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Tomorrow’s world

Feeling the heat in the Middle East

Cooling off in Baghdad during the summer heatwave. Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

The scorching Middle East is warming “at twice the global average”, says Anchal Vohra in Foreign Policy. By 2100, many cities “may literally become uninhabitable”, as homes become sweltering death traps and taps runs dry. Kuwait recorded a record temperature of 53.6C, while Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all recorded more than 50C. In July temperatures in Iraq spiked to 51.5C, and Iran recorded 50C.

The poorest countries suffer most. Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Iran and Iraq are “encumbered by war, western sanctions, or a self-serving ruling elite”, and don’t have the capacity to tinker with rickety electricity grids that belch out carbon. Instead of co-operating, they’re caught up in conflict. The region’s greenhouse-gas emissions have tripled in the past 30 years, overtaking the EU.

As demand for fuel to keep houses cool and generators running increased this summer, people in Iran took to the streets shouting: “Death to the dictator.” Protestors in Iraq blocked roads, burnt tyres and surrounded power plants. On 12 August, after a fuel subsidy was lifted, petrol pumps ran dry in Lebanon, so power stations and fuel tankers were looted. One tanker exploded, killing at least people.

Lebanon has “massive potential” in wind and solar energy production, but its sclerotic ruling class hasn’t reformed the loss-making electricity sector. That’s a common theme. If the climate crisis worsens and the standard of government stays the same, the thought of what will happen is frightening.

Shortages are here to stay

Aris Messini/AFP/Getty Images

“Delays, product shortages and rising costs” are confronting consumers with an unusual experience in modern times, say Peter Goodman and Keith Bradsher in The New York Times – “no stock available, and no idea when it will come in”. A worldwide shortage of computer chips has led Toyota to slash global vehicle production by 40%. Factories around the world are cutting back, “despite powerful demand for their wares”, because they cannot source essential metal parts, plastics and raw materials. Construction companies are paying over the odds for paint and timber, waiting weeks or even months to receive what they need.

“There is a genuine uncertainty here,” says Adam Posen, a former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee. Normality might be “another year or two” away. The giant ship that blocked the Suez Canal added to the mayhem. So did a series of Covid-related closures at key ports in China. The world is learning a painful lesson: globalisation means delays and shortages in any one place ripple out everywhere.