Rachel Mulholland - Middle East Principle Scientist, British Embassy, Kuwait.

To support action on marine and coastal aspects of climate change in Kuwait and across the Gulf region, the Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) have published three reports providing advice on adaptation actions to build climate resilience in fisheries, corals, and coastal desalination plants.

The Gulf, the world’s hottest sea, is becoming ever hotter as a result of climate change. This is damaging biodiversity and threatening coastal cities and communities. Climate adaptation actions are important because even if all carbon emissions were to stop today the world, and the region’s sea, will continue to become hotter. This will cause losses of coral reefs, declines in fisheries, and will threaten coastal cities and industries like desalination plants due to sea level rise and increased cyclone and storm risk.

When world leaders met this month at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 27 th Conference of Parties (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt they discussed the importance of reducing greenhouse gasses to keep global temperature rises well below 2 o C, and ideally below 1.5ºC, but they also discussed the global goal on adaptation. This seeks to help countries introduce adaptation measures and build resilience to climate change.

It is important to predict the future impacts of climate change so that targeted adaptation actions can be introduced to build the resilience of economies and natural ecosystems to the dangerous impacts of climate change.

The ROPME Adaptation reports are the latest outputs from the Regional Action Plan on Marine Climate Change that ROPME has been conducting with scientists from the UK’s International Marine Climate Change Centre based in Cefas and scientists across the gulf region. The Regional Action Plan has been developing understanding on the impact of marine and coastal climate change on the region’s society, economy, and biodiversity.

The Regional Action Plan found that:

  • The effects of climate change, including rising temperatures and sea-levels, are already occurring across the ROPME Sea Area and are projected to accelerate in future.
  • Climate change and other human impacts are causing degradation and loss of critical habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves, saltmarshes, and seagrasses across the region.
  • Climate change will lead to a decline in fisheries, which are an important source of food across the region.
  • Coastal storms and cyclones are predicted to become more intense causing significant risks to coastal communities, industry, and infrastructure from storm damage and coastal flooding.
  • Increasing water temperatures may lead to an increase in phytoplankton and jellyfish leading to harmful algal blooms that can block desalination plants and coastal industrial cooling systems.
  • Blue carbon ecosystems (such as seagrass beds) need protecting to continue absorbing CO2 from the air. These ecosystems also support climate change resilience by providing coastal protection and supporting productive fisheries.

Climate adaptation actions are an essential part of the global response to climate change and can deliver multiple benefits. Examples of adaptation actions proposed for the region include protecting and restoring mangroves and coral reefs to improve coastal protection for areas vulnerable to flooding.

In addition, these actions will support biodiversity and fisheries productivity. Active restoration of corals through coral gardening and breeding of resistant corals can also improve the resilience of the region’s corals to climate change.

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