Climate Change is a Direct Threat to Yemen

National Yemen

Climate Change is a Direct Threat to Yemen

Asma al-Mohattwari

More than 70 people were the victims of heavy rains and flooding in several Yemeni regions during the past few weeks, with Yemen’s Taiz and Ibb sustaining the greatest damage. Dozens are still reported missing.

August 2013 was a month of a heavy rain in many parts of Yemen, which led to the drowning of dozens of men, women and children as well as the destruction of considerable agricultural land, roads, and residences.

While flooding has always been a phenomenon in Yemen, in recent years Yemen’s environmental events have been growing more severe as a component of the global climate change that has been taking place in recent decades. Climate change is the pattern of variation in temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, precipitation, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological variables in a given region over long periods. Climate can be contrasted to weather, which is the present condition of these variables over shorter periods.

Yemen is one of the Arab countries most affected by climate change, and she is relatedly facing enormous developmental challenges. Because most Yemenis depend on Yemen’s natural resources, climate change has a serious impact on their economic prospects, agriculture, household income and food security.

A study made by the World Bank said that Yemen is particularly reliant on its natural resources outside the extractive industries, and agriculture plays a leading role in Yemen’s economy while also employing more than half of its labor force. Agriculture also accounts for more than 90 percent of all of Yemen’s water use. Unlike in most of the world, Yemen is growing more economically dependent on agriculture is growing due to retarded progress in its faltering industrial, manufacturing and service sectors since 2000. Half of Yemen’s agricultural land is irrigated by rainfall, while 40 percent relies on rapidly diminishing groundwater resources.

According to the study, Yemen is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Rainfall is erratic and variable, a situation made worse by high evapotranspiration rates.

“Flash floods and droughts are frequent hazards displacing thousands, causing loss of life and significant damage to assets and livelihoods. The floods of 2008, for example, killed 180 people, displaced 10,000 and caused damage and losses to infrastructure, shelter, and livelihoods at US$1,638 million equivalent to 6 percent of Yemen’s GDP with agriculture accounting for nearly 64% of the total losses” the study said.

In addition to water damage that took place in 2008, 2010 also witnessed heavy rains hitting the capital, causing 9 deaths, the collapse of many houses in Sana’a’s old city—itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site—and the disruption of electricity service for several days, per a UNESCO report.

The World Bank study said that one of the most important factors behind Yemen’s climate problems is the lack of long-term, systematic records of rainfall and temperature, which severely hampers efforts to quantify long-term changes in climate, assess renewable natural resources such as water, prepare climate projections, and develop adequate policies and programs. In addition, institutional weaknesses undermine the state’s ability to adjust to demographic pressures, a problem made more difficult by the country’s poor economic outlook.

In the light of the climate change damages that take place every year, Yemen was chosen among 52 countries around the world for the implementation of a climate change project with the World Bank.

Mr. Sadaq al-Nabhani, member of the Yemen pilot program for climate resilience (PPCR), said that Yemen submitted its proposal to participate in this project two years ago and they successfully obtained 160 million to carry it out.

Al-Nabhani said that PPCR provides Yemen with a unique opportunity to understand climate change, and prepare a road map for climate resilience to be incorporated into development planning. Simultaneously, the World Bank grant will allow Yemen to showcase transformational changes at the institutional and sectoral levels through the implementation of key sub-programs.

The program has been divided into 3 phases, and the program is currently engaged in the first of these. “Phase I of the PPCR is the preparatory phase for the overall program, which will lay the foundation for climate resilience to be mainstreamed into development planning and inform the identification of specific interventions and investments that will be supported during Phase II.”

The World Bank document said that the project development objective is to improve the quality of hydro-meteorological and climate services provided to end-users. This objective will be achieved through improved forecasts resulting from improved observing networks, the introduction of new technologies, and access to higher resolution global weather and climate products.

A secondary objective of the PPCR is to provide incentives for scaled-up action and transformational change through pilot projects that demonstrate how to integrate climate risk and resilience into core development planning, while complementing other ongoing development activities in a given country.

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