A recent study has found that human-induced warming is responsible for severe droughts in Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
A study has determined that the severe droughts in Syria, Iraq, and Iran since 2020, which have greatly affected the population, are a direct result of human-induced global warming.
According to the analysis, the climate emergency has led to an increase in both the frequency and severity of droughts, making them more common than before. The Tigris-Euphrates region, which includes significant areas of Syria and Iraq, used to experience droughts of this magnitude approximately every 250 years. However, due to global warming, they are now predicted to occur once every ten years.
In the past, Iran experienced severe droughts once every 80 years, but in the present, they occur on average every five years due to increased temperatures. Continued global warming, caused by the consumption of fossil fuels, will result in even more frequent droughts.
The research also revealed that the ongoing effects of war and political instability had diminished individuals’ capacity to handle the drought, transforming it into a humanitarian crisis.
The scientists stressed the importance of preparing for increasingly frequent periods of drought in the years to come.
Prof. Mohammad Rahimi from Semnan University in Iran stated that our research has revealed that climate change caused by humans is currently making life significantly more challenging for tens of millions of individuals in western Asia. He further warned that if the warming continues, countries like Syria, Iraq, and Iran will become even more difficult places to live in.
Rana El Hajj, at the Red Cross Red Crescent climate centre, said: “While conflict itself increases vulnerability to drought by contributing to land degradation, weakened water management and deteriorating infrastructure, research also shows that climate change, in this region specifically, has acted as a threat multiplier [for conflict].”
According to Dr Friederike Otto of Imperial College London, UK, the severity of droughts will persist unless we cease burning fossil fuels. Failure to reach an agreement to phase out fossil fuels at the upcoming UN climate summit (Cop28) will have detrimental consequences for all. This includes increased water scarcity, displacement of farmers, and higher food costs for consumers.
In 2022, The Guardian reported that numerous scientific studies have confirmed the link between human activity and the increasing occurrence of destructive disasters worldwide due to global warming. Top climate experts cautioned in August that the unprecedented extreme weather events of 2023 were only a glimpse of the more severe consequences that lie ahead.
The World Weather Attribution group conducted a study comparing droughts in the region, using weather data and climate models. The results showed changes in drought patterns due to a 1.2C increase in temperatures caused by global heating.
The researchers discovered that the exceptionally high temperatures observed since 2020 would have been nearly impossible without the impact of climate change, greatly increasing the likelihood of a severe drought. The scorching heat caused more rapid evaporation of already limited rainfall, leading to the drought being labeled as “extreme” according to the US Drought Monitor scale. If not for the current climate situation, the past three years would not have met the criteria for a drought.
The consequences of the drought have been far-reaching, resulting in the displacement of millions from rural areas, significant increases in food costs, rampant wildfires and air pollution, and the drying up of rivers and lakes used for fishing.
In Syria, two million individuals from rural areas have been forced to leave their homes, while a significant portion of the population, 12 million people or 60%, are facing challenges with accessing enough food. The drought in Iran has greatly impacted nearly all provinces, leading to a rise in food costs due to low crop yields.
According to Otto, the risk of drought is rapidly growing in a world that is getting warmer. This is causing harm to people’s livelihoods and creating problems for global food systems.
“While countries made extremely wealthy by fossil fuels can pay for adaptive measures to enjoy a comfortable standard of living in a hotter, harsher world, poorer countries reeling in the aftermath of war, cannot,. This is also true for poorer people in rich societies, highlighting again how the continued burning of fossil fuels increases inequality.”