Times of Oman
Middle East, Indian subcontinent could be uninhabitable in 80 years
September 17, 2017 | 9:07 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan / [email protected]
With 15 of the 16 warmest years on the record occurring in the 21st century, a paper published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that rising temperatures could destroy agricultural crops in the Indian sub-continent, leaving vast swathes of land uninhabitable. Photo-Shutterstock
 
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Muscat: Parts of Oman, as well as the rest of the Middle East and South Asia, could become unliveable by the year 2100.

With 15 of the 16 warmest years on the record occurring in the 21st century, a paper published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that rising temperatures could destroy agricultural crops in the Indian sub-continent, leaving vast swathes of land uninhabitable for people and crippling global food supplies.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh grow food that is vital to their well-being from both an economic and social standpoint, and Dr Jeremy Pal, one of the co-authors of this paper, is afraid that global warming caused due to carbon emissions is accelerating that process faster than ever.

“Our primary greenhouse gases in the current order of importance are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, each of which have increased by about 43 per cent, 140 per cent, and 21 per cent, respectively,” said Pal, a professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at the Loyola Marymount University.



“Increasing temperatures will likely increase the incidence of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, floods, and droughts, which can result in loss of life and significant infrastructure and property damage,” he added. “This will also likely result drastic changes in our ecosystems as many of them will not be able to adapt quickly enough.”

Global ocean temperatures have increased by one degree, and land temperatures by a further 1.5 degrees. Scientists fear that a global temperature rise of two degrees centigrade could result in irreversible environmental damage.

“We are about halfway to the two degree global warming mark,” said Pal, adding that “Both the Gulf and Indus and Ganges Valleys are in low elevation locations that are hot at least part of the year and near warm water bodies that provide moisture to the atmosphere.”

“Outdoor conditions and indoor locations without air conditioning in many locations are likely to become intolerable to humans during extreme years,” he added. “This could also impact commercial industries, such as construction, trade, transportation, petroleum, agriculture, aquaculture, and fishing. Generally speaking, it is the poorest that are working outdoors and that don’t have access to air conditioners that are most vulnerable.”

Pal urged nations to come together to combat this concern: the recently signed Paris Accord aims to halt global temperature increases to below that two-degree limit, and he has asked for more cooperation at regional level.

“Most of the work needs to be done at an international level,” he explained. “However, individuals help to reduce emissions by living by doing things like consuming less goods and purchasing things they only need, eating food grown closer to home and less meat, and of course using less fossil fuel, based energy for transportation, heating, cooling, lighting, etc.”

In Oman, The Research Council has been following up on ways to reverse the adverse effects of climate change. “There are three funded projects in the field of climate change,” said Dr. Jamila Al Hinai, acting director for the Environment and Biological Resources Sector. “The first project contributed to the knowledge of coastal changes and natural sedimentary processes as essential environmental changes are associated with global climate changes, such as desertification, groundwater recharge, coastal evolution, flash-flood frequency, and marine productivity.

“The second project enhanced the knowledge in the oceanographic conditions and their impact on the marine ecosystems within Sea of Oman by exploring the regional and global climatic events that are likely to force regime shifts in productivity in this region,” she added.

“The third research analysed ecological consequences of possible regime shift using the approach of ‘zoomed in’ regions, from the scale of the whole western Arabian Sea, through the scale of the Sea of Oman, to the scale of smaller regions, such as Bandar Khayran,” said Al Hinai.

According to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, a climate change readiness report published by the University of Notre Dame, Oman is ranked 70th among 181 nations. Saudi Arabia (61), the UAE (44), Bahrain (73), Qatar (50) and Kuwait (75) are also on the list.

India was ranked 119, Pakistan, which was placed 125th and Bangladesh, which is at number 142, are all more vulnerable than the Arab nations.

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