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QU organizes webinar highlighting climate change and the GCC | Qatar University

QU organizes webinar highlighting climate change and the GCC

2021-03-07

Qatar University’s (QU) Gulf Studies Center (GSC) organized a webinar titled ‘Climate Change and the GCC: Economic and Environmental Impact.’
The event was moderated by Dr. Nikolay Kozhanov, Research Associate Professor at QU with Mr. Greg Shapland, an Associate Fellow of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House as a guest speaker.
Commenting on the event, Dr. Mahjoob Zweiri, GSC Director said, “This event is responding to the research priorities of the Gulf Studies Center. The aim of the event is to lead discussions, based on ongoing and future challenges that the Gulf region may face. These kind of events raise the level of awareness about such issues.”
The webinar discussed climate change and its effects on the GCC economy and environment from a variety of perspectives. The effect of climate change can be divided into indirect and direct impacts.
In the case of indirect impact, industrialised countries will import less oil and gas from GCC countries. In addition, Gulf countries might find their food supplies compromised due to the negative effect of climate change on the main agricultural producers outside of the region.
Meanwhile, the direct impacts on GCC countries are likely to include higher temperatures, rise in sea level, more storms, reduced but more intense rainfall and higher sea temperatures, as well as damage to coral reefs and other marine life.
Countries that currently consume hydrocarbons exported by GCC countries will, as part of their efforts to switch to renewable energy, buy less oil and gas. This will lead to reduction of revenues for GCC governments.
Climate change will also lead to higher temperatures and a rise in sea level for the Gulf. Higher temperatures will necessitate the use of more energy for air-conditioning and will also put GCC residents at risk if there are failures in electricity supply, as summer temperatures will be ‘unliveable’ without air conditioning, particularly for the more vulnerable. Adapting to sea level rise will require large sums to protect, or move and rebuild infrastructure in coastal areas.
There could also be severe environmental damage, due to rise in sea temperatures and more frequent and more severe dust storms. However, the falling annual average of rainfall might not be that devastating for the GCC as the region does not receive very much rainfall normally and is already reliant on water from desalination.
Not all parts of the GCC will experience reduced rainfall. Jebel al-Akhdar in Oman and southwestern Saudi Arabia, for example, may get even more rain than usual.
Luckily, GCC member states are in a much better position than other countries in the MENA region. The GCC have time and financial reserves to prepare for climate change.
Key potential measures include stockpiling food in case of global shortages, treat and recycle urban wastewater to grow high-value food crops, protect existing coastal infrastructure with stronger flood defences, locate new infrastructure further inland to allow for SLR and storm surges, ensure storm drains can cope with intense rainfall events, develop shared systems to give early warning of extreme climate events, make sure there are robust back-up systems for power generation and distribution, regenerate rapidly-built cities to make them less vulnerable to heatwaves and automate outside jobs to the extent possible.