Multiple areas of the Middle-East have experienced record-breaking temperatures this summer, and climate experts are warning that the oppressive heat and severe weather could be a harbinger of worse to come.
The UN has predicted that the combined 400 million people residing in 22 Arab countries will grow to nearly 600 million by 2050, and that the area’s mushrooming population will face extreme water scarcity, more extreme temperatures, and other issues related to global warming.
“This incredible weather shows that climate change is already taking a toll now and that it is — by far — one of the biggest challenges ever faced by this region,” said Adel Abdul Latif, a senior adviser at the UN Development Programme’s Regional Bureau for Arab States who has worked on studies about the impact of climate change on the region.
Despite the long summer of oppressive heat, there are no signs of it breaking anytime soon.
While the immediate cause of the heat wave appears to be a stubborn high-pressure system, experts believe that a significant change is occurring in the country’s weather patterns.
According to Mahmoud Abdul Latif, spokesman of Iraq’s meteorological department, the number of days with temperatures recorded over 118 degrees has more than doubled in the last few years.
Regardless of the cause, Iraqi citizens are suffering.
Venturing outside is akin to “walking into a fire,” said Zainab Guman, a university student who lives in Basra. “It’s like everything on your body — your skin, your eyes, your nose — starts to burn,” she said.
However, some are thankful for the business the heat wave has brought them.
While most air conditioning units need to be replaced every 12 to 15 years, Iraqi citizens are seeing theirs break down every few days in the scorching heat.
Several air conditioning repair shops, including one run by a man named Abu Mahdi in Baghdad, are working hard to keep up with the demand.
Mahdi says that some people are so desperate “they come into my shop, get on their knees, kiss my hand and say, ‘Please come and help me.'”
He has been in business for nearly 30 years, and for the last few weeks has been putting in quite a few 15-hour days at his shop.
“I’m well-respected these days,” he said.
Home isn’t the only place people have been suffering, either. Iraq officials said that farmers across the country have reported issues with wilted crops and that other areas have reported decreased worker productivity.
The heat has been so oppressive that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has given state employees multiple days off.
Hospitals, however, have seen an increase in the number of patients coming in with cases of dehydration and heat exhaustion.
“This heat is like a fire. Can people live in fire?” asked Arkan Farhan, who lives near Baghdad.