ABU DHABI // Significantly hotter summers with more sandstorms, higher humidity and more rain that could trigger flash-flooding are among the potential effects of climate change on the UAE.
UAE Climate Change Risks and Resilience, a report published on Monday by Emirates Wildlife Society-WWF, suggests there could be an increase up to 3°C in temperatures during summer months and a 10 per cent humidity increase by 2050.
The summer temperature increase is such a concern that Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative, which aims to provide region-specific environmental data, said it was likely to “severely impact human habitability in the future”.
Air conditioning demand could go up by another 35 per cent by 2050 as the temperature increases by two per cent and humidity by 10 per cent, the report states.
The higher temperatures and humidity is expected to reduce the productivity of outdoor workers and increase risk to residents’ health, causing losses to the economy of up to Dh7.35 billion annually.
Despite more research needed to conclude with certainty some of the climate-related risks, there are several weather-related threats that are almost certain to increase with climate change.
According to the World Research Institute’s Aqueduct report, the region is characterised by extremely high temperatures during the summer, causing the country to be labelled under “high” to “extremely” high water risk.
This means that drought and the scarcity of water resources are significant issues caused by global warming.
Almost ironically, however, the EWS-WWF report said the UAE was likely to experience more rainfall and the risk of flash-flooding. The report said annual rain could increase by 200 per cent.
There is evidence that the UAE could be exposed to tropical cyclones in the future and waves as high as 7 metres along the coast of Dubai.
“Globally, by the end of the century, tropical cyclones could be less frequent but more intense (2 to 11 per cent increase) and produce substantially higher rainfall rates (10 to 15 per cent),” said the report.
Fujairah already felt the devastating force of Cyclone Gonu in 2007 and potentially could face repeat events.
Along with the risk of “high-impact” weather catastrophes, the incidence of severe sandstorms was likely to increase, said the report.
A late 2015 climate outlook from the World Meteorological Organisation suggested above-average sea-surface temperatures in the Indian and Pacific oceans could result in unpredictable weather events across the Middle East, including dust storms.
Measurements from tide gauges suggest the level of the Arabian Gulf has been steadily rising concurrently with the increase in sea temperature.
“Rising sea levels and increased storm activity could lead to increased risk of flooding of coastal power generation facilities during storm surge events and this is an area where dedicated research is required to better understand the level of risk,” said the report.
In fact, 9 out of 10 powerplants and desalination stations in the UAE are in coastal areas, and are potentially vulnerable to flooding.
“There are considerable uncertainties about the rate of sea level rise that will be experienced in the UAE over coming decades, and on the likelihood of cyclones,” said the report.
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