Saudi foreign minister warns of ‘catastrophic consequences’ if Israel attacks Rafah

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Meteorology will host the first International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms from March 4-6 in Riyadh.

The forum, organized by the World Meteorological Organization’s Sand and Dust Storm Warning Regional Center, is expected to draw wide international participation and aims to address the growing global challenge posed by dust and sand storms.

Over 200 researchers, experts, and specialists from around the world, including WMO representatives, will gather to share the latest advancements in dust and sand storm research, said the center.

The conference is slated to discuss a wide range of critical topics, including sources of dust aerosol formation, dust-climate interactions, health impacts and mitigation strategies, monitoring and predictive modeling, and economic, infrastructural, and environmental consequences of dust storms on various sectors.

The conference will underscore the urgent need to combat dust and sandstorms, in view of their significant impacts on the environment, public health, and economies.

Such storms can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, disrupt solar energy production, degrade air quality, alter weather patterns, and disrupt biogeochemical cycles.

This international conference serves as a crucial platform where scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders from around the world exchange knowledge and collaborate, paving the way for a more coordinated and effective approach to tackling the global challenge of dust and sand storms.

International and regional initiatives have been taken to study these impacts and come up with mitigating strategies.

The Middle East, with its vast arid and semi-arid landscape, is a major source of dust particles.

The increasing frequency and intensity of dust storms in the region, attributed to changes in land use and vegetation cover degradation, needs further comprehensive research to fully understand their far-reaching effects.

Saudi Arabia has taken important steps to mitigate climate change and combat sand and dust storms including the Saudi Green Initiative launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2021, which aims to address local and global environmental challenges.

Established under Saudi Vision 2030, SGI is an ambitious plan focused on combating climate change, protecting the environment for future generations and improving the quality of life.

It unites all the efforts towards Saudi Arabia’s mission of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 through the creation of a circular carbon economy. The Kingdom has also pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 278 million tons annually by 2030.

By 2030 Saudi Arabia plans to plant 600 million trees, restore 3.8 million hectares of land and champion biodiversity conservation as part of the SGI’s 10 billion trees goal.

In March 2019, the Kingdom established the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification with the aim of increasing green areas and rehabilitating degraded vegetation sites.

Moreover, the Kingdom launched the Middle East Green Initiative in April 2021, the most comprehensive program of its kind in the world, as a support for the SGI.

The aim of launching the MGI is to plant 50 billion trees, equivalent to 5 percent of the global afforestation goal.

All of these efforts will help in mitigating desertification, reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and enhance biodiversity. It also shows Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainable development and addressing the challenges of climate change and sand and dust storms.

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