How climate change will affect Middle East heatwaves and crops

Water insecurity will fuel hunger and disease, and force more people to leave their homes

An Iraqi Marsh Arab looks at what was the Chebayesh marsh in Dhi Qar province. Reuters
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Rainfall will decrease markedly in the Middle East by 2040, sparking worsening food security, Oxfam warned on Wednesday, as it published a report warning of the humanitarian cost of increased water scarcity.

The report, Water Dilemmas, describes how a water security crisis, in large part driven by global heating from greenhouse gas emissions, will fuel hunger and disease and force more people to leave their homes.

Heatwaves will lead to effects on human life

Heatwaves in the region will rise by 16 per cent, leading to a drop in labour productivity of 7 per cent, with water prices expected to rise sharply.

This is likely to have a range of significant effects on human life and well-being in these regions, including limiting people’s ability to work outdoors.

This will also have disproportionate effects on women, with higher heat stress on pregnant women and those working outdoors, such as in agricultural labour.

Rise in mosquito-borne diseases

It has been forecast that there will be 37 million more people in the Middle East at risk of mosquito-borne diseases by 2050.

Cases of leishmaniasis (transmitted by sandflies – also known as kala azar) and schistosomiasis (commonly known as bilharzia disease and caused by a parasitic worm living in fresh water) will also increase in the region.

Climate change will affect the future of crops

Maize yields are forecast to increase by 5.45 per cent in the Middle East.

These impacts will be felt globally but particularly hard in countries of sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere where maize is a staple.

Wells help Iraq harvest bumper wheat crop - in pictures

But overall, it is important to note that crop yields will be affected differently and some could even be boosted under this scenario in certain areas.

Wheat yields could rise in Middle East countries by 7.97 per cent.

As different crops become more or less favourable, this will necessitate significant change in local agricultural practices and methods, and in infrastructure and markets, so that food production can adapt to climate change.

Updated: August 23, 2023, 11:01 PM