Wednesday, February 27, 2008

An adaptation warning in the United Arab Emirates

7 Days (Dubai): A leading researcher into climate change has warned the UAE that it must plan for the future - as lasting damage to the environment has already been done. In an exclusive interview with 7DAYS, Professor Geoffrey Boulton of the University of Edinburgh said it was too late to just cut down on carbon emissions.

Instead, Boulton said, the country should be looking at how it will adapt to changes in the region, which will be caused by climate change. “Climate change is a very difficult problem and probably the biggest challenge the human race has had to face. It is no longer just a question of reducing carbon emissions,” he said.

“Now we must think about adaptation and the Emirati authorities should ask themselves ‘If we have problems such as no water, or severe pollution how are we going to respond?’ “Because if they don’t - their population will not forgive them.”

Boulton was speaking ahead of a lecture at The British University in Dubai last night and he said there were many ways in which the UAE could adapt to problems caused by climate change. “The Emirates might want to anticipate having genetically manipulated crops which can cope with extreme weather stress,” he said. “There are better ways of using water here - such as more recycling of waste water. And machines such as fridges are much more inefficient than they could be.”

The professor also leads the Global Change Group - one of the largest researchers of geosciences. He said coastlines and sea levels are already changing in the Arabian Gulf, as a knock-on effect of melting ice caps, and at the same time temperatures are rising.
Boulton’s predictions come from new data he has developed which suggests the Middle East could be reshaped by rising seas that could see populations displaced. The UAE authorities have begun to take steps to combat climate change, not least with the Masdar initiative, which will be the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste and car-free city.

However, despite having a population of fewer than five million people, the UAE sits in the top 50 countries for carbon emissions. Boulton said: “No blame should be attached to anyone - we have only just realised what we have been doing. But if we do nothing, in 20 years’ time then there should be blame - and there will be.”

NASA image of the United Arab Emirates, Wikimedia Commons

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