Australia, the Middle East and Climate Change

By Hugh Naylor

This isn’t much of a post. It’s more quick-hit musings on a topic that scares me, that scares lots of people, that should scare everyone.

Those apocalyptic fires in Australia make me think of … the Middle East. This part of world isn’t known for lush forests, so fires, apart from little Lebanon, haven’t been much of a thing. Which alarms me even more, because the effects of global warming have nevertheless started taking a particularly pronounced toll on the region.

I can’t help think that the recent surge of protests in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon has something to do with climate change. Yes, on the face of it, we see protesters angered by the gangsters and kleptocrats who’ve not done such a great job at governance. Underneath this, though, has been a steady accumulation of stories over the years about drying reservoirs, worsening power blackouts and scorching heat waves, along with simmering frustrations over an inability of local officials to address these issues. (Oh, and don’t forget the mounting demands from rapidly growing populations.)  

I don’t think these protests, sadly, will deliver the hoped-for – and deserved – governance that these noble demonstrators demand. I think we’ll see more of these protests, yes, but they’ll eventually hatch … ugh … I don’t even want say it because it’s so depressing.

The story that alarmed me most during my ten years in the Middle East wasn’t about the civil wars and failed revolutions. It was an article I wrote from Iraq in 2016 about record temperatures and how the country effectively shut down as a result. Iraq is hot, yes. But this was next-level hot. Even ISIS fighters found it too hot to do their thing and continue mass murdering. We’re talking the hottest recorded temperatures – ever – in the Eastern Hemisphere.

I remember interviewing a UNDP official about the heat wave, and he ever so casually threw out the term “civilizational collapse.” It was so shocking when I heard it that I didn’t include it in my article. I feared coming across as sensational, but looking back, I should have put it in there.

We’re all gonna be royally screwed by our warming climate, some regions more than others. I came away from that visit to Iraq feeling sick to my stomach, with images in my mind’s eye of collapsing Middle Eastern cities and abandoned villages, Europe-bound refugee boats numbering in the thousands, famine and, yes, more war.

Damn, I sound pessimistic. But it was just so hot. And it wasn’t just the heat. Down south, in the city of Basra, humidity was so intense that you essentially couldn’t sweat away the sizzling temperatures. So, if you didn’t have air conditioning, you boiled on the inside.

Anyway, here are a few articles from that trip to Iraq. They might be of interest as you read about Australia and what will certainly be more horrific evidence of the depressing future that awaits us:

  1. An epic Middle East heat wave could be global warming’s hellish curtain-raiser
  2. In the broiling heat, boys in Baghdad rush to the Tigris for relief
  3. Iraq is boiling in unprecedented heat. Here’s how locals are trying to cope.
  4. Snapchat Story: Scenes from Baghdad’s sweltering heat wave

Bummer.

Thanks, Hugh

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