climate change

The Gulf will soon be too hot for human beings – literally

Study predicts massive heatwaves by 2070 and uninhabitable temperatures by 2100.

The Arabian Gulf has always been a mixed bag for immigrants. Its wealth and riches hold great promise for those who would like to earn money tax-free, yet the treatment meted out to non-Arabs, especially those from the subcontinent whether middle-class or labourers, has always been problematic. And now there's going to be another reason to stay away, even for the locals.

It's no secret that the Gulf is hot: temperatures regularly hit 50°C and summer lasts just about half of the year. But at the moment this is still habitable weather. That's not to say the heat hasn't been a killer. Every year, a few immigrants end up dead because they have been forced to work in the heat outdoors even in the summer months. But if outdoor workers avoid the afternoon hours, they are able to manage.

Too hot to be habitable

That won't last forever. A study by Jeremy S Pal and Elfatih AB Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that human beings will not be able to survive there just 65 years from now. "Our results expose a specific regional hot spot where climate change, in the absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future," the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said.

The research was based on computer modelling, which looked at how the climate of the region would change based on current global warming trends. The Gulf, in particular, fits into a uniquely vicious cycle because of its current climate. It's too hot for most people to inhabit comfortably even now, prompting most residents to use air conditioners, which in turn continue to do damage to the environment. The wealth of the region also leads to a more callous approach to nature, meaning in a place where very little fresh water is available, the countries tend to rely on desalination, leaving behind a huge carbon footprint.

Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia all come in the top 10 of per capita carbon emitters, with Qatar's emissions, as an example, being double those of the United States. And while all the countries are making some efforts to be more environmentally friendly, the supply of easy cash means the imperative simply isn't there for these countries.

And this means the climate in the region is set to get even worse, not long from now. By 2070, within the lifetimes of many who currently live in the region (including seven million Indian citizens), extreme heatwaves will begin kicking in. After that, days that are currently considered the hottest of the summer will start becoming a daily feature.

At this point, it would be so hot outside that even the fittest humans would not be able to cool itself by sweating. The less fit, including the youngest and the oldest, will be even more likely to succumb to the heat. The study is based on wet bulb temperature, the best measure to estimate whether the human body can shed off the heat, by sweating or even moving into the shade. According to the study's models, after 2100 cities in this region will regularly breach the threshold, meaning it will be so hot that the body will stop trying to cool off and instead start heating further, leading to hyperthermia and potential death.

This foresees a  a situation where the average temperature will be so high that going out in afternoon hours might be altogether impossible, which is not to say that outdoor work  – done primarily by immigrants from the subcontinent – will be comfortable to do even in the evenings or overnight.

This also means that the holy Hajj pilgrimage for Muslims, which involves making their way down to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and worshiping outdoors from sunrise to sunset might become physically impossible. Air conditioning will help for those who can afford it, but even that is clearly not a sustainable long-term solution.

“We would hope that information like this would be helpful in making sure there is interest [in cutting carbon emissions] for the countries in the region," Eltahir said. "They have a vital interest in supporting measures that would help reduce the concentration of CO2 in the future."

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Tracing the formation of Al Qaeda and its path to 9/11

A new show looks at some of the crucial moments leading up to the attack.

“The end of the world war had bought America victory but not security” - this quote from Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book, ‘The Looming Tower’, gives a sense of the growing threat to America from Al Qaeda and the series of events that led to 9/11. Based on extensive interviews, including with Bin Laden’s best friend in college and the former White House counterterrorism chief, ‘The Looming Tower’ provides an intimate perspective of the 9/11 attack.

Lawrence Wright chronicles the formative years of Al Qaeda, giving an insight in to Bin Laden’s war against America. The book covers in detail, the radicalisation of Osama Bin Laden and his association with Ayman Al Zawahri, an Egyptian doctor who preached that only violence could change history. In an interview with Amazon, Wright shared, “I talked to 600-something people, but many of those people I talked to again and again for a period of five years, some of them dozens of times.” Wright’s book was selected by TIME as one of the all-time 100 best nonfiction books for its “thoroughly researched and incisively written” account of the road to 9/11 and is considered an essential read for understanding Islam’s war on the West as it developed in the Middle East.

‘The Looming Tower’ also dwells on the response of key US officials to the rising Al Qaeda threat, particularly exploring the turf wars between the FBI and the CIA. This has now been dramatized in a 10-part mini-series of the same name. Adapted by Dan Futterman (of Foxcatcher fame), the series mainly focuses on the hostilities between the FBI and the CIA. Some major characters are based on real people - such as John O’ Neill (FBI’s foul-mouthed counterterrorism chief played by Jeff Daniels) and Ali Soufan (O’ Neill’s Arabic-speaking mentee who successfully interrogated captured Islamic terrorists after 9/11, played by Tahar Rahim). Some are composite characters, such as Martin Schmidt (O’Neill’s CIA counterpart, played by Peter Sarsgaard).

The series, most crucially, captures just how close US intelligence agencies had come to foiling Al Qaeda’s plans, just to come up short due to internal turf wars. It follows the FBI and the CIA as they independently follow intelligence leads in the crises leading up to 9/11 – the US Embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on US warship USS Cole in Yemen – but fail to update each other. The most glaring example is of how the CIA withheld critical information – Al Qaeda operatives being hunted by the FBI had entered the United States - under the misguided notion that the CIA was the only government agency authorised to deal with terrorism threats.

The depth of information in the book has translated into a realistic recreation of the pre-9/11 years on screen. The drama is even interspersed with actual footage from the 9/11 conspiracy, attack and the 2004 Commission Hearing, linking together the myriad developments leading up to 9/11 with chilling hindsight. Watch the trailer of this gripping show below.

Play

The Looming Tower is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, along with a host of Amazon originals and popular movies and TV shows. To enjoy unlimited ad free streaming anytime, anywhere, subscribe to Amazon Prime Video.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon Prime Video and not by the Scroll editorial team.