Climate change is a pressing global calamity with extensive and varied implications, profoundly affecting both the economy and social fabric of Saudi Arabia. Given the Kingdom’s unique geographic location, economy, and social context, the impacts of climate change are particularly significant for Riyadh.  At the same time, the situation creates a significant opportunity for economic diversification for the kingdom. Thus, the Saudi Vision 2030 framework emphasizes the development of non-oil sectors, including tourism, manufacturing, and finance, to create a more resilient and sustainable economy. This diversification is crucial, as fluctuations in global oil prices, compounded by the environmental effects of fossil fuel extraction and use, pose important economic risks to the country.

Rising temperatures

Rising temperatures are one of the most direct and immediate impacts of climate change felt in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom experiences some of the highest average temperatures in the world, and climate projections indicate a potential rise of up to 5.6°C by the end of the century under the most severe scenarios. This increase in temperature exacerbates existing challenges, such as the extreme heat experienced during summer months, which can surpass 50°C. These conditions pose significant health risks, increase the demand for energy and air conditioning, and reduce outdoor labor productivity.

Water scarcity

Due to its arid geography, Saudi Arabia is one of the most water-scarce countries globally, with limited renewable water resources and heavy reliance on non-renewable groundwater and desalination. Reduced rainfall and higher temperatures, due to changes in climate, are expected to exacerbate water scarcity. The projected decrease in precipitation and increase in evaporation rates caused by higher temperatures further strain the already limited water resources. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) reports a projected decrease in annual precipitation by 5-10 percent by 2050, coupled with a temperature rise of 2-3°C. This could reduce overall water reserves for agriculture by 15-20 percent. As a result, up to 25 percent of Saudi Arabia’s arable land will be at risk of desertification due to rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns.

Public health and livability

Climate change poses significant public health hurdles in Saudi Arabia. Rising temperatures and deteriorating air quality exacerbate respiratory conditions and heat-related illnesses. The health sector is under pressure to adapt by improving healthcare infrastructure and services to manage these increasing health risks. Additionally, climate change affects the livability of urban areas, prompting initiatives to create greener, more sustainable cities that can better sustain the well-being of their inhabitants.

Socioeconomic inequalities

Climate change can aggravate socioeconomic inequalities in Saudi Arabia, as vulnerable populations are often the most affected by its impacts. Rural communities, dependent on agriculture and lacking robust infrastructure, are particularly vulnerable to climate-related disruptions. The government is implementing policies aimed at supporting these communities and enhancing their resilience through improved infrastructure, social services, and diversifying economic opportunities.

Environment indicators

Key impact areas

Climate projections

Related resources

Additional climate profiles