Middle East

Climate change could make Kuwait “uninhabitable” in the future: Bloomberg

Fiona McDonald

Kuwait: Trying to catch a bus at Mary Station in Kuwait City can be unbearable in the summer. About two-thirds of the city’s buses pass through the hub and the schedule is unreliable. Smoke from the bumper-to-bumper traffic fills the air. Small shelters provide shelters for a small number of people if they are squeezed. Dozens of people stand in the sun and sometimes use umbrellas to protect themselves.

Global warming has broken temperature records around the world, but Kuwait, one of the hottest countries on the planet, is rapidly becoming uninhabitable. In 2016, the thermometer reached 54 ° C. This is the highest measurement on earth in the last 76 years. Last year, for the first time, they broke through 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in June, a few weeks before normal peak weather. According to environmental public agencies, some parts of Kuwait could be 4.5 degrees hotter than historical averages between 2071 and 2100, making most of the country uninhabitable.

For wildlife, this is almost the case. During the cruel summer, dead birds appear on the rooftop and you can’t find shade or water. Veterans are flooded with stray cats brought in by those who find themselves dying from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Even wild foxes have abandoned the deserts that have stopped blooming after the rain, leaving small green spots in cities treated as pests.

Tamara Kabazad, a wildlife veterinarian at Kuwait’s zoo, said: “Last year, it was very humid, very hot, even walking outside the house, and there was no wind at the end of July, 3-4 days. Many animals started to have respiratory problems. rice field.”

Political omission

Kuwait is OPEC’s fourth largest oil exporter, unlike countries from Bangladesh to Brazil that struggle to balance environmental problems with a packed population and widespread poverty. Home to the world’s third-largest sovereign wealth fund, with just over 4.5 million people, it’s not the lack of resources that hinder greenhouse gas reductions and adaptation to the warmer earth, but rather political. It is omission.

Even Kuwait’s neighbors rely on crude oil exports and promise to take stronger climate change measures. Saudi Arabia announced last year that it would aim for net zero emissions by 2060. The United Arab Emirates has set a goal for 2050. They say they are one of the largest producers of fossil fuels, but they are committed to economic diversification and investment in renewable energy. And cleaner energy. The following two United Nations Climate Change Conferences will be held in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The Middle Eastern government acknowledges that rising temperatures and sea levels can also lead to defeat.

In contrast, Kuwait promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7.4% by 2035 at the COP26 Summit in November. This is well below the 45% reduction required to reach the Paris Agreement’s expansion goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C by 2030. .. The country’s $ 700 billion sovereign wealth fund invests for the specific purpose of hedging oil, but says returns remain a priority as it shifts to more sustainable investments.

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, head of the EPA, told COP26 that his country is keen to support international initiatives to stabilize the climate. Kuwait also promised to adopt a “national low-carbon strategy” by the middle of the century, but did not say what this included and there was little evidence of action in the field.

public transport

Jassim Al-Awadhi is part of the younger generation of Kuwait and is increasingly worried about the future of their country. A 32-year-old former banker quit his job to drive changes that experts claim could be Kuwait’s key to combating global warming. His goal is to get Kuwait to adopt public transport. Public transport today consists only of buses primarily used by migrant workers who have low-paying jobs that have to withstand the heat.

It’s a difficult fight. Kuwait is one of the countries with the highest per capita carbon dioxide emissions in the world, but in countries where gasoline is cheaper than soda and cities are designed for cars, the idea of ​​abandoning cars is most resident. It’s completely different for you.

The London School of Economics, which conducted a comprehensive survey of Kuwait’s only climate opinions, found that older people were skeptical of urgency, while some talked about plots that disrupted the Gulf economy. I did. At public consultation, everyone over the age of 50 opposed plans to build a metro network like those already operating in Riyadh and Dubai. And the private sector sees climate change as a problem that government leadership needs to solve. “When I say something to a company, they say it’s not their business,” Al Awadi said. “They make me feel that I’m the only one with shipping problems.”

This is because most Kuwaitians and wealthy people are protected from the effects of rising temperatures. Homes, shopping malls and cars are air-conditioned, and those who can afford it often spend the summer in Europe. Still, the more reliance on the cooling system, the more fossil fuels are used and the higher the temperature.

The situation is much worse for those who cannot escape the heat, mainly workers in developing countries. Migrant workers are often seen struggling in the sun, although the government bans outdoor work during peak afternoons during the hottest summers. According to a study published last year at ScienceDirect, the overall death toll doubles on very hot days, but it triples for non-Kuwait men and is more likely to get a low-paying job. Become.

This is a very clear cycle for Saleh Khaled Al-Misbah. Born in 1959, he remembers growing up when his house had few air conditioners, but he was cool and shaded even during the hottest months. As a kid, he played outside in the cool weather for months and slept on the roof in the summer. It’s too hot now. Children spend most of the year indoors, protecting them from the burning sun and dangerous pollution: vitamin D deficiencies and respiratory illnesses that humans produce when exposed to the sun.

According to Fitch Ratings, changes in temperature in the 2040s and 2050s will increasingly adversely affect Kuwait’s creditworthiness. However, despite rising risks, the conflict between the only elected parliament in the Gulf and the appointed government makes it difficult to drive reforms on climate and other issues.

“The only political impasse in Kuwait is to suck oxygen out of the air,” said Samia Arduay, Kuwait’s environmental consultant at the UK Center for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences and UNDP. “This is a very rich country and has a very small population, so it could be a much better country.”

So far, little progress has been made on plans to produce 15% of Kuwait’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030, up from the current maximum of 1%. Oil is so abundant that it not only burns to generate electricity, but also fuels 2 million cars on the road, contributing to air pollution. Some power plants have switched to another fossil fuel that can leak methane, a relatively clean but powerful greenhouse gas. Power and water consumption, heavily subsidized by the government, is the highest per capita in the world, and even hinting at reducing these benefits has proven to be politically toxic. ..

“It obviously leads to a lot of waste,” Agility Public Warehousing Co. Said Tarek Sultan, Vice Chairman of the. ..

Not enough

Even if the world can reduce emissions fast enough to stop catastrophic global warming, countries must adapt to more extreme weather. At present, experts say Kuwait’s plans are not close enough to keep the country livable.

Nadim Farajala, director of climate change and environmental programs at the University of Beirut, said that if you start now, you can do much more in the coming decades, including more protection against rising sea levels. It will need to be environmentally friendly and have fewer buildings. Energy intensive. We also need to focus on transportation, which is a major source of CO2 emissions.

Khaled Mahdi, secretary-general of Kuwait’s Supreme Council for Planning and Development, said the government’s adaptation plans are in line with international policy. “We clearly identify roles and responsibilities, and all the challenges of the country,” he said, but “implementation is a normal and challenging issue,” he admitted.

If the government is at a standstill, young Kuwaites like Al Awadi are not. His advocacy group, Kuwait Commuting, begins by campaigning for bus stop shelters to protect passengers from the sun. Still, like many private sectors, they remain outside the decision-making process. “I think we’re finally making progress,” said Al-Awadi, who hopes that increasing the number of Kuwaiti on the bus will increase the demand for improved services.But “it must be promoted by the government. It’s a chicken before an egg.” – Bloomberg

https://www.kuwaittimes.com/climate-change-could-make-kuwait-unlivable-in-the-future-bloomberg/ Climate change could make Kuwait “uninhabitable” in the future: Bloomberg

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