Limiting warming to 2C can prevent 80% heat-related deaths in Middle East and North Africa

If the world continues pumping out high levels of carbon emissions - deaths in the region could be 60 times higher than currently due to extreme heat

Stuti Mishra
Tuesday 04 April 2023 16:47 BST
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Limiting average global warming to two degrees Celsius (C) can prevent over 80 per cent of heat-related deaths in the Middle East and North Africa by the end of the century, a new study has found.

The Middle East and North Africa region, known as MENA, is one of the most climate-vulnerable areas in the world with maximum temperatures expected to hit nearly 50C by 2100.

The study, published in The Lancet Planetary Health on Monday, found that if the world continues pumping out high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, annual heat-related deaths in MENA could increase to 123 people per 100,000 in 2081 and 2100 - 60 times higher than now.

However, if emissions are restrained to lower levels, and global heating limited to 2C, more than 80 per cent of these deaths could be avoided, the study said.

The world has already warmed by 1.2C and is expected to breach 1.5C, the Paris Agreement’s most ambitious warming limit, in the coming decade.

The study modelled current and future trends in heat-related deaths in 19 countries across the Middle East and North Africa, at varying emissions levels and different socioeconomic scenarios.

Under a high-emissions scenario, Iran would have the highest annual death rate at 423 deaths per 100,000 people.

Palestine, Iraq, and Israel were also predicted to have high mortality rates - at 186, 169, and 163 per 100,000 - respectively.

The authors warned that traditional solutions to combat the heat, such as air-conditioning, will not be enough.

Use of air-conditioning is already high in countries where rates of heat-related mortality are higher than the regional average, such as in Israel and Cyprus.

“Even with stronger action, countries in the region need to develop ways other than air-conditioning to protect their citizens from the dangers of extreme heat,” says Shakoor Hajat, lead author and professor of global environmental health at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“Strengthening health systems and better coordination between MENA countries will be key in tackling the health impacts of climate change in the region,” he added.

The authors called for more ambitious action at a global level at the upcoming United Nations climate conference, Cop28, in Dubai.

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