Oman will not be spared the devastating impacts of global warming if greenhouse gases causing climate change are not reined in, an official of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) has warned.
A projected uptick in temperatures linked to global warming has the potential to unleash adverse weather phenomena, disrupt rainfall patterns, submerge swathes of low-lying coastal areas due to rising sea-levels, trigger drought and desertification, increase salinity in groundwater, impact agricultural and farming output, imperil fisheries and marine life, and also endanger public health, according to Maha Ali al Balushi of the Directorate General of Climate Affairs at the Ministry.
Addressing the Oman Energy & Water Conference 2019, under way at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC), she said the ministry has also commissioned a first-of-its-kind National Strategy for Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change.
The landmark exercise is being undertaken by Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) with the support of experts from the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and in collaboration with a number of Omani stakeholder agencies, including the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
“The objective of this national strategy is to determine the impact of climate change on sustainable development, encompassing agriculture, livestock, fisheries, water resources, coastal areas, infrastructure, industries, bio-diversity, and human health and welfare,” said Maha.
“There will be a dedicated unit for the modelling of climate change scenarios involving the use of high-performance computing systems that will map out impacts across various sectors and activities. It will enshrine strategies and targets set by all the sectors for cutting greenhouse gas emissions within their domains.”
Furthermore, the National Strategy will seek to formulate various policies and programmes for mitigating the impacts of climate change based on recommendations set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, she stated.
As part of climate change mitigation efforts, experts have called for the development of early warning systems in each of the sectors likely to be impacted by global warming. They have stressed the need for infrastructure projects, such as roads and other transport systems, to take into account likely climate change impacts during the design of these initiatives. In other recommendations, the experts have mooted the importance of research into climate-resistant crop species, and other studies on threats posed to public health, marine life, and so on, from global warming. The need for updating maps of flood risk zones has been underlined as well.
Climate change perils for Oman
In the worst case scenario, a temperature increase of around 4 degrees centigrade is projected by the year 2060
A combination of temperature increases and declining precipitation can contribution to greater periods of drought and desertification, thereby impacting agricultural crop and livestock production
If sea levels rise by as much as 0.5 metres, at least 450 sq kilometres of coastal areas will be submerged. Affected areas will likely include low-lying parts of North and South Sharqiyah, Al Wusta, and populous coastal swathes of North and South Al Batinah.
A higher frequency of adverse weather phenomena, including storms, flooding and tsunamis, will imperil infrastructure typically concentrated in the coastal areas.
A change in the chemical characteristics of the waters of the Arabian Sea — a key source of tuna and sardine for the local population — will impact fisheries and other marine species
Higher temperatures will impact surface water resources, as well as contribute to the ingress of saline water into groundwater, thereby adding to demand for sweetwater for irrigation.
Studies undertaken by the ministry, among other stakeholders, point to evidence of impacts to various eco-systems from climate change over the past couple of decades. Citing temperature trends recorded over the 1980- 2012 timeframe, officials point out that minimum and maximum mean temperatures have registered increases in all areas of the Sultanate, ranging from an increase of 0.2 degrees in Salalah to 2.2 degrees in Sur.