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“The UAE and Oman floods have shown that even dry regions can be strongly affected by precipitation events, a threat that is increasing with increasing global warming due to fossil fuel burning,” said Sonia Seneviratne, a professor at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich.


In over 75 years, the UAE received the highest rainfall with one area receiving 225 millimetres of rain in a day on 15-16 April 2024, according to the country’s National Center of Meteorology.


Dubai Airport faced disruptions due to the rain, with travellers being told not to go to the airport. Disruptions to flight operations were observed. Source info here.


Dubai’s streets were flooded with the city’s driverless metro facing disruptions as well. Across the UAE schools were shut and government employees were largely working from home. Source info here.


The above situation occurred even when it was well known in advance that a storm would hit the country and despite advance warning, the situation spiraled out of control.


Such rainfall for the first time in 75 years indicates that climate change could be one of the possible reasons for such a disaster. Cities like Dubai which are dry and hot generally may not have factored that rains of such high intensity could ever occur.


Also, this situation also raises questions about Dubai’s drainage system. Will this system be equipped to handle such a disaster in the future?


Also in the blog, we will discuss how cities need to adopt practices from the Adaptive Governance Theory to be ready for the rising threats of climate change.


“Stormwater management systems were historically deemed an ‘unnecessary cost’ due to the limited rainfall” in the UAE, said Karim Elgendy, an associate fellow at the Environment and Society Centre at Chatham House. “As the variability of rainfall increases across the region and as the likelihood of such events rises, the economic case for such systems becomes stronger.” Source info here


Stormwater management systems are infrastructure and techniques designed to mitigate the adverse effects of stormwater runoff. When precipitation occurs, water can accumulate on impervious surfaces like roads, parking lots, and rooftops, leading to flooding, erosion, and pollution if left unmanaged. Stormwater management systems aim to address these issues by controlling the flow of stormwater, removing pollutants, and reducing the volume of runoff.


If Stormwater management systems were deemed an unnecessary cost as stated above, with the rising risks of climate change it is imperative that we relook at our strategies.


As explained by Mr. Elgendy, due to the limited rainfall it was deemed unnecessary to have a stormwater management system. However, with climate change impacting every aspect of life today, do we need to change our approach towards disasters?


"As global temperatures rise, the atmosphere's capacity to hold moisture increases, leading to more intense rainfall events in many regions." - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.


According to the World Weather Attribution Group (WWA), which is a collaboration of climate scientists who analyze and assess the influence of climate change on extreme weather events in real-time, the event exhibited an intensity that was 10-40% higher than it would have been under conditions 1.2°C cooler based on observations.


However, the WWA study could not definitely conclude that human-induced climate change was responsible as there were diverging opinions. Please refer to the study here.


However, scientifically as the climate grows warmer, the air can hold more moisture and as we are facing the risk of global warming, the possibility of rising temperatures being responsible for heavier rainfall cannot be ruled out.


So, if in reality, Dubai’s climate is impacted by Global Warming, the approach towards disasters need to change.


While it's essential to note that not all regions will experience heavier rainfall as a direct result of global warming, overall trends suggest an increase in extreme precipitation events in many parts of the world. This underscores the importance of understanding and addressing the impacts of climate change on precipitation patterns and implementing effective strategies for stormwater management and adaptation.


Now let us look at the Adaptive Governance Theory, to help us understand how governments can combat this changing climate more effectively.


"Adaptive governance involves institutional arrangements that are flexible and can adapt to the unpredictability of change. It emphasizes learning and collaboration among diverse stakeholders to address complex environmental challenges." - Carl Folke, Environmental Scientist and Resilience Researcher.


Adaptive governance theory provides a framework for designing and implementing governance systems that can effectively navigate uncertainty, address complex environmental challenges, and promote sustainable management of natural resources over the long term. It emphasizes the importance of flexibility, collaboration, learning, and resilience in building governance structures that can adapt to changing conditions and promote the well-being of both human societies and the natural world.


Flexibility in response to changing risks is a fundamental principle of adaptive governance theory. It refers to the ability of governance systems to adapt and adjust their strategies, policies, and actions in response to evolving threats, uncertainties, and challenges.


Let us now understand flexibility within the context of adaptive governance theory:


Anticipation and Preparedness:

  • Flexible governance systems anticipate and prepare for a wide range of potential risks and scenarios, including those that may arise from changing environmental conditions, socioeconomic dynamics, or technological advancements.

  • This involves conducting comprehensive risk assessments, scenario planning, and horizon scanning to identify emerging risks and vulnerabilities early on, allowing for proactive measures to be implemented before problems escalate.


Adaptive Decision-Making:

  • Flexible governance involves adaptive decision-making processes that allow for incremental, and responsive actions in the face of uncertainty. This includes the ability to adjust policies, regulations, and resource allocations based on changing conditions and new information.

  • Adaptive decision-making often involves stakeholder engagement, participatory approaches, and deliberative processes to incorporate diverse perspectives, values, and knowledge into decision-making processes.


"Adaptive governance is about designing governance systems that are capable of adapting to uncertainty and change. It requires a shift from top-down, command-and-control approaches to more flexible, collaborative, and decentralized decision-making processes." - Derek Armitage, Environmental Governance Researcher.


Climate Change is a real risk, just because a country or an organization does not face the risk of floods or heavy rains does not mean that preparation is not required to combat it.


With Climate Change looming large on everyone’s mind, countries and organizations must consider the Adaptive Governance Theory and try to incorporate the principles to be better prepared for disasters as seen above.


It is always better to be prepared for any eventuality since disasters don’t always strike with notice. In this case, the UAE was already aware of the impending bad weather, however, still the impact was huge.


With the changing climate, desert cities not having a stormwater management system is risky with implications for the population at large.


Gorisco has a wide range of experts who are experienced in defining and designing various solutions to help organizations mitigate their risks and resolve their problems.


At Gorisco, our motto is 'Embedding Resilience,’ and we are committed to making the organizations and their workforce resilient. Reach out to us if you have any queries, clarifications, or need any support on your initiatives.


To read our other blogs, click here. More importantly, let us know if you liked them or not through your comments.


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