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Saudi Arabia Uses Science to Confront Climate Change

Saudi Arabia has exerted exceptional efforts during the Hajj of 1445 despite facing significant challenges, particularly global climate change. This was evident in the unusually intense heat wave that struck the region during the Hajj season, signaling the likelihood of more extreme weather events in the future.

The Hajj season this year witnessed an intense heat wave that was unusual for this time of the year. The temperatures in the holy sites rose to reach about 50 degrees Celsius or more in the shade. This seemed difficult and severe for the pilgrims, who were elderly and those with chronic diseases.

This heat wave was not usual during this period of the year, as the summer solstice had not yet occurred, officially announcing the entry of the summer month. However, the phenomenon of climate change causes the recurrence and severity of extreme weather phenomena, such as extreme heat, or floods or hurricanes…etc.

Relentless Efforts in Facing Challenge

Despite the challenge, the Kingdom delivered an exceptional season of integrated services, particularly in health, showcasing the Saudi Ministry of Health’s ingenuity in managing issues like heat stress due to high temperatures.

Despite the scorching weather, pilgrims performed their rituals comfortably, thanks to the Kingdom’s integrated services, security, and regulatory authorities. This underscores the Kingdom’s commitment to excellent service and ensuring the safety and health of all pilgrims.

 

The heat wave did not hinder Saudi Arabia’s efforts or prevent efficient management of heat stress cases. The Kingdom’s health authorities provided over 465,000 medical services to pilgrims, including 141,000 to unauthorized ones. They treated 95 critical cases, transporting them by air to Riyadh and other cities for further care. Additionally, they offered over 30,000 ambulance services, 95 air transport services, and 1.3 million preventive services, including early detection, vaccinations, and urgent care for arriving pilgrims.

The health care provided was characterized by the rapid response of the medical teams and the availability of various health services, including heat stress rooms and modern technologies to rescue the injured quickly and efficiently.

The health authorities in the Kingdom also warned pilgrims against direct exposure to the sun’s rays, and advised them not to leave their camps, and to adhere to them as much as possible to maintain their health and safety. This step contributed to reducing cases of heat stress.

This efficient handling of the Saudi health authorities led to a reduction in the number of deaths, which reached 1,301 deaths, of which 83% did not have identification cards, which led to the need to communicate with the various Hajj delegations to obtain their identity.

Climate Change is Reality

Climate Change — As You Sow

Reuters quotes Karl Friedrich Schleussner, a scientific advisor at the German Institute for Climate Analysis, as saying that “Hajj rituals have been taking place in a certain way for more than a thousand years, and the climate has always been hot, but the climate crisis is exacerbating the harshness of climatic conditions,” in reference to an unprecedented heat wave. The usual conditions that affected the region during the Hajj period.

While the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, warns of climate change, pointing out that there is a need for a way out of the highway leading to climate hell, stressing that even today, “we are pushing the boundaries of the planet to the brink of the abyss, as we break records in global temperatures and harvest what we planted.”

Efforts to Contain it

In this regard, the Kingdom presented the Green Saudi Arabia and Green Middle East initiatives, which reflected its firm commitment to addressing the repercussions of climate change and accelerating the pace of climate action.

The Saudi Green Initiative supports the Kingdom’s ambition to achieve the goal of zero neutrality by 2060 by adopting the circular carbon economy model, and it also works to accelerate the Kingdom’s transition towards a green economy.

Saudi Green Initiative Forum 2023 | Green Initiatives

The initiative seeks to achieve three ambitious goals: reducing carbon emissions, foresting the Kingdom, and protecting land and marine areas, as its main goals.

The “Initiative” seeks to afforestate the Kingdom by planting 10 billion trees throughout it, transforming its deserts into green lands, and rehabilitating 40 million hectares of land in the coming decades, as afforestation contributes to lowering temperatures, combats desertification, reduces sand storms, and improves the quality of life.

With regard to the transition towards clean energy, this goal works to increase the Kingdom’s share of renewable energy by 50% by 2030 . Diversifying the energy mix locally is a fundamental pillar for achieving sustainability, and clean energy projects will provide economic, social and environmental benefits, and have a positive impact on the environment.

Among the goals of the initiative is to reduce carbon emissions, as well as increase the percentage of protected areas to more than 30% of the total land area in the Kingdom in order to enhance biodiversity the local natural environment.

Saudi Green Initiative

The Kingdom has launched more than 80 initiatives in order to achieve the three goals of the Saudi Green Initiative and bring about positive change in the long term.

SAUDI GREEN INITIATIVE

These initiatives range from afforestation efforts and biodiversity protection to reducing emissions and creating new natural reserves. Within the framework of the Saudi Green Initiative, the Kingdom seeks to achieve its aspirations to build a more sustainable future for all.

The Crown Prince affirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to international sustainability by announcing that it will host the headquarters of the Green Middle East Initiative‘s General Secretariat. The Kingdom will contribute $2.5 billion over the next 10 years to support the initiative’s projects. Additionally, the Public Investment Fund aims to achieve zero neutrality by 2050.

How the Saudi Green Initiative has moved from ambition to action, two years on

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