15 jul 08 | Xpress (online)

Pachauri warns Gulf nations on climate change

By Faisal Maudi

Global warming can radically upset the weather here, enough to send giant waves crashing into the manmade islands off Dubai, said Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). During a visit here on Sunday, Dr. Pachauri, who received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IPCC, said Gulf countries like the UAE are in greater danger from extreme climate conditions like tidal waves partly because they are on the seashore and have a flat landscape.

"Reclaimed areas need strict zoning and building laws for the structures to remain safe. There is a distinct possibility that climate change can make sea levels rise several meters and even cause storm waves to surge," said Dr. Pachauri. "We don't know exactly when that may happen, but if it does, there will be 100 million environmental refugees."

Nakeel Properties, the developer behind offshore projects like the Palm Trilogy and The World, says the maritime real estate is out of danger. They expect climate change to hike sea levels by less than a meter in hundred years, which is not enough to reach Nakheel projects, currently buffered by four meters from the ocean.

But the possible freak weather in the region can also cause heath problems that stem from heat waves, which can lead to dehydration or even death, and a higher rate of vector-born diseases - illnesses that strike people through insects like mosquitoes and ticks.

"Also, the warmer temperatures will be not suitable for many plants. We're seeing this now in some parts of the world, where food production has been affected, leading to starvation and price hikes," said Dr. Pachauri.

Governments can avoid this "stressful situation," he said, by taking steps now to protect the environment. The trick is too cut carbon waste, the main culprit in so-called greenhouse gases, chemicals that are thought to trap pollution rising from cities and heat from the Sun.

"Dubai doesn't get a lot of credibility at the international level, when it comes to energy saving. The region needs to do more to join the global environmental effort." The UAE, in relation to its population, is one of the top carbon emitters in the world. Dr. Pachauri also called for carpooling to be legalised here and more options in public transport services to reduce the number of cars on the road, which contribute a lot to building smog.

Besides vehicles, half of all carbon pollution comes from buildings, he added. "Keep them off the [power] grid as much as you can. Use solar and wind power to generate electricity onsite," he suggested.

A new Dh1.6-billion project in Dubai will try to do just that. The Verde Residences and Offices in Dubai Maritime City plan to achieve Gold ratings of the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) programme.

Adrian Smith, the Chief Architect of the towers - and Burj Dubai - said: "The energy saved by the project is equal to the planting approximately 600,000 trees or removing 680 cars off the road." The freehold property will have a district cooling system, generate most of its own power, use wind turbines located at the roof, and heat water through the use of solar panels. It is being built by ETA Star Properties.