Iraq’s Extreme Temperatures Send Urgent Message to the World, says UN

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The rising temperatures and prolonged drought in Iraq have become a critical global issue, according to the United Nations human rights chief, Volker Turk. Speaking during his visit to Iraq, Turk emphasized that the country is among the top five most affected nations by the impacts of climate change.

For the fourth consecutive summer, Iraq has been plagued by drought, with temperatures soaring to around 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) in some parts, including the capital of Baghdad and the southern regions. Turk stated, “The combination of rising temperatures, drought, and loss of biodiversity acts as a wake-up call for Iraq and the rest of the world.”

He further added, “By examining the situation faced by these communities, we gain insight into our own future. We are witnessing the reality of global warming on a daily basis here in Iraq.”

During his four-day visit, Turk echoed the concerns raised by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who recently emphasized the need for immediate action, labeling the current situation as the “era of global boiling” rather than global warming. This came after scientists confirmed that July was on track to be the hottest month ever recorded.

In addition to declining rainfall and rising temperatures, Iraq is also suffering from the impact of upstream dam construction by neighboring countries such as Turkey and Iran, reducing the water volume of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that pass through Iraq.

The southern region of Iraq has been severely affected by high salinity, leading to a significant decline in fishing activities in the Shatt al-Arab waterway, where the Tigris and Euphrates converge before flowing into the Gulf.

Reflecting on his visit to the south, Turk shared that he was shown photographs by community leaders depicting the lush date palm trees that once thrived along the now dried-up Shatt al-Arab waterway, just 30 years ago.

Promising to prioritize the fight against climate change, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani has pledged to take action. However, activists argue that little has been done so far.

During the press conference, Turk revealed reports of violence, intimidation, and death threats against environmental activists in Iraq. One prominent example is the abduction of Jassim al-Assadi, an engineer and key figure in Iraq’s leading conservation group, Nature Iraq. He was held captive for two weeks by armed men in February.

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