits the Middle East
The heat dome with perceived temperature of 158 degrees wilted the region – and much worse is in store for 5 million Israelis and the rest of the Levant.
The Middle East is a hot place even in normal times. But last week a “heat dome” hovering over the region sent temperatures to insufferable levels.
The nasty combination of high temperatures with extraordinarily high humidity lifted the “heat index” – which factors in both parameters to measure the perception of heat –to more than 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr, the second-highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.
It was hot enough to prompt some Bible-believing Christians to wonder the end of times is arriving. “The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. Men were scorched with fierce heat,” says the Book of Revelation, which pretty well described the situation in the region, even if you are skeptical that blasphemy was the cause.
An apocalypse, of sorts, may indeed be on the way. No scientist would say that a particular extreme weather event, like last week’s heat dome, is definitively tied to global warming, though they probably are. But global temperatures are rising, whether you blame them on human activity or a natural climatic process, and the world will be visited by more heat waves, flooding and hurricanes.
|Passers-by help a hippopotamus escape from a flooded zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, June 14, 2015.AP
From an environmental perspective, the Middle East is not only particularly vulnerable to climate change but is politically and economically less able to cope with the shock than much of the rest of the planet.
Intensely arid already, the region can hardly afford to lose what little rainfall it gets now, yet that seems very likely. And if one threat is coming from the lack of water coming down, another comes from too much of it rising up: Rising sea levels threaten heavily populated coastal areas, in particular Egypt’s Nile Delta. Some estimate that 30% of the area could be submerged in another 15 years, and that’s before the latest models warning that the polar ice melt is accelerating fast.
A half-meter rise in the level of the Mediterranean would threaten Egypt’s No. 2 city, Alexandria, which has 1.5 million people and 40% of the country’s industry.
Five million Israelis at risk
Israel isn’t safe either. A 2013 Environmental Affairs Ministry report, based on a United Nations report from that same year, warned that five million Israelis are at risk from rising sea levels, which would waterlog Tel Aviv and much of lower Haifa.
As the sea levels rise, the Mediterranean is expected to reach the inland street of Ibn Gvirol, Tel Aviv. Which doesn’t even have a sea view today. Ofer Vaknin
The Middle East is also the world’s biggest food importer on a per capita basis. Its countries buy as much as 50% of their food requirements from abroad. That makes them vulnerable not just to the local effects of climate change on farming but to the impact of climate change in far-off countries that feed the Middle East.
Ruled mostly by dysfunctional governments that struggle to meet the ordinary needs of their people by providing enough jobs and reasonable standards of health and education, the Middle East is in no position to undertake the long-term planning and complicated policies needed to cope with a changing world climate — all the more so because of the insidious nature of climate change.
Creeping process of heat waves and droughts
It’s easy to imagine the sudden emergence of a Mad Max world where environmental disaster has plunged humanity into war, famine and financial chaos. More likely, we’ll experience climate change as a creeping process with heat waves and droughts that disrupt normal life for short periods, or whose economic and political impact is so gradual that it’s difficult to make a direct connection to the weather.
We may have already had a taste of what is in store for Israel and its neighbors with the Arab Spring.
The usual explanation for what drove Arabs across the Middle East into the streets in the early months of 2011 was the region’s oppressive regimes and economies that couldn’t generate jobs and rising standards of living. All that is probably true. But historians are still debating what sparked the French Revolution more than two centuries ago; it’s safe to assume it will be a long time before they have a definitive word about the Arab Spring, which is still alive and kicking.
Yet it seems more than a coincidence that the rebellions that swept the Arab world came at a time of high food prices and economic dislocations in Syria – both of which can be traced back to the climate.
The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization’s World Food Price Index skyrocketed in 2010-11. Wheat traded in February 2011 –the same time Cairo’s Tahrir Square was surging with protesters – to $8.50-9.00 a bushel, more than double the price 18 months earlier. . In Egypt, local food prices rose 37% in 2008-10.
The reason was a perfect storm of bad weather of the kind global warming experts warn is going to become more frequent. Canada and Australia were drenched by record rainfalls that destroyed their wheat crops while drought in Russia and neighboring countries cut their harvests by more than a third
World problems are a clear sign of the nearness of Chirst’s return to this Earth to Establish God’s Kingdom as Promised as we read in Luke 21:25-28
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh