More hot days are ahead for the region despite plans to curb the global average temperature rise. If climate change isn’t limited, it may soon be too hot for us to be outdoors.
ABU DHABI // Climate change will bring hotter summers to the UAE, a new study predicts.
Higher average temperatures and a greater number of hot days are ahead for the region, even if average global temperatures are curbed at the politically agreed 2°C limit, while an uncontrolled rise in emissions will make it impossible for people to stay outdoors for long.
The study examined 26 different climate models, as well as actual climate data, to find the temperature changes expected in 29 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
The scientists, who work in Germany and Cyprus, also factored in two alternatives related to concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
One option assumed some action on climate change, with emissions peaking in 2040 and decreasing afterwards.
The second option is what is commonly known as the “business-as-usual scenario”, which assumes humanity will not address the problem and emissions will continue to rise.
This would be “a horror scenario for the region”, said one of the authors of the study, Prof Jos Lelieveld, director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and professor at the Cyprus Institute. “It should be prevented at all costs.”
The scientists studied temperatures in the period between 1986 and 2005, when the highest average daytime temperature was 43°C.
Under the business-as-usual scenario, this could reach almost 47°C by the middle of this century and almost 50°C at the end.
The figures, said Prof Lelieveld, represent averages and factor in countries, such as Turkey, which are cooler than the UAE.
A key discovery is the fact that while for the rest of the world the effects of warming will be most evident in winter, in the Middle East they will be most pronounced during the summer.
“We know that it is warm there and it is getting hotter, but the main thing is that we now discovered that the rate of warming in the summer is more than twice as high as it is in the winter and, of course, in a region where the summers are already so hot, this, I think, is a very important message.
“If the whole world succeeded in limiting climate warming to 2°C, which was decided in Paris at the climate summit, then warming in these regions will not be 2°C. In summer, it will be 4°C to 5°C,” he said.
The hot summers are of particular concern to the UAE and other Gulf countries.
“The entire region will be warming at the same rate, but the starting point in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states is higher,” he said, adding that high humidity was another factor that has to be factored in.
Prof Lelieveld recommended focusing on renewable energy and researching solar desalination as a sustainable way to green public areas as a measure to help cool Gulf cities. Waleed Hamza, professor of biology at UAE University, said organisms varied in terms of their ability to tolerate temperature differences. Those most sensitive to high temperatures would be exposed to highly stressful conditions.
“Some of them will adapt and others may disappear,” he said. “The adapted species may go further than adaptation and may have genetic modifications that may lead to mutant species.
“Mortalities of marine life will increase because of increased water temperatures and loss of oxygen as a consequence. Some corals will bleach and may become extinct.”
Tanzeed Alam, director of climate change and energy at the Emirates Wildlife Society – World Wide Fund for Nature, said the organisation campaigned to limit emissions to a global average of 1.5°C.
“The UAE welcomes scientific studies on climate change such as this one, as findings reaffirm the urgency of addressing climate change and the importance of countries to take appropriate climate action,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment said.