Devastating catastrophes highlight pressing need to leverage tech in climate change struggle

Sandstorms, drought, floods, heatwaves, 2022 is becoming one of the deadliest years in recent memory for climate-based disasters. With millions of people impacted and tens of billions of dollars lost in damages, what is the response in the Middle East and globally? 

A plague of natural disasters

The Middle East was not alone in experiencing record high temperatures this summer. Europe, North America, China, Japan and other parts of the world have endured some of their hottest years on record. 40-45-degree-celsius temperatures were experienced for long periods in these countries, causing hundreds of heat-related fatalities and devastating crops, exacerbating an already severe global food price crisis.

Among the most jaw-dropping temperatures occurred in India and Pakistan, reaching 50-degrees-celsuis ahead of the monsoon rains. This, of course, was only the prelude to the most devastating flash flooding ever to hit Pakistan. Starting in mid-June, over 33 million people have been impacted as vast swathes of the country became completely submerged. Beyond the appalling human cost, millions of people have been displaced and the damages, impossible to accurately gauge at the point, have been estimated in excess of $10 billion. The true extent of the damage, and the length of Pakistan’s road to recovery, may not be known for years.

From deadly deluges of water to sand, the Middle East has been hit with sandstorms of unprecedented length and severity this summer. The Gulf States, Iraq, Iran, Syria and other Middle Eastern nations have been battling storms that can last for several days. Iraq’s hospitals have been inundated with thousands of respiratory illness cases, as dust and sand clogs lungs and airways, often leading to serious complications for those with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma. Overall, the region loses around $13 billion per year to sandstorms, due to direct damages, hospitalisations, interruptions to key services, and lost productivity. The bill is likely to be significantly higher for 2022.

The fightback against extreme climate events starts needs a kickstart

With even worse extremes of climate yet to come, what is the response to the unfolding horrors of this summer? Where are individual governments and global organisations placing their faith and resources in this existential struggle after seeing first-hand how dangerous it really is?


Predictive action: In the Middle East, the call for anticipating and proactively addressing oncoming climate disasters is getting louder. This month saw the World Food Programme (WFP) launch its Anticipatory Action in the Mena region: State of Play and Accelerating Action report in Dubai. In it, the WFP warns that in an average year over the past century, climate disasters in the Middle East and Central Asia have injured or displaced 7 million people and resulted in $2 billion in damage. The report highlights the worrying reality that even though many climate crises are predictable, there needs to be stronger commitment to significant resources in order to plan ahead. Four key components need to be addressed: forecasting, risk information and early warning systems; planning; financing; and delivery. Forewarned is forearmed, and the leading Middle Eastern nations will be leading with their anticipatory action game in the remaining years of this crucial decade of climate crisis. Efforts are already being made, such as the Abu Dhabi-based Masdar Institute of Science and Technology launching a web-based modelling system that provides near-real-time maps of high concentrations of dust, sand and other pollutants, which can be tied to early warning systems and public emergency protocols.

Tree planting: Not a high-tech tool, but an effective one, trees are potentially the most viable large-scale solution to climate change available worldwide. The Biden Administration has committed the US to planting 1 billion trees over the next decade, at a rate of around 400,000 acres planted per year. Similarly, the African Union Commission has its Great Green Wall Initiative – a natural megaproject to grow an 8,000km-long belt of forest across the entire width of Africa. Closer to home, Saudi Arabia has committed to planting 10 billion trees, with their ‘Let’s make it green’ campaign, through which over 10 million trees were planted across all regions of Saudi Arabia in just 6 months. As well as sequestering carbon, trees help the land retain water, and bind the soil together, reducing the erosion necessary for desertification, sand and dust storms.

Perovskite Solar Cells: 90% of all solar panels in operation today are made from silicon. But perovskite structures may unlock the true low-cost, high-yield potential of solar power generation in the very near future. Researchers hope to increase the efficiency of solar panels by as much as 50% using perovskite structures, at a fraction of the price of silicon-based solar systems – less than $1 per watt vs $3-5 per watt.

Vertical Farming: Hydroponics and aeroponics allow for the process of vertical farming which uses up to 98% less water than traditional farming methods, while requiring much less land and offering far greater versatility of crop types and farm placement. The likes of the UAE and Saudi Arabia are already embracing this concept. Last month, Crop One Holdings and Emirates Flight Catering opened the world’s largest vertical farm, a 330,000-square-foot facility located in Dubai. It is capable of producing over 2 million pounds of leafy greens annually, while using 95% less water than field-grown methods.

Acting fast and boldly may be the only option to stave off irreversible disaster

As the calamities of recent months show, the planet is now incredibly vulnerable to the most extreme climate events. While individual nations search for solutions that suit their own specific vulnerabilities, a more collective, collaborative approach is also needed to combat the worst effects of this crisis. Predictive tools are essential for providing early warning, so that the horrors witnessed in Pakistan can be avoided in the future. New tech adoptions are equally vital in revolutionising sectors that have been stuck too long in the status quo, such as farming.

With the final few months of 2022 ahead of us, this year has already provided a shocking example of the dangers of continued procrastination on the most pressing issues facing our collective existence.