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Opinion: Climate Change in Saudi Arabia - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The people of Saudi Arabia have been witnessing a shocking phenomenon, namely that of heavy rainfall which has caused flooding leading to deaths, injuries, and damages to buildings and public infrastructure. This requires us to reflect on the severe climactic fluctuations we are witnessing and link these to past events in order to get to grips with our country’s “new reality.” The heavy rainfall that has lashed Jeddah for two consecutive years, resulting in deaths, injuries, and material damage, is a warning that what is happening is not an exception, but the result of severe climate change. The current heavy rainfall being experienced in the kingdom merely reinforces this fact.

This severe climate change must have an impact on different aspects of life in Saudi Arabia. We must completely reconsider the standards, criteria and measures used in the construction of roads, bridges, tunnels, drainage networks and urban planning processes as a whole. There is an urgent need to develop the operations of the Civil Defense sector, preparing it to deal with such cases more often, rather than on an emergency basis only. Well-equipped flood-proof shelters must be established in the main cities so as to provide people with temporary relief centers. In addition, we must ensure that the construction of future public transport systems meet the requirements of climate change and avoid old criteria.

Many countries take urgent climate changes into account, leading the competent authorities to issue the required rules and safety regulations. For instance, in Chile, due to the expanding hole in the Ozone layer, the manner in which the sun’s rays strike the south of the country has resulted in serious eye diseases, skin cancer, and strange cases of allergies. This led the authorities in the country to conduct a serious revision of labor laws and health regulations in order to contain the impact of this development.

Today Saudi Arabia is suffering from global warming whose impact, although mainly related to climate change, will influence peoples’ behavior, health, agricultural activity and a host of other things. Many countries around the world suffer from severe climate change; the entire European continent, as well as India, China, Australia, and North America, have to adapt to unseasonable heavy rains, flash floods, and unstable temperatures.

Photos from Saudi Arabia, appearing in a number of newspapers and on several social networking websites, showcased real wonders of nature, ranging from waterfalls in the middle of the desert to snow in spring in the mountains of Al-Taif. These photographs mark this unavoidable shift in Saudi Arabia’s climate.

Today, it appears that the weather forecast institute in Saudi Arabia needs to change its methods so that people can be warned about heavy rainfall via TV channels and digital media and devices. This is far better than unsubstantiated rumors being spread, creating a detrimental climate of public concern. Climate change in Saudi Arabia is an opportunity to learn how to deal with future emergencies.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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