This study relates changes in social vulnerability of 20 counties on the northern coasts of the Persian Gulf (PG) and the Gulf of Oman (GO) over a 30-year period (1988–2017) to changing socio-economic conditions and environmental (climate) hazard. Social vulnerability in 2030, 2040 and 2050 is predicted based on the RCP8.5 climate change scenario that projects drought intensities and rising sea levels. Social vulnerability was based on the three dimensions of sensitivity, exposure, and adaptive capacity using 18 socio-economic and five climate indicators identified by experts. All but one indicator related very strongly to the dimension it sought to represent. Despite improvements in adaptive capacity over time, social vulnerability increased between 1988 and 2017 and rates of change accelerated after change point years that occurred between 1998 and 2002 in most counties. Extrapolating past changes of each indicator over time enabled forecasts of social vulnerability in the future. While social variability decreased between 2017 and 2030, it increased again between 2030 and 2050. The lowest future social vulnerability is expected along the eastern PG coast, the greatest along the western PG and the GO. The worsening of socio-economic indicators contributed to increased sensitivity, and increased drought intensities plus the expected rise in sea levels will lead to social vulnerabilities in 2050 comparable to present levels. Between 1.4 and 1.7 M people will live in areas that are likely submerged by water in the future. About 80% of these people live in six counties with variable social vulnerabilities. While counties with lower social variabilities might be better able to cope with the challenges posed by climate change, adaptation programs to enhance the resilience of the residents in these and the remaining counties along the PG and the GO need to be implemented soon to avoid uncontrolled mass migration of millions of people from the region.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Waste Management and Disposal