The UAE is classified among the categories of countries with highest rate of vulnerability to the potential impacts of climate change in the world. This will result in warmer weather, less precipitation, droughts, higher sea levels and more storms.
The consequences of these impacts are intense on infrastructure, human health and natural habitat, which affect various development sectors and policies including socio-economic, health and environment.
On the other hand, the economic boom and population growth increase the demand on energy, water and natural resources, which indirectly contribute to the levels of carbon dioxide emissions and climate change in general.
The UAE plays a central role in the world’s energy economy as a supplier of fossil fuels, which gives the country an important stake in finding solutions to cutting emissions while still providing the world with the energy it needs.
The UAE has engaged in the fight against climate change because it recognises the risks of inaction and the global responsibility it is committed to.
Read about climate change in the environment website.
Impact of climate change
This section covers the impact of climate change on:
Due to concerns about climate change, the UAE commissioned international studies to assess the effects of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the resultant changing weather patterns.
In 2010, Stockholm Environment Institute's US Center (a research affiliate of Tufts University in Massachusetts) completed a report for Abu Dhabi, addressing how climate change will affect ecosystems, infrastructure and the economy and what impact it might have on the health of residents.
The UAE has nearly 1,300 kilometres of coastline. Approximately 85 per cent of the population and over 90 per cent of the infrastructure of the UAE is located within several meters of sea level in low-lying coastal areas as per the report Climate Change - Impacts, Vulnerability & Adaptation (PDF) by Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi.
The Stockholm report found that the UAE could lose up to 6 percent of its populated and developed coastline by the end of the century because of rising sea levels.
The UAE straddles the Tropic of Cancer. The Abu Dhabi emirate, in particular, is influenced by direct sun. The climate generally is hot and arid; yet, on the coast, humidity can reach over 90 percent in summer and autumn. Inland is far less humid although the temperature is higher; sometimes, exceeding 50 degrees Celsius before midday in July.
Coastal areas are affected by reclamation, dredging or other usage including oil-related activities which endanger coastal ecosystems and developments.
Coastal communities may start witnessing changes in storm frequency, intensity and movement. As the oceans warm, rising sea-surface temperature will lead to thermal expansion and changes in mean sea level.
Change in sea-surface temperatures could mean intensified coral bleaching, which affects species' reproduction and migration.
In 1996 and 1998, the UAE faced two catastrophic coral bleaching and mortality events associated with seawater temperature anomalies. Wave conditions could change, risking altered patterns of erosion and accretion.
Until now, the effects of climate change induced sea level rise on coastal populations, infrastructure, and biology has yet to be adequately accounted for in planning activities within the UAE.
- Water resources and natural disasters
Global warming changes the balance of water supply and demand; it could expand the worldwide gap in water availability. Some places in the UAE will be frequently flooded while others will suffer from constant drought and water shortage. In areas that already have a water shortage problem, the situation will worsen; many other areas will face similar problems.
Global warming will seriously affect agriculture. Higher temperatures, increased weeds and harmful insects will adversely affect some species of agricultural crops. It is also possible that global warming will lead to global food shortages. Local food would become hard to find because agriculture in the UAE would suffer from more salty water - not fit for farming - invading underground freshwater pools.
Climatic change affects human health in many different ways. Other than the direct impact from heat, warming increases the range of some disease carrying insects. Erratic precipitation will also make waterborne diseases more dangerous.
Global warming will cause animals and plants to shift their habitats to northern and mountainous areas. It is anticipated, however, that some will become extinct if they cannot migrate due to topographical obstacles.
While energy consumption with regard to heaters in winters will be reduced due to global warming, it will also increase the need for summertime air-conditioning. In urban areas water use and energy consumption for cooling will also largely increase. In low-lying coastal cities, infrastructure will also have to be adapted to rising sea levels.
Massive pollution could heighten effects of climate change in the area. The UAE suffers high pollution, with an 80 tonne per capita emission of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide compared to only 14 tonnes per American head yearly. It comes mostly from cars.
Carbon dioxide in the air traps the sun's heat, warming temperatures worldwide. Also, a high number of air conditioners, desalination plants and power stations run on power produced from carbon-based fuel. The compound is also toxic at certain levels to humans.
Sourced from the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, UAE Embassy in the US and Gulf News.