Energy-rich Qatar faces growing climate risks at home

Energy-rich Qatar faces growing climate risks at home

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — In a suburban park near Qatar’s capital Doha, cool air from ground vents blew over joggers on a November day that reached nearly 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit).

The small park with air-conditioned pathways is an apt illustration of World Cup host Qatar’s responses so far to the rising temperatures its people are facing. The wealthy Gulf Arab nation has been able to pay for extreme adaptation measures like this with the natural gas it exports around the world.

A small peninsula jutting into the Persian Gulf, Qatar sits in a region that, outside of the Arctic, is warming faster than anywhere else on earth.

“It’s already bad. And it’s getting worse,” said Jos Lelieveld, an atmospheric chemist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Part of the reason is warming waters in the Persian Gulf, a narrow, shallow sea that helps smother climate change. humidity in Qatar for a few months.

“It’s a pretty tough environment. It’s quite hostile,” said Karim Elgendy, an associate member of the London-based Chatham House think tank. Without its ability to pay for imported food, heavy air conditioning and desalinated seawater, he said, the contemporary country could not exist.

Already, Qatar has faced a significant increase in temperatures compared to pre-industrial times. Scientists and others concerned about climate change are trying to keep the Earth as a whole from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) on average, because research shows this will be deeply disruptive, rendering many people homeless, flooding coastlines and destroying ecosystems. .

“Qatar has a lot to lose in terms of the effects of climate change,” said Mohammed Ayoub, a professor at the Institute for Environment and Energy Research at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Qatar. It is one of the hottest countries in the world and will experience even more extreme heat, floods, droughts and sand and dust storms.


If Qatar is one of the richest nations in the world per capita, it is also one of the most polluting per capita. Around this country slightly smaller than the US state of Connecticut, large SUVs are commonplace, filled with cheap gas. The air conditioning blows inside the buildings all year round. Even the country’s drinking water is energy-intensive, with nearly all of it coming from desalination plants that burn fossil fuels for the force needed to squeeze ocean water through tiny filters to make it drinkable.

In recent years, Qatar has taken a step forward in making climate commitments. At the Paris climate talks in 2015, he did not commit to reducing emissions, but set a target six years later to cut emissions by 25% by 2030. One solution would be to d to use carbon capture and storage in gas production facilities, a much-discussed technology. which has not yet been widely deployed.

Recently, the country also connected a solar power plant to its electricity grid which could cover 10% of the country’s energy needs at full capacity.

In Doha, there is a new metro system, more green spaces and parks, and the chic Msheireb district which has been designed to take advantage of natural wind flows.

But it is uncertain whether Qatar can achieve its reduction target in seven years. At the recent United Nations climate conference in Egypt, Qatari Environment Minister Sheikh Faleh bin Nasser bin Ahmed bin Ali Al Thani said the country was “working to translate these ambitions into action”.

The Department of Environment and Climate Change did not respond to multiple requests from The Associated Press for comment on its emissions reduction plan.

In the past, he said that one of the main efforts would be to diversify Qatar’s economy.

Many observers say hosting the World Cup is part of oil and gas diversifying into an entertainment and event destination. But to stage the event, Qatar built massive amounts of infrastructure over a 12-year period – with a massive carbon footprint, despite its claims to the contrary.

“They can’t diversify without spending money,” Elgendy said. “And that money will come from oil and gas. That’s a bit of a conundrum.”


Qatari officials and some academics say exporting liquefied natural gas to the world can help the transition to clean energy because fossil fuel is cleaner than oil and coal. This view is increasingly unsupported by science as the extent of natural gas infrastructure leaks becomes clear. A natural gas leak is far more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide, ton for ton.

Earlier this year, state-owned gas giant Qatar Energy joined an industry pledge to reduce nearly all methane emissions from operations by 2030. Methane is the main constituent of natural gas.

But real diversion from fossil fuels has yet to begin here.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, Europe’s race to replace that country’s gas left Qatar – among the world’s leading natural gas producers and exporters – in pole position to benefit.

Qatar has signed new deals with several energy companies, including a recent 27-year deal to supply liquefied natural gas to Chinese oil and gas company Sinopec.

“Since the war in Ukraine, everyone is now talking to the Qataris to see if they can get this gas,” Elgendy said.


Follow Suman Naishadham on Twitter: @SumanNaishadham


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