Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1623–1638 | Cite as

Climate change impacts in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region and their implications for vulnerable population groups

  • Katharina WahaEmail author
  • Linda Krummenauer
  • Sophie Adams
  • Valentin Aich
  • Florent Baarsch
  • Dim Coumou
  • Marianela Fader
  • Holger Hoff
  • Guy Jobbins
  • Rachel Marcus
  • Matthias Mengel
  • Ilona M. Otto
  • Mahé Perrette
  • Marcia Rocha
  • Alexander Robinson
  • Carl-Friedrich Schleussner
Original Article


The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region emerges as one of the hot spots for worsening extreme heat, drought and aridity conditions under climate change. A synthesis of peer-reviewed literature from 2010 to date and own modeling work on biophysical impacts of climate change on selected sectors shows that the region is highly affected by present and future climate change. These biophysical impacts paired with other pressures and a lack of resilience in some countries cause high vulnerabilities within these sectors and for social dimensions in the MENA region. The agricultural sector, of which 70 percent is rain-fed, is highly exposed to changing climatic conditions. This is of critical importance as the agriculture sector is the largest employer in many Arab countries and contributes significantly to national economies. Impacts will be high in a 2 °C world, as, e.g., annual water discharge, already critically low, is projected to drop by another 15–45% (75% in a 4 °C world) and unusual heat extremes projected to affect about one-third of the land area with likely consequences for local food production. As a consequence, deteriorating rural livelihoods associated with declining agricultural productivity will continue to contribute to migration flows, often to urban areas as already observed. The region could be heavily challenged by both rising food and water demand given its projected increase in population that may double by 2070. As a result, the regions already substantial import dependency could increase and thus its vulnerability to agricultural impacts well beyond its country borders. A severe and sustained pressure on resources could contribute to further social unrest in the already unstable political environment that currently characterizes parts of the region. While the particular societal responses to such changes are hard to foresee, it is clear that extreme impacts would constitute unprecedented challenges to the social systems affected.


Regional climate change Rain-fed agriculture Water scarcity Migration Heat extremes Aridity Health 



The contribution of M. Fader was supported by the Labex OT-Med (no ANR-11-LABX-0061) and the A*MIDEX project (no ANR-11-IDEX-0001-02). This research has been partly funded by the World Bank.

Supplementary material

10113_2017_1144_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.3 mb)
Supplementary material 1: Additional figures for temperature and precipitation projections (PDF 1336 kb)
10113_2017_1144_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (539 kb)
Supplementary material 2: Regional Topology (PDF 538 kb)
10113_2017_1144_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (549 kb)
Supplementary material 3: Methods for Meta-Analysis (PDF 548 kb)
10113_2017_1144_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (515 kb)
Supplementary material 4: Synthesis Table (PDF 514 kb)


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Copyright information

© International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank 2017 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katharina Waha
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Linda Krummenauer
    • 1
  • Sophie Adams
    • 3
    • 6
  • Valentin Aich
    • 1
  • Florent Baarsch
    • 1
    • 3
    • 11
  • Dim Coumou
    • 1
  • Marianela Fader
    • 5
  • Holger Hoff
    • 1
    • 9
  • Guy Jobbins
    • 4
  • Rachel Marcus
    • 4
  • Matthias Mengel
    • 1
  • Ilona M. Otto
    • 1
    • 10
  • Mahé Perrette
    • 1
  • Marcia Rocha
    • 3
  • Alexander Robinson
    • 1
    • 7
    • 8
  • Carl-Friedrich Schleussner
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)PotsdamGermany
  2. 2.CSIRO Agriculture and FoodSt.LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.Climate AnalyticsBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Overseas Development Institute (ODI)LondonUK
  5. 5.International Centre for Water Resources and Global Change (UNESCO), Federal Institute of HydrologyKoblenzGermany
  6. 6.University of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia
  7. 7.Universidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain
  8. 8.Instituto de Geociencias, CSIC-UCMMadridSpain
  9. 9.Stockholm Environment InstituteStockholmSweden
  10. 10.School of Public AffairsZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina
  11. 11.Center for Economic StudiesLudwig-Maximilians-UniversitätMunichGermany

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