Venture Explains: The Middle East’s Climate Change Catastrophe

What is it? Recent high-profile talks in Paris again highlighted what a big challenge climate change represents to the planet’s future. But some scientists are now predicting it could make parts of our region too hot for habitation in the not too distant future.

How bad could it get? The countries of the Gulf seem to have most to fear. “The combination of high temperatures and humidity could, within just a century, result in extreme conditions around the Persian Gulf that are intolerable to humans, if climate change continues unabated,” wrote Christopher Schär of the Zurich-based Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in a recent study. Other scientists warn temperatures could rise to record levels above 60 degrees centigrade in places like Kuwait City and Doha.

Can’t we just adapt? Sure, these scientists say, residents of wealthier parts of the region can just decide to stay indoors and blast the AC (see plans to enclose a big chunk of Dubai under a gigantic climate-controlled dome). But this option isn’t available to people living in poorer countries like Yemen. “Under such conditions, climate change would possibly lead to premature death of the weakest—namely children and elderly,” wrote Jeremy S. Pal of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Elfaith A. B. Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a report published last year.