ABU DHABI: A four-member team of Antarctica explorers from the UAE is shocked by unprecedented events during their expedition that reveal the alarming impact of climate change on the icy continent.
A tiny creature’s shrinking population that affects the entire wildlife, collapse of an ice shelf, a record high temperature and an unseasonal rain during the recent expedition to the seventh continent are a grave cause for concern, they tell the Emirates News Agency (WAM).
A small creature tells a big story
“Antarctica made me think of life as an ecosystem. The shocking extreme events we have witnessed in a short period of time -– historical temperature increase and rainy days in a desert-like continent -–left us befuddled about the fate of Antarctica and the globe,” says Athraa Khamis, an Emirati water and environmental engineer at DP World’s Tumoohi programme.
“The ecosystem was also shivering as the primary food of all the fascinating Antarctic wildlife -– a shrimp-like crustacean called krill –- losing its homes, the dry glaciers, which are melted due to global warming. They are being killed because of climate change. Those disorders in the ecosystem would definitely affect the life forms not only in Antarctica, but everywhere,” explains Khamis who was part of the International Antarctic Expedition 2022 led by Sir Robert Swan, the famous explorer who is the first person in history to walk to both the North and South Poles.
In April, 177 environmental leaders from 37 countries were on the ship named ‘Ocean Victory’ that left from Ushuaia at the bottom of South America and crossed the Drake Passage, the most treacherous waterway in the world and the place of many a shipwreck, before reaching Antarctica.
Before joining the expedition, Mahra Mohammed Al Murawwi, an Emirati who just completed her honours degree in Environmental Geoscience from the University of Glasgow, had already been inspired by Swan’s talk at her university.
“I was mesmerised by the whole speech and especially by the opportunity that I would be amongst those who will be setting foot in Antarctica,” Al Murawwi reveals.
Winston Cowie, who is a manager of Marine Policy at the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), adds to the “shocking extreme events” Khamis has mentioned.
Three alarming events
“Three really concerning climate events happened in Antarctica while we were there. In East Antarctica the temperature was 40 degrees warmer than it had seen before, a record high temperature of minus 11 degrees,” says Cowie, a New Zealander who was part of the leadership team of the expedition.
In East Antarctica the temperature was 40 degrees warmer than it had seen before, a record high temperature of minus 11 degrees. This type of extreme temperature fluctuation had never been seen before, he points out.
“It rained on us when we were on the Antarctic Peninsula - I can attest to this -– this was a strange phenomenon and has only been seen in Antarctica in the past 25 years. These events are incredibly concerning,” explains Cowie.
He had visited Antarctica in 2018 as part pf the EAD’s Team Zayed that voyaged with Sir Robert Swan and sent a message with solar lights to the world about climate change.
For Sayesha Dogra, a Dubai resident, “The expedition was the ultimate nudge for me to shift gears and jump in the world of climate-tech solutions. I am in the process of building a plan to start my entrepreneurial journey in this space.”
This has prompted her and fellow explorers to do something to save the planet.
Dogra plans to engage with the UAE youth to enable these future leaders to “think global and act local” to check climate change, says the Indian national who works at noon in minutes, an e-commerce platform. Khamis says, “I would scale-up my contribution in taking meaningful actions to go into a battle for the future!”
Al Murawwi wants to spread the message on climate change among students and campaign to include the topic in educational curriculum “because I believe that climate education is no less important than other subjects.”
Cowie says he will continue to push hard for positive marine policy outcomes for the marine environment in Abu Dhabi and will be a voice for the action against climate change in Antarctica. “What is happening there and how, it is relevant to the world’s net zero strategy.”