SIX years ago Nabil Musa, a Kurdish environmentalist, returned from over a decade abroad to find Iraq transformed. Rivers in which he had swum year-round turned to dust in summer. Skies once crowded with storks and herons were empty. Drought had pushed farmers to abandon their crops, and dust storms, once rare, choked the air. Inspired to act, he joined a local conservationist group, Nature Iraq, to lobby for greener practices. But Kurdish officials pay little attention. “One of the last things we want to think about is climate change,” says Mr Musa.
Apathy towards climate change is common across the Middle East and north Africa, even as the problems associated with it get worse. Longer droughts, hotter heatwaves and more frequent dust storms will occur from Rabat to Tehran, according to Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. Already-long dry seasons are growing longer and drier, withering crops. Heat spikes are a growing problem too, with countries regularly notching lethal summer temperatures. Stretch such trends out a few years and they seem frightening—a few decades and they seem apocalyptic.