Climate Extreme — Outdoor Air Conditioning Keeps Qatar Cool

Graphic: The Washington Post

Qatar, the host of the 2022 World Cup, is one of the hottest places on Earth — its nighttime temperature in the summer rarely drops below 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and its average temperature has risen more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial times and the increases are accelerating.  As a result, The Washington Post explains how Qatar does the unthinkable — air conditions its public outdoor spaces in markets, along sidewalks, even at outdoor malls in order to make living bearable during the summers, fueling the “vicious cycle” of burning fossil fuels that lead to greater warming.

Why This Matters:  Qatar is not alone in its rapid warming — but it at least has the wealth to deal with the problem for now (it is the largest exporter of LNG in the world).  Nevertheless, if the global average temperature rise exceeds 2 degrees Celsius, then Qatar’s average temperature will increase between 4 and 6 degrees, which would make work nearly impossible and the city could be uninhabitable given that it is also quite humid.  Qatar may be able to cool certain areas for now, but it cannot cool the entire country indefinitely.

Too Hot to Work or Play

Because of the heat, the World Cup was delayed for 5 months and will now take place in November rather than June/July of 2022.  A few weeks ago, when Qatar hosted the 2019 World Athletics Championships it had to delay the start time for the women’s marathon until midnight and even so, 28 of the 68 starters failed to finish, some taken off in wheelchairs.  At the nearby U.S. Air Force Base on hot days, servicemembers can only work for 10 minutes of each hour and they must drink 2 bottles of water during the same hour.  Why is Qatar warming so fast?  Climate scientists believe Qatar “is caught in a feedback loop” because rising water temperatures in the Persian Gulf lead to more atmospheric humidity in certain months.

LNG As Primary Fuel For Foreseeable Future

Qatar is the largest per-capita emitter of greenhouse gases according to the World Bank — it emits three times as much CO2 as the United States and almost six times as much as China.  Because of its plentiful supply and low price, according to The Post, Qatar is adding natural gas capacity faster than it’s adding solar.  Moreover, the government plans to expand LNG production by 43 percent by 2024 and is also adding 60 new tankers to increase its export capacity.

Worth Your Time:  Read the entire in-depth story of Qatar, part of the series called “2 Degrees Celsius: Beyond the Limit,” in The Washington Post here.

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