x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Study warns of rising sea levels

The UAE could lose between one and six per cent of its territory by the turn of the century due to rising sea levels, a Government-sponsored report reveals.

The UAE could lose between one and six per cent of its territory by the turn of the century due to rising sea levels, a Government-sponsored report revealed yesterday. The four-volume study, Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation, was commissioned by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD). It marks the country's first effort to examine the impact of climate change on the coastline, interior and eco systems. Compiled by researchers from the reputed Stockholm Environment Institute, the report cautions that some of Abu Dhabi's most biologically-productive ecosystems such as mangrove forests and seagrass beds, as well as flagship species such as the houbara bustard and marine turtles face increased risk of extinction. "For coastal zones in the UAE - home to approximately 85 per cent of the population, over 90 per cent of the infrastructure, many sensitive ecological subsystems, and important cultural heritage sites - the vulnerability to climate change is very high," said the study. It warned that unless future development planning accounts for the changes, "the economic damages for the UAE's coastal zones will be unacceptably high". The question is not if sea levels will rise, but by how much, due to a rise in global temperature and subsequent melting of glaciers in mountainous areas and snow cover on the polar caps. The UAE study focuses on two scenarios - one involves sea-level rise of one metre by 2050. The second - and most dire - tackles scenarios where the sea rises by three metres by 2050 and nine metres by 2100, covering much of the developed coastal areas. "Depending on the sea level rise scenario, total land area inundated in the UAE ranges from 1,155 square kilometres to almost 5,000 square kilometres or roughly between one and six per cent of the country's total land area," said the study. It continues by saying that "all coastal cities in the UAE will experience progressively increasing inundation, depending on the scenario analysed". "Taking Abu Dhabi as an example, even the smallest sea level rise scenario (of one metre) shows that significant areas of the built environment in coastal regions will be inundated," said the document. vtodorova@thenational.ae