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Climate Change as Strategic Threat to the UAE


Climate change is a serious global issue that threatens the future economies because of its devastating effects. The Gulf countries are facing difficulties in addressing this threat, because their economies rely solely on fossil fuels, which are the leading sources of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that causes global warming. Controlling the amount of this gas in the atmosphere is a challenge for these countries because they have scarce arable land and water resources, which prevents the development of forests, green areas, and carbon sinks (Raouf, 2008). Internationally, they rank poorly in terms of the amount of greenhouse gas they emit. According to the World Resources Institute, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and Iran rank 43rd, 22nd, and 18th respectively. Doney et al. (2012) explain that climate change is caused mainly by the emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels in industries, vehicles, and other areas. Such a thing is typical for many of the countries in the Gulf region. Climate change is a threat to the UAE, because its effects drag down the objectives of its vision 2030 in many ways. However, the country has many measures to implement in order to prevent the damaging consequences of this threat to its economy.


Desired Objectives of the Vision 2030

The country has an economic strategy to achieve by 2030, which is threatened by climate change. According to Alhassani (2013), the UAE has a diversified economic strategy that intends to attract international investments, which will help achieve the primary objectives of the vision 2030. Through the vision 2030, the country intends to transform itself into a world class economy through economic diversification, integrating with the global economy, optimizing economic resources, and investing in both social and physical infrastructures (Low, 2012). Another area that the country wants to transform is the tourism industry, in which the coastal areas play a critical role due to the attractions like mangroves and beaches. Just like many other Gulf countries, the UAE has utilized its oil resources to grow its economy. The money it acquired will be utilized in economic diversification through the implementation of the vision 2030 objectives. In the long run, the UAE will be an icon of development in the global arena.

Impact of Climate Change to the UAE

Rise in Sea Level

Climate change is a huge strategic threat to the UAE, because the rise in the sea level will submerge the coastal lands, resulting in the destruction of valuable property and dislocation of people from their places of work and residence. That will have negative consequences for economic growth and development. The accumulation of greenhouse gases in this country and other regions of the world causes global warming resulting in the rise of atmospheric temperatures. Raouf (2008) explains that global warming in the last decade has led to the warmest temperatures since 1850, causing a marked increase in the sea levels. McMichael (2013) explains that the increase in temperature has resulted in not only extreme weather conditions, but also the subsequent loss of major ice masses, including the Arctic sea ice. This phenomenon is a significant threat to the UAE, the coastal lands of which significantly impact the economy.

However, the effects of climate change on sea levels will be a huge hindrance to the achievement of vision 2030 objectives. The country spans about 83,600 square miles with a coastline of over 1,318 km along the Gulf of Oman and the renowned Arabian Gulf (AlRustamani, 2014). The coastal land is essential to the economy because it contains infrastructure among many other things. The loss of this land due to it being submerged in water from the sea will be detrimental to the economic development of the UAE. UAE will lose between 1% and 4% of its land, resulting in the loss of its GDP by at least 2-4%, which will be detrimental to most of its population and the countries that rely on it for trade and other things (AlRustamani, 2014). The country has been using its earning from oil trade to expand and diversify its economy.


However, the submerging effect of the coastal lands and destruction of property will compel this country to formulate other strategies that will include the resettlement of the dislocated people. That means that the country will use some of its money to address the effects of climate change instead of investing it in economic development. That notwithstanding, important sources of income will have been lost due to the loss of the submerged land and property. For instance, the UAE has attractions on its coastlines that range from fascinating beaches to mangroves. These attractions are sources of foreign business, so their destruction will result in the loss of these assets, eliminating a massive source of income necessary to grow and develop the economy.

Effect of Drought on Food Security and Human Health

Furthermore, climate change will threaten the economy of the UAE and the population’s health, since its impacts will result in increased droughts that will worsen the already existing scarcity of water, causing people to consume unclean water and food. McMichael and Butler (2011) explain that climate change compromises the health of the public. because it results in calamities like droughts that lower agricultural productivity, leading to food insecurity. The vision 2030 aims to focus on the drive for economic diversification in many sectors that include manufacturing, cultural tourism, healthcare, renewable energy, the media, petrochemistry, and financial services (Low, 2012). All these areas can only grow if the country has a healthy population the basic needs of which are met.

The adverse climatic conditions of drought can deny the population food and clean water and cause problems that can hinder economic development. Kang, Khan, and Ma (2009) explain that climate change in most of the Arab countries manifests through lower precipitation, high temperatures that result in the increase of drought frequency, and the subsequent rise in the sea levels. The drought will reduce the agricultural productivity that will, in turn, worsen food insecurity and increase the demand for initiating and developing the already existing irrigation systems. The health of the population living in drought areas of the country will suffer greatly because of the lack of clean water for consumption. As a result, most people will use any water, even if it is not safe for consumption given that pollution is high in this economic hub of the Gulf region. Such a thing does not only mean that food insecurity will cause nutrition-related health diseases but also waterborne diseases from the consumption of unclean water.

The lack of food caused by extreme environmental conditions brought by droughts will prompt the country to work on a plan to rectify the situation. In fact, the country will be forced to use its revenues to desalinate the water for irrigation to increase agricultural production and treat the polluted water for human consumption. The utilization of this money will hinder the economic development and diversification. Waterborne diseases will also affect the country’s workforce, because having an unhealthy population lowers labor productivity. Expenditures on desalinating water and curbing the effects of diseases will mean that the financial requirements to achieve the objectives of the Vision 2030 will not be achieved.

Ways and Means of Curbing Climate Change

The UAE can prevent climate change at the national level by formulating and executing regulations and laws to enhance the promotion and maintenance of the environment. AlRustamani (2014) explains that the country aims at curbing climate change through the adoption of organic agriculture, biodiversity, sustaining wildlife and marine environment, and reducing fossil fuel emissions. Control of economic activities through reducing emissions in industries and vehicles through policies is important. The government is currently collaborating with the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) that intends to develop green growth plans to address climate change. Furthermore, controlling the activities of the military that are harmful to the environment can be a great solution. For instance, the military operates heavy machinery, vehicles, and jets among many other apparatuses, which emit enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and worsen the global warming (Lawrence et al., 2015). The UAE can help reduce these emissions from the military through limiting the use of these resources and machines unless when it is mandatory.

Internationally, diplomatic forums with foreign nations can help the country join efforts to curb the menace, since climate change is caused by many countries around the world. The country already promotes climate sustainability and development goals together with other nations in the United Nations (Raouf, 2008). The UAE uses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure the climate change agenda is given priority in diplomatic forums. Encouraging many countries to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases on the global level is the best way to reduce the menace. Additionally, the UAE funds local initiatives to address climate change and should develop tough regulatory rules to reduce the emission of these gases from economic activities.



Climate change can keep the UAE from achieving its vision 2030 economic objectives, because of its adverse impacts but the country should adopt appropriate measures to alleviate the perceived effects. The rise in the sea levels brought by climate change will submerge the coastal areas, destroy property, and dislocate people. Other than losing valuable land and property, the country will spend huge amounts of money to resettle the people instead of achieving the objectives of the vision 2030. Further, droughts will also lead to food insecurity and worsen water scarcity, causing humans to suffer from waterborne diseases as a result of consuming contaminated water. The use of funds to desalinate and treat water for irrigation and human use will deny the country the finances necessary to achieve economic diversification. However, international diplomacy, economic investments, legal regulations, and control of the military and economic activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will help curb global warming.

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