Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Snake sightings are a local illustration of a global problem

Climate change is far-reaching and new solutions are needed to deal with the crisis

The saw-scaled viper is occasionally seen in the UAE. Alamy Photos
The saw-scaled viper is occasionally seen in the UAE. Alamy Photos

The UAE is coming to the end of an unusually cool, wet winter. For many residents facing the onset of a blistering summer, it was cause for celebration. But in some residential areas, it brought a range of uninvited reptilian visitors. As The National reported this week, wildlife specialists have seen a rise in calls to remove snakes from homes in the UAE, including some dangerous species. Dubai-based Rentokil has even assembled a specialist snake-removal team poised to be dispatched across the country. Most of those found are harmless and snakebites are rare. But this is a local illustration of a global problem: climate change. These creatures have long lived in the deserts of the Middle East but a damper winter has caused vegetation to thrive, leading to more insects, small mammals and birds, which are then preyed upon by snakes. That increases the likelihood of them slithering into a car boot during desert trips or worse, making it into our homes.

As environmental awareness increased in the second half of the 20th century, activists focused primarily on global warming. Today, it is climate change more broadly – fluctuations in temperature, humidity and winds – that pose the biggest threat to humanity and our planet. And extremes in weather claim lives, as tsunamis, floods and cyclones, from the US to Mozambique, attest. Dealing with these threats requires action at an individual, national and international level.

The biggest threat facing the UAE is water scarcity, and the nation is already turning to technology to deal with it. As Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, said last week, we cannot “just pray to God that the rain is going to come”. That is why the UAE is looking to develop machines that can turn humid air into water, alongside its pre-existing water desalination and cloud-seeding activities. Climate change is multifaceted and no country is safe. UAE residents might see more snakes than tsunamis, but that does not make climate change any less of a threat moving forward.

Updated: April 9, 2019 07:08 PM

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