Abu Dhabi: In celebration of Antarctica Day, December 1, 2021, Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD) brought together people from the UAE on Thursday who have visited the world’s polar regions, Antarctica and the Arctic, at Expo 2020 Dubai for the first time, as part of the UAE’s 50th Golden Jubilee week.
The purpose of the gathering was to share stories on historic UAE Antarctic and Arctic expeditions from the previous 50 years, discuss the importance of the polar regions to the UAE with respect to climate change and plan future environmental collaborations, in celebration of the UAE’s 50th anniversary.
Hosted by EAD, the scientific research organisation and environmental regulator for Abu Dhabi Emirate, in collaboration with Hamour House at Expo 2020 Dubai, around 35 individuals from the UAE who have been to Antarctica or the Arctic attended the event. Nineteen men and 16 women journeyed to the top and bottom of the world. Of these 35 individuals, 28 had been on expeditions with Sir Robert Swan, the polar explorer and first person to walk to both the North South Poles, as part of his ‘Climate Change Leadership on the Edge Programme’.
Impact of global warming
On February 23, 2018, three EAD employees flew to Ushuaia at the bottom of South America, and boarded a ship, the Ocean Endeavour, to voyage to Antarctica as part of the Climate Force International Antarctic Expedition 2018. The team, coined as Team Zayed, to mark The Year of Zayed, joined teams from more than 20 countries for two weeks to learn about climate change and experience the impact of global warming on the continent. Team Zayed also took part in Sir Robert Swan’s renowned Leadership on the Edge Programme.
Team Zayed in Antarctica put on the Zayed Solar Lights Show and lit up the night skies using 100 solar lights, sending a message of unity, hope and action on Climate Change. The team also wrote the names of UAE leadership and inspirational environmental personalities.
Lighting up the Terra Auditorium
To symbolically raise awareness on the importance of climate change action, in replicating the initiative of EAD’s Team Zayed in Antarctica, the attendees at the Expo 2020 Dubai event wrote the following words: ‘Antarctica, Climate Change, Dubai Expo, UAE 50 Years and COP 28’, using 50 individual solar lights, reflecting 50 years of the UAE, which lit up the Terra Auditorium within the Sustainability Pavilion at Dubai Expo.
The attendees at the gathering reiterated the key messages from the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report (August 2021), such as: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land, and that widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.
“The Arctic is warming at a rate of almost twice the global average and there has been a decrease in summer Arctic sea ice area of around 40 per cent since 1979; Temperatures on the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula have risen by nearly 3 degrees in the past 50 years, five times faster than the global average. In 2020 a record-high temperature of 18.3 degrees Celsius was registered in Antarctica.”
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Antarctica’s importance to climate change
Winston Cowie, a member of EAD’s Team Zayed in 2018, said: “We were pleased to bring together explorers from the UAE who have been to Antarctica and the Arctic to talk about climate change and collectively work together to raise awareness on climate change. Antarctica’s importance to climate change is recognised given it is the largest mass of ice in the world, which if melted, would see global average sea levels rise by around 58 metres.”
Rashed Al Zaabi, also from Team Zayed, said: “We hope that the lighting up of Expo 2020 Dubai with solar lights, with environmental messages, will inspire UAE youth to study and visit the polar regions.”