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Thomas Friedman Cites the Center for Climate and Security on Extreme Weather in the Middle East and South Asia

Iraqis displaced by conflict collect water at al-Takia refugee camp in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 30, 2015. Scorching temperatures are normal this time of year, but an unprecedented heat wave prompted Iraqi authorities to declare a mandatory four-day holiday beginning Thursday. The government has urged residents to stay out of the sun and drink plenty of water. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

Iraqis displaced by conflict collect water at al-Takia refugee camp in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 30, 2015. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman published an Op-ed today, “The World’s Hot Spot,” about the extreme heat waves plaguing the Middle East and South Asia, including Iran (citing AccuWeather’s Anthony Sagliani who stated that a July 31 reading in the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr was ‘…one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen, and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world.’) The column explores political protests and sweeping changes in government, particularly in Iraq, which followed from the perceived inadequate response to the heat wave, and asks questions about whether or not enough attention is being paid to climatic events by the region’s political leaders.

Friedman cited the Center for Climate and Security’s Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, regarding how climate stresses are measured against other security risks, as well as how such extreme events can place significant strains on the social contract between governments and their respective publics. The full citation:

Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell run the indispensable Center for Climate and Security in Washington that tracks these trends. They noted that the South Asia scholar Michael Kugelman recently observed “that in Pakistan more people have died from the heat wave than from terrorism this year. We would emphasize that there shouldn’t be a competition between ‘terrorism’ and ‘climate stress,’ but that the resources spent on the former vastly outstrip the latter.”

They added, “A 2011 study from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found strong evidence that winter precipitation decline in the Mediterranean littoral and the Middle East from 1971 to 2010 was likely due to climate change, with the region experiencing nearly all of its driest winters since 1902 in the past 20 years.”

Finally they noted: “The social contract between governments and their publics is being stressed by these extreme events, and that matters are only likely to get worse, given climate projections for many of these places. … Governments that are responsive to publics in the face of these stresses are likely to strengthen the social contract, while those who are unresponsive are likely to weaken it. And for the most part, we’re seeing inadequate responses.”

Friedman’s piece closes with a call for regional players to address climatic and natural resource stresses seriously and cooperatively, as a means of both survival and conflict resolution. Read the full column here.


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