World Environment Day      

World Environment Day, organised annually by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) since June 5, 1973, is the largest global platform for public environmental awareness, celebrated by millions of people worldwide. This year’s theme focuses on combating desertification and building resilience against drought. Currently, 40% of the planet’s lands are degraded, and desertification has increased by 29% since 2000, impacting half of the world’s population. The United Nations warns that without urgent action, the effects of drought will intensify, affecting three-quarters of the global population by 2050.

Unfortunately, Oman is one of the countries vulnerable to climate change and its adverse effects. This vulnerability arises from various factors, including rising temperatures, increased salinity levels in groundwater, and tropical storms. Initially, however, this report will address several definitions and concepts related to climate change.

Climate change pertains to enduring alterations in global or regional climate patterns, predominantly induced by human activities, specifically the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). These emissions trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to the “greenhouse effect,” which culminates in a rise in the planet’s temperature. Climate change encompasses extensive ramifications and affects diverse facets of the environment, society, and economy.

When engaging in discussions about climate change, we are commonly prompted to explore two primary aspects: the underlying causes responsible for this phenomenon or its initiation, and secondly the consequent effects or impacts it imposes on nature and the global environment as a whole. Some of the key causes of climate change are as follows:

Generating power, Manufacturing goods, Cutting down forests, Using transportation, Producing food, Powering buildings, and Consuming too much.

The effects of climate change are the results and changes that occur in the environment and society due to the increase in Earth’s average temperature and alterations in climate patterns. The impacts of climate change range from direct effects on the environment and wildlife to economic and social consequences for communities. Here are some of the key effects of climate change include:

Global Warming, Melting Polar Ice, Extreme Weather Events, Loss of Biodiversity, Water Scarcity, Threats to Agriculture, Health Impacts, Displacement and Migration, and Economic and Social Disparities.

In Oman, a 2023 report issued by the Ministry of Health on non-communicable diseases highlighted the need for measures to reduce air pollution. The report noted that pollution levels in Muscat Governorate have exceeded the recommended limits set by the World Health Organization. It called for improvements in energy and resource efficiency in the industrial and oil and gas sectors, the implementation of initiatives supporting green electricity, and projects to replace fossil fuels with green hydrogen. 

Additionally, tropical storms have inflicted significant financial losses, amounting to billions of dollars. In 2007, Cyclone Gonu struck, resulting in an estimated $4 billion worth of damages. Subsequently, in the spring of 2018, Cyclone Mekunu impacted the coastal regions, causing approximately $1.5 billion in damages. Among the coastal governorates, Al-Batinah North is particularly susceptible to tropical storms intensified by climate change. Moreover, areas like Muscat, Sur, and Salalah are also highly vulnerable due to Oman’s geographic location, situated on three sea fronts with a coastline stretching 3,165 km. As the majority of Omanis reside along or close to the coast, they face increased risks when cyclones make landfall.

Currently, extreme weather is recognised as a consequential risk of climate change in Oman. Over the past few years, the nation has observed a discernible rise in temperatures. In June 2018, the city of Quriyat, situated approximately 60 kilometres east of the capital Muscat, experienced a continuous high temperature of 41.9 degrees Celsius for a 24-hour period without any decline. Likewise, in June 2021, prolonged periods of high temperatures endured for nearly a month in certain regions, surpassing 50 degrees Celsius, marking the highest-recorded heatwave ever observed in the country. Furthermore, according to climate projections, Oman is expected to experience additional temperature increases in the forthcoming decades as a consequence of climate change.

Omani beaches have also suffered from environmental damage, with some being susceptible to what is known as coastal erosion. Coastal erosion is defined as is the gradual erosion of land by the sea, often involving destructive waves eroding the coastline.A study by Sultan Qaboos University predicted that one of Oman’s coasts, Ras Al Sawadi, will recede 860 meters inland and sea levels will rise by more than a meter. This adds to other environmental issues such as waste dumping, road construction projects near the beaches, and unhealthy agricultural practices.

Additionally, one of the effects suffered by Oman due to climate change is the salinisation of groundwater in coastal lands, attributed to rising sea levels. Experts anticipate that around 64% of agricultural lands in the southern Al Batinah region, one of the coastal areas, will become unsuitable for groundwater irrigation due to the intrusion of saline water into the aquifers.

Despite the strategic plan put forth by the authorities to address the climate change crisis, it is imperative for the authorities, in collaboration with civil society, to exert further efforts to confront this crisis.

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