Nuclear Desert

Guy El Khoury

A year ago, in March 2011, a tsunami swept parts of the eastern coast of Japan and caused a major accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant, leading to widespread radioactive material leakage and a sharp increase in radioactivity in nearby areas. Being the most notable accident since Chernobyl, it restarted the debate on nuclear energy option both in Japan and around the world. In Germany, this debate soon led to a decision to terminate the federation’s civilian nuclear program with a commitment to develop renewable energy alternatives, as well as additional thermal power plants, to cover the energy shortfall. A similar debate on nuclear energy has also emerged in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) where a number of countries have been exploring nuclear energy option for years, but have not been able to turn their nuclear ambitions to realities due to their lack of technical capability, fear of nuclear proliferation, and lack of sufficient financial resources. This debate was further brought to the fore with the recent move by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to develop a civilian nuclear program and the operation of the Bushehr plant in Iran, and has proven to be quite divisive with strong positions arguing for and against nuclear energy

Continue reading Nuclear Desert

An Introduction to Climate Change

Wissam Yassine

UPDATED – Climate change refers to the current changes in the Earth’s climate patterns due to the increase in greenhouse gases emitted by human activities. The driving force behind this pattern is an increase in the Earth’s surface and water temperature. In fact, over the last 130 years, the global average temperature of the planet rose by 0.8 °C.  However, the impacts of this temperature increase on climate patterns in different regions varied widely (Figure 1).

National scientific bodies in all major countries agree that the cause behind global warming and climate change is the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and growing livestock. Climate models have been created to forecast the expected increase in the average global temperatures over the coming years based on current and expected emission levels. These models show that the global average temperatures are expected to rise by up to 6 °C by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as they have in recent decades.

Continue reading An Introduction to Climate Change

A Visual Guide to Energy and Emissions in the Middle East

Karim Elgendy

Following on Carboun’s recent article discussing the two trends of energy and carbon emissions in the Arab World. Carboun has recently released a visual guide to energy and emissions with the goal of explaining the fundamentals of energy use in the region and how it relates to carbon emissions, economic development, climate change, and renewable energy. The guide, which was researched and designed by Karim Elgendy, was based on raw data provided by the World Bank and the World Resources Institute. It aims to explain the regional trends in local details but within the global context. Copyrights for all infographics are reserved for Carboun. No reproduction or republishing of any infographic or part thereof without prior written consent from Carboun.

Continue reading A Visual Guide to Energy and Emissions in the Middle East

Two Trends of Energy and Carbon Emissions in the Arab World

Karim Elgendy

Discussions on the environment in the Arab World have traditionally been limited to the negative impact of region’s fossil fuel exports on climate change. In recents years, a more regional discourse has emerged that also addressed the region’s water scarcity, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation, and the expected impact of global climate change and sea level rise on its most vulnerable regions.

Map showing emissions in countries of the arab world as percentage of global emissions. Copyrights: Carboun

However, such discussions often overlooked the region’s own energy and ecological footprints and the impact of its own energy use on climate change. In the past , such disregard may have been justified by the fact that the region had not yet experienced the kind of economic development and prevalent consumerism that was common in most of the developed world. Such justification was supported by the region’s historically low rate of energy use and carbon emissions. In fact, the Arab world which constitutes 5% of the world’s population, emits just under 5% of global carbon emissions according to World Bank data, and except for Saudi Arabia, no single Arab country is responsible for more than 1% of global emissions. The energy use of an average Arab person is still below the world average and less than half that of an average european.

Continue reading Two Trends of Energy and Carbon Emissions in the Arab World

Water Availability and Use in the Middle East

Karim Elgendy

An infographic representing a comparison between residents of different countries around the Arab World in terms of their available renewable water resources and their total water use ( including desalination of sea water and non-renewable ground water).  Total water used in each country is also presented as a percentage of available renewable water resources. The infographic was researched and designed by Karim Elgendy and was based on raw data provided by the World Resources Institute. Copyrights for all infographics are reserved for Carboun. No reproduction or republishing of any infographic or part thereof without prior written consent from Carboun.

Continue reading Water Availability and Use in the Middle East

Carbon Emissions in the Middle East

Karim Elgendy

Infographic representing a comparison between residents of different countries around the Arab World in terms of their carbon emissions per capita. Emissions of each country is compared to the emissions of an average human and is represented by the number of average humans each resident represents. Infographics available in English and Arabic. Copyrights for all infographics are reserved for Carboun. No reproduction or republishing of any infographic or part thereof without prior written consent from Carboun.

Continue reading Carbon Emissions in the Middle East

Sustainable Development and the Built Environment in the Middle East: Challenges and Opportunities

Karim Elgendy

In the western context, notions of sustainable development often refer to the need to adjust existing economic models in order to maintain better balances between economic growth and social needs, while protecting local ecologies and reducing the negative impact of growth on the global environment.

In the developing world, however, sustainable development takes on a rather different meaning. With the agendas of developing nations focused on addressing basic developmental challenges such as economic growth, water scarcity, food security, and health, other environmental and social aspects are considered secondary at best and for the most part a luxury that a developing nation cannot afford.

The Environment and the Middle East – Pathways to Sustainability – Volume 1.

In the absence of functioning economic models in the developing world, sustainable development here is not about adjustments to maintain balances. Instead, it is about using this economical tabula rasa to build the foundations of a new economic model in which sustainability and the environment are integral. One of these economical foundations is the built environment.

The built environment of our cities plays a major role in shaping the way we live and work, and given its relatively long lifespan its impact is long lasting. Our buildings determine how much energy we use to maintain thermal comfort while our infrastructures determine how much energy we need for transportation. It is estimated that 40% of carbon emissions worldwide is produced from the occupation of buildings with at least a portion of transportation’s 20% share being a consequence of the way our cities are planned.

Our built environment also influences our impact on the local environment as well as our collective health and wellbeing. Thus, as the cities of the developing world continue to grow, they continue to make decisions about the direction their development takes.

In the Middle East, the role of the built environment is becoming more pronounced as the region continues to experience rapid population increases and urbanization. Increased urban densities together with the rise of consumerism, have not only led to an increase in environmental degradation locally, but they have also meant that the region’s traditionally low energy use — and consequently carbon emissions– are set to rise and to play a larger role in global climate change.

But embracing sustainable development in the Middle East faces many challenges which prevent it from becoming part of the region’s development framework and its building industry practices.

Continue reading Sustainable Development and the Built Environment in the Middle East: Challenges and Opportunities