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Is It Too Late for Yemen to Tackle Climate Change?

Climate change adds additional challenges for Yemen, a developing country that lacks the necessary flexibility to cope with the consequences of climate change resulting from the rise in global temperature by more than one and a half degrees Celsius from the pre-industrial era.

Record temperatures

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, contribute to global warming. Eleni Merifelli, global head of heat at the United Nations and the Archt-Rock Resilience Center, said this year the highest temperature was recorded.

According to studies carried out by scientists to study temperature throughout human history, they have concluded that humanity today is dealing with an unprecedented level of temperature.

"The temperature of the earth, which has risen more than a degree Celsius from the pre-industrial era, has led to climate changes that have affected aspects of life," Merfelli said. "Societies have become more aware of climate change due to heat waves, which have become longer and more frequent; but there are other consequences such as drought and floods, as rising temperatures lead to increased evaporation and intensification of moisture, which increases the chance of rain in large quantities causing flooding."

Future scenarios of climate change in Yemen

A recent report launched and discussed at a side seminar on December 2 within the activities of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP 28), held in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, revealed that Yemen is witnessing climate changes resulting from the rise in the temperature of the earth's surface in many areas, as the data have proven a clear linear increase in the earth's temperature over sixty years. Last, temperatures are expected to continue to rise between 2030 and 2050.

The report was co-authored by several entities and organizations, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with researchers from the Frederick S. Pardo Center for the International Future, the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies, the University of Denver, and Appalachian State University.

The report discussed future scenarios for climate change in Yemen and pointed out that the rise in temperature will affect vital sectors, especially agriculture, and the seasonal rains during the summer on mountainous areas and the Red Sea coast are currently increasing, and are expected to increase over the coming decades.

Although an increase in rainfall is not inevitable in all regions of Yemen, flooding and changes in rainfall patterns are likely to affect agricultural crops.

Dr. Anwar Noman, researcher and project coordinator at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), told Al-Mashhad: "The change in rainy seasons is currently felt by farmers and is affecting their ability to adapt, and it is expected that the water sector will witness a clear impact and await more extreme scenarios in terms of rain fluctuation and increase in its intensity, according to similar studies that we have carried out."

When vital sectors are affected by climate change, this mainly affects development, and the report revealed expectations that economic growth will decline gradually. According to the climate change scenario until 2060, GDP is likely to decline by $93 billion, which will result in an increase in poverty by 25% and will have negative long-term effects on the health and nutrition sectors.

An additional 3.8 million people are likely to be malnourished if the temperature continues to rise under the 2060 climate change scenario.

Is it too late?

Although Yemen is one of the least developed countries and contributes least to human emissions and the burning of fossil fuels, it is one of the countries that will suffer the most from the consequences of climate change and its adaptive capacities are still limited.

But according to the report, there is still an opportunity to build resilience if serious efforts are combined towards building societal resilience, Taylor Hahn, associate director of development at the University of Denver, one of the universities involved in preparing the report, said during the review of the results during the symposium held within the COP28 events.

"Climate change will continue to drive poverty and death from extreme heat waves, and there is no doubt that children and women will be on the front lines as a result of poor access to clean water and malnutrition, but we still have an opportunity to control the situation under integrated policies and a joint effort by all actors, including government, organizations, donor countries and civil society, we may be able to achieve reconciliation that guarantees stability and calms the conflict."

Building resilience

According to the report, the scenario of building societal resilience refers to acceleration in several key areas, foremost among them improvements in agricultural revenues, improved access to water and electricity, renewable energy production, restoration of the education system deteriorated as a result of conflict, increased remittances to vulnerable groups and increased female employment.

Increasing the effectiveness of the government and strengthening national strategies is an important and essential factor to move forward in adaptation and build community resilience mechanisms, which Abdul Wahid Arman, head of the climate change unit and one of the speakers at the side seminar on the discussion of the report, stressed: "The absence of integrated strategies that include climate change in a number of vital ministries and agriculture is one of the most important current challenges."

In the same context, Maeen Abdul Malik, Prime Minister of the interim government, who participated in the opening of the seminar, added: "The Conference of the Parties is an excellent opportunity to negotiate various funds for food security and health projects that fall within the framework agreements on climate change." He added that they are currently working on activating the executive units for climate change and that there is a plan to raise capacity to absorb climate finance and achieve the maximum benefit.

The report concluded that under the scenario of building societal resilience and the concerted efforts of development partners, cumulative economic growth of up to $360 billion could be achieved, leading to a 27% increase in GDP.

This story was produced as part of the 2023 Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP), a journalism fellowship program organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network (EJN) with support from the Stanley Center for Peace and Security. It was first published in Arabic by on December 5, 2023 and has been translated and lightly edited for length and clarity.

Banner image: A conference room / Credit: Sahar Mohammed.