Global warming is a significant issue in our world today. As high-ranking officials continuously meet to discuss climate change, dissention has arisen from some major players as to how to battle this growing threat. Indeed, President Trump has indicated that the US may pull out of the Paris accords.
With that said, numerous countries have not abided by the existing agreement and some who say they are, are actually not, like China, who has been the world’s largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter since 2006. China is not the only nation not participating wholeheartedly in the fight against climate change. There are some in the middle-east ignoring global warming completely.
The UAE is still considered to be a developing country, therefore it is not under any environmental obligations and hence, it continues to destroy the environment with enormous greenhouse gas emissions. According to the statistics provided by the UAE’s ministry of energy, the country polluted the environment with around 200 million tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in 2013.
This amount of greenhouse emission is also very high in terms of per capita since the UAE’s total population is under 10 million. The UAE is only behind Canada as the world’s largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases.
Electricity and Desalination Sector: The Main Culprit
The main contributor of this environmental pollution is the energy and water sector -- with 33% of its share in greenhouse emission. When many countries are trying to move towards alternative and clean energy, electricity generation in the UAE has still been steered by oil-based power plants. Desalination plants, which are abundant in the UAE, are also run by fossil fuel. Both these sectors are collectively adding 65 million tons of greenhouse gases to the environment.
Water desalination is also a major threat to the environment. Desalination plants are not only increasing the salinity levels -- dangerous for aquatic life -- but are also harming tourists and residents who bathe and swim in the water at the beaches of the UAE, especially in Dubai.
These plants also produce a significant amount of carbon dioxide, making the country one of those with the largest carbon dioxide footprints. The heated slim produced by these plants also gets dumped into the sea, which is also dangerous for marine life.
Due to the rapid or rather unnatural growth of the region, salinity levels in the Gulf have increased by nearly 30% in the last three decades. According to researchers, these higher salinity levels are threatening the fauna and marine life of the region.
Berserk Automotive Industry is Also Fueling the Damage
Emiratis are obsessed with automobiles, and their obsession is also hurting our ecosphere. For instance, in Dubai, there is one vehicle for every two residents, making the vehicular density of the city one of the highest in the Middle East, and one of the highest in the world. Moreover, a majority of these cars run on fossil fuel (gasoline, petrol). The average increase rate of vehicles is also set nearly 10% per annum.
While countries like France have announced that it will end the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2040, the UAE’s automobile industry continues to thrive on conventional engines. The oil and gas sector of the country is also a major contributor of greenhouse emission with 15% of its share in the total.
The UAE’s Artificial Islands are Also a Threat to the Environment
Apart from its mainland environmental violations, the UAE is also responsible for making aquatic life more vulnerable to the effects of adverse environment conditions by building artificial islands along its Persian Gulf coastline.
Research conducted by the World Environmental and Water Resources Congress makes it clear that proper planning and prerequisite environmental studies had not been conducted before the construction of these artificial islands, culminating in the destruction of the eco-system of the Persian Gulf.
The construction of these artificial islands resulted in coastal erosion, sediment transportation along the shore, and altered wave patterns. The stirred up sediment -- due to island construction -- has badly disturbed the local marine fauna. The displacement of sediment has also reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the coastal vegetation. The changed wave pattern and alongshore sediment displacement have also affected the natural design of the coastal region.
In the coming years, with more commercial and real estate development on the islands, pollution such as that of sewage will become an ongoing problem for marine life around.
What Will be the Consequences?
According to British geologist, Professor Geoffrey Boulton, the UAE is vulnerable to the effects of the climate since it is situated just along the sea. According to him, there can be many grave consequences in the region of climate change such as:
Even hotter and more arid temperatures
More acidic sea and damaged marine life
Many of these environmental changes have already started to set in. In the next few years, if things don’t get rectified, we will start to witness a major catastrophe in the region. It is high time that the world community made the UAE realize its responsibilities regarding the environment. Otherwise, this will be just another addition to world pollution, subsequently accelerating negative climate change in the Middle East.