UAE | Weather

A chance to change the world

Global warming affects every one and it is incumbent on each one of us to take timely action to reduce our carbon footprint

  • By Aftab Kazmi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 00:00 April 16, 2012
  • Gulf News

A chance to change the world
  • Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • The UAE is one of the frontline countries facing climate issues and has in recent years witnessed dramatic weather events like snowfall in the rugged mountains to the north, extremely chilly winds, very dry winters, dust storms, and longer hot spells.

Al Ain: Climatic changes are gauged by the layman in terms of severe and unsettled weather conditions, but the experts see it as a super-complex phenomenon. What's more, many feel that the UAE has a vital stake in developing a multilateral global response to challenges posed by climate change.

The Earth's atmosphere is unique and dynamic and varies according to various geological, biological, chemical and other factors, said Syed Nadeem Hassan, a meteorologist.

"Climate is generally referred to as the weather of a geographical location with particular characteristics such as temperature, winds, humidity, and rain," Hassan said.

Frontline state

The UAE is one of the frontline countries facing climate issues and has in recent years witnessed dramatic weather events like snowfall in the rugged mountains to the north, extremely chilly winds, very dry winters, dust storms, and longer hot spells. It is generally believed that climate change is altering the seasonal weather patterns of the UAE.

Yousuf Al Kalbani, head of climate and forecasting at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS), however rebuffed these notions. "No there are no indications for climate change concerning this issue." Snowfall was reported in the northern areas of the UAE in December 2004 and again in January 2008 but it was not because of climatic change, he said.

Al Kalbani says it is normal to have snow over mountain peaks rising 1,700 metres above sea level. Such events, no doubt, happened earlier but might have gone unnoticed due to the lack of modern communication technology, he said.

Scientists and meteorologists all over the world are divided on the issue. It is, however, strongly believed that human activities have played a major role in speeding up the process of climate change across the planet, and scientific studies and findings seem to back up these doubts.

The release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere is considered to have had the biggest impact on climate patterns the world over, scientists say. This has been causing global warming which, in turn, has been disturbing ecosystems and affecting public health, besides causing droughts and floods, endangering coastal areas, and triggering heat or cold waves that have become more intense, frequent, and prolonged.

Climate change is not a UAE- specific or just a national issue, Al Kalbani says. Entire regions face risks and countries in the Arabian region have to study and work together to compile necessary data so that variations from standard records can be tracked, he said.

Global warming and rising sea levels can pose a challenge for the UAE too, he said. "If this pattern is confirmed, rising sea levels may cause some problems to the properties close to [the] seashore," he said. The UAE has already initiated several measures on its own but more needs to be done, he added.

Cyclical phenomenon

Mohammad Afaq, another weather expert, said change in weather patterns is a natural cyclical phenomenon. He does not see human activities as the sole driver of climate change. "The change has been coming through but only because of the natural causes or human and natural causes combined," he said.

He, however, admitted that he is concerned about scientific findings and research on climate change and global warming. "It's worrisome! Melting of glaciers, depletion of ozone and high carbon dioxide emission create serious threats," he said but insisted that the issue was more of a global concern and its impact was not going to be limited to just one country.

"The change felt by people in the UAE weather patterns, I believe, is largely imaginary," Afaq said. Weather patterns normally repeat themselves in 10 to 15 years in a cyclical manner, he said. "We tend to forget the previous years' weather and assume that this year is very hot or cold," he said, noting that recent cold waves were not entirely unusual.

Western disturbances (cold Shamal winds), he said, have of late been passing through the region more frequently, affecting the weather in the UAE as well. "It is quite normal and cannot be attributed to climate change," he added.

Scientific studies are holding the fast pace of development in the region responsible for the speeding up of climate change, he said.

"If the vulnerabilities and their potential impact on climate change are true, as the scientific studies are indicating, then the current actions are inadequate," Afaq said. In light of such findings, the Arab region needs effective and urgent strategies to tackle challenges, he said.

The idea of sustainability has become an important focus of UAE policy and measures are being taken for environmental protection and to control the negative impacts of population growth, air pollution, industrial pollution, increase in waste production, and depletion of water resources. These are the main challenges the UAE has been facing.

Over the past decade, the UAE has drawn the world's attention for its efforts in the field of environmental protection and sustainable development. A number of UAE agencies and organisations have been exploring alternative means to check over- exploitation of natural resources and its catastrophic impact on national, regional, and global environments.

Recognition

Efforts to reduce overuse of natural resources recently won the UAE recognition on the World Environmental Performance Index (EPI) as the cleanest place in the GCC. The EPI is a biennial survey, carried out by the prestigious Yale University in collaboration with Columbia University, and it ranks countries from across the world based on 22 performance indicators in 10 policy categories. This year, only 132 countries made the cut, with Switzerland topping the chart.

Experts have called for closer cooperation across the Arabian region to reduce the impact of climate change. The UAE has launched a number of initiatives such as a green building council, a massive afforestation programme, and development of Masdar — the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste, and car-free city in Abu Dhabi. Even with these efforts, there is still need for a comprehensive policy framework at the national level.

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