The UAE, along with the rest of the world, is already experiencing the effects of climate change, according to a French scientist.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi and Dubai about the latest findings in climate science, Dr Francois-Marie Breon said humanity needed to act immediately on reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
He noted the UAE – and the region – was warming and that the changes in temperature were faster than the global average.
“I looked at how the temperature changed in this region in the past 100 years and, actually, the increase of temperature in this region is much larger than it is on average in the world.”
In 1900, the 10-year moving average of UAE temperatures was below 26.5°C. It is now higher than 28°C. Meanwhile, the global temperature increase for the period is less than 1°C.
“Since 1990, the temperature has been increasing extremely fast,” Dr Breon said.
The lectures were organised by Alliance Francaise Dubai. The group, which promotes French culture and language, is hosting several climate awareness events this year before a global summit on the issue in Paris in December.
Dr Breon, deputy director of the Climate and Environment Sciences Laboratory in France, is among a group of scientists who have prepared a report through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Released last year, the report presents the most recent scientific consensus on climate change.
It said atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, were unprecedented in at least the past 800,000 years. The rate at which humanity was discharging the emissions was rapidly increasing.
It noted the world was already warmer on average and sea levels were higher.
It warned that continuing on the same course would “cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems”.
At the Paris meeting, governments are hoping to reach agreement on how to limit the rise in temperature to an average of 2°C. As with many other scientists, Dr Breon believed that this target would soon become difficult to achieve.
“We should not see that 2°C threshold as the only objective and if we cannot meet that objective, let us do nothing. We still have to try to do something about it,” Dr Breon said.
“Two degrees centigrade will be really difficult but still we need to try, and even if it is 2.5°C it is still worth it because the damage will increase very much with the temperature and it increases in a non-linear fashion.”
In the UAE, limiting air travel would be one way to reduce emissions. Frequent flights far outweigh the benefits of other environmentally responsible activities such as cycling, public transport and efficient electrical appliances, Dr Breon said.
The carbon footprint of air travel is 3 to 4 kilograms of carbon for every passenger for every 100 kilometres – equal to having everyone on board cover the same distance in a very small car. Other climate-friendly actions include improving the insulation of buildings and buying less meat.
Governments putting a price on releasing greenhouse emissions was also a much-needed step, Dr Breon said.