Perils of climate change worrisome for Oman

Climate change resulting from global warming can have potentially severe consequences for the Sultanate, Oman’s Youth Representative of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has warned.
Alena Dique (pictured) urged the youth of the Sultanate to make common cause with the Omani authorities, as well as the wider international community, in addressing the contributory factors responsible for climate change.
Delivering a TEDx style talk at the Oman Energy Forum 2019, organised by Gulf Intelligence here last week, Alena warned of the likelihood of adverse weather phenomena, prolonged alternating periods of drought and desertification, accelerated saline ingress, loss of marine habitat, and severe coastal flooding – all of which can have potentially devastating socioeconomic consequences for the Sultanate.
The dire predictions come as leaders from around the world gather in Madrid for the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP25, which opens in the Spanish capital today, December 2. The Sultanate, which has signed up to the 2015 Parish Agreement, is expected to send a high-level delegation to the landmark, 10-day-long forum.
Speaking on the theme, ‘Youth of Oman – Climate Action?’, UNCTAD’s Youth Representative outlined a number of climate change scenarios with potentially grave ramifications for the Sultanate. In one such impact that can be attributable to global warming, summertime temperatures are already on the uptick, said Alena.
This is partly evident from soaring mercury levels recorded last year, which peaked at a sizzling 49.8 degrees Celsius in Qurayyat (Muscat Governorate) on June 26 – “temperatures at which road surfaces tend to melt”, she noted.
Also worrisome for Oman is the rising frequency and growing magnitude of adverse weather events buffeting the country in recent years, according to Alena. While the gap between the first (1977) and second (1996) major cyclones to hit the Sultanate in modern times was roughly twenty years, they are becoming a regular occurrence, of late — indicative of the advent of a ‘cyclone season’ in Oman’s climate cycle, she remarked.
Even more alarming is the threat from rising seawater levels – the result of melting ice caps – which can inundate low-lying coastal areas, said the Youth Representative.
An increase of a mere 0.5 metres in seawater levels can potentially submerge cities and towns in North and South Al Sharqiyah, as well as North and South Batinah governorates, among other areas, she warned. The resulting implications for tourism, real estate, infrastructure and industry are grim, she noted.
Climate change will also cause upheavals for Oman’s agriculture and fisheries sectors, according to the young communicator and motivational speaker. Prolonged periods of drought are likely to spur the ingress of saline water into groundwater, particularly near the coast, driving up the demand for fresh water for agriculture and irrigation. In the Arabian Sea, changes in the chemical characteristics of the water are beginning the impact the reproductive cycles of certain fish species, notably tuna and sardine, she said.
In her address, UNCTAD’s Youth Representative for Oman however lauded initiatives by the government, among other stakeholders, to drive the transition from fossil-fuel based power generation to renewables.
The Sultanate is targeting a minimum 30 per cent contribution from solar and wind based resources towards domestic electricity demand by the year 2030. Any shortfall in supplies from renewables should be harnessed from alternative energy sources, including offshore wind. Opportunities linked to the capture of carbon dioxide — the greenhouse gas primarily behind global warming —should be explored as well, she said.
Welcoming efforts to promote energy efficiency, the youthful leader also underlined the need for Oman to be better prepared for the perils that are in store should climate change become a full-blown reality. Infrastructure resilient to extreme weather, climate resistant crop species, and the mitigation of threats to public health, marine life and animals, are among the measures for consideration in this regard, she added.