Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The deadly effects of ideological extremism in the Middle East for the past few decades have caused governments and journalists to focus on it. The Arabic word is al-taṭarruf. I was interested, however, to see the word put to a different purpose in a Sky News Arabia article , where it is used to refer to extremely high temperatures in the heat wave currently gripping Iraq, of 122°F (50°C ) and even 125.6°F (52°C ). The article refers to “climate extremism.”
The rest of the article focuses on a civil society organization, the Green Observatory, which argues that some of Iraq’s urban heat problem comes from all the black and brown colors of city environments, and these should be painted over with white and sky blue. Some American cities, such as Los Angeles, have already experimented with painting asphalt white. Phoenix, one of the hottest cities in North America in the summer, has experimented with painting them with a gray reflective paint.
The torrid temperatures in much of the world this summer have been exacerbated by humans burning coal, gasoline and fossil gas, on top of which we have an El Nino this year, a South Pacific phenomenon that contributes to higher temperatures.
According to Sky News Arabia, the meteorologists attached to the Iraqi Ministry of Transport warned that seven governorates or provinces in the south were likely to experience higher than 122°F (50°C ), and that in four governorates — Basra, Maysan, Dhi Qar and Muthanna — the mercury could hit 125.6°F (52°C ). The latter number is more than half the temperature at which water boils 212°F, that is, 100°C.
As it happened, Basra did hit 125.6°F (52°C ) on Wednesday, and Maysan hit 123.8°F (51°C ). Basra was the hottest place on earth on Wednesday, exceeding even Death Valley in California.
Over in Iran, Safi, Dizful was slightly over 122°F (50°C ), as was the oil town of Abadan.
The Iranian government had foreseen these temperatures, according to the intrepid Farnaz Fassihi at NYT and shut down the country for two days, closing banks and offices. The extreme US sanctions have left the country unable to improve its electrical grid, and Tehran apparently feared that there would be electricity blackouts if large numbers of office employees went to work in air conditioned offices.
Iran is rife with conspiracy theories about the “real reason” for the shutdown, but a climate emergency seems plausible to me. Ironically, Texas has been helped through its similar heat wave by wind and solar renewable power, but Iran, which could be a solar powerhouse, is way behind on installations and mainly relies on fossil gas for heating and cooling buildings. It only, however, has 455 megawatts of solar power at the moment, which is almost nothing.
Ironically, Iraq and Iran have been two of the bigger oil producers in the world since the early 20th century, so the oppressive heat they are experiencing is in part caused by their own emissions. Most of their oil, however, has actually been burned by North America and Europe.
For the US contribution to Iraq’s crisis, see my Iraq’s Climate Crisis: America’s War for Oil and the Great Mesopotamian Dustbowl