Is our region preparing for climate change?

Published: 19 April 2019
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Is our region preparing for climate change?
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I am not a climatologist. I have never studied changes in weather patterns, but you do not need to be an expert to realize that in recent years there has been a monumental increase in extreme temperatures, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, droughts and rising sea levels. Researchers have determined that the oceans are warming 40 per cent faster than previously believed with the waters of the #Arabian_Gulf heating-up.

An article published in The National newspaper quotes an oceanographer and lecturer at London’s Imperial College warning that “the consequences in the Gulf could be quite dramatic if you have warming” because “it is semi-enclosed” and “won’t benefit from the cooling of the #Indian_Ocean”.

Around the world, young people whose future is in the balance are worried and angry that there is more talk than action. My generation and those that came after adopted a ‘live now, pay later’ attitude or preferred to remain in denial. Denial is no longer an option. Not for me. I am deeply concerned for my grandchildren.

I will not get into the debate of whether or not #climate_change is man-made or natural evolution but whatever the causes, it is happening. The question is what is the Arab World and Gulf States in particular doing about it?

Have scientists and researchers been tasked by Ministries of the Environment to study causes and come up with solutions? And if so, are they being heard? Are our leaderships mobilizing to lessen the impact of the inevitable? There is little awareness of this looming problem within the #GCC. Hardly anyone I meet bothers to mention it.

That said a report published on the United Arab Emirates’ Government Portal indicates awareness. It acknowledges that the Emirates “is classified among the categories of countries with the highest rate of vulnerability to the potential impacts of #climate_change” citing “warmer weather, less precipitation, droughts, higher sea levels and more storms. The #UAE is engaged in the fight against #climate_change because it recognizes the risks of inaction” and “has commissioned international studies to assess the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the resultant changing weather patterns…”

Measures being taken according to the #UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs include renewable energy sources such as solar and nuclear power, new standards in energy conservation, mass transport systems and energy efficient building designs. A sector that surely needs concentration is food security. Should we not be investing in new sources of food and clean water?

As far back as 2009 the Arab Forum for Environment and Development published a disturbing report titled “Impact of Climate Change on Arab Countries” that basically went under the radar. It warned that scarcity of water in the Arab World “would reach severe levels by 2025 and new water sources such as desalination plants must be found.

The report also warned of serious sea level rises experienced by #Egypt, #Tunisia, #Morocco, #Algeria, #Kuwait, #Qatar, #Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The negative effects on human health due to diseases, food production, biodiversity and tourism were highlighted.

Fast forward to 2018 and the Forum’s report is highly critical of Arab countries unpreparedness for the challenges presented by #climate_change. “No concerted data gathering and research could be traced regarding the impacts of #climate_change on a variety of areas such as health, infrastructure and tourism, while the economic impact appears to be totally ignored,” it reads. The authors urge policymakers to take urgent measures to address this threat.

Among the worst affected is #Egypt which is facing a double whammy; reduction of #Nile flow due to #Ethiopia’s controversial Grand Renaissance Dam potentially affecting agricultural production and the risk of swathes of Alexandria’s coastal areas being submerged. The #Maldives is another. The #World_Bank has predicted that by the year 2100 the entire country could be under water.

What is not broadly discussed is how #climate_change may lead to conflicts. Defence and intelligence agencies have warned that the effects could trigger conflicts severe enough to uproot populations and thereby increase migration.

A United Nations (UN) study paper warns of water wars in regions where fresh water is scarce and shared by bordering nations. Higher temperatures combined with population expansion and dwindling natural resources will heighten risks of conflicts by as much as 95 per cent over the coming 50 to 100 years.

We may be sleepwalking to disaster in my part of the world but elsewhere there is a greater sense of urgency. Last week, thousands of activists organized by a group called Extinction Rebellion blocked central London’s streets and bridges with signs reading “There is no Planet B”. There have been similar gatherings in cities everywhere.

In 2018, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden hit the headlines when she refused to attend school opting instead to hand out leaflets outside parliament to educate passers-by. This highly articulate and committed youngster inspired Finland’s biggest #climate_change demonstration and was later invited to address delegates at the UN Climate COP24 Conference.

Scientists have been warning about the devastating impact of global warning exacerbated by carbon dioxide emissions on humans and wildlife for decades, but their predictions were mostly viewed as scaremongering.

Governments finally woke up to the threat to our planet and vowed to keep temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius in 2015 when 174 countries and the #European_Union enthusiastically signed up to the #Paris_Agreement. Impetus was lost when the #United_States, the world’s second biggest polluter withdrew. Be that as it may, this is one area in which #America should not be permitted to take the lead and we should not use its opt out as a pretext to shrug our shoulders and give up.

Conferences, debates and signatures on agreements are all well and good but in the absence of greenhouse gas reductions and a raft of measures taken now to limit the effects of #climate_change on populations, we will go down in history as the generation that betrayed our one planet and its children. God will not forgive us!

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