Baghdad Faces 40 Annual 120-Degree Days by 2040

Baghdad Faces 40 Annual 120-Degree Days by 2040

In 2020, Baghdad set a new record high temperature at 125.2 degrees Fahrenheit. By 2040, the Iraqi capital can expect at least 40 days per year with similar heat extremes, according to a report by the European Union Institute of Security Studies. The city's rising temperatures are exacerbated by the urban heat island effect, as new development eliminates green space and replaces it with heat-absorbing cement. The violation of construction and zoning rules is also contributing to Baghdad’s hotter future, explains Dhirgham Alobaydi to NPR. He is the head of Baghdad University's department of architecture.

BBC: Iraq's extreme heat and water shortages, October 24, 2021.

TED: Mapping Urban Heat Islands | Tom DiLiberto, October 20, 2021.

Why This Matters

Temperatures are rising worldwide, but Iraq is heating up faster than the global average. This is just one of many examples of the imbalance between contribution to global warming and impact. The entire Middle East and North African region are responsible for only 3% of total global CO2 emissions. Extreme heat can be dangerous to people’s health, especially when compounded with power outages like the one last summer that left residents without AC on a 120-degree day. Iraq's electricity grid is also unreliable, and families with money buy diesel-powered generators (which increase pollution) to ensure that they won’t be left without AC.

Bloomberg: ​​Extreme Heat in the Middle East, September 9, 2021.

CNBC: How Air Conditioning Is Warming The World, July 24, 2021.

Back To The Future

Looking to the past could help Iraqi designers build for the future. Iraq’s population is projected to see the Middle East's highest population growth over the next decades, and the new developments being built aren’t well suited for the hot days to come. Traditional architecture in the country includes homes set back from the street, with trees and gardens out front. To deal with rising temperatures, Iraqis should go back to building houses and cities as they used to in the past, Alobaydi tells NPR.

The Economist: How to cool a warming world, November 12, 2021.