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Contributions to Climate Change

Emissions of the major greenhouse gas (GHG) carbon dioxide (CO2) continued to rise in West Asia – the latest available data show that per capita emissions increased by 22 per cent between 1990 and 2002 (GEO Data Portal 2005 based on United Nations 2005a) (Figure 1). Only four of the 12 countries in the region have completed GHG inventory reports (Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen). None have taken any measures to reduce emissions so far. The sharp rise in energy and fossil fuel consumption in the Gulf Region (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates) is due to both accelerated economic growth and extreme climatic conditions (high temperatures and aridity), which require widespread use of air conditioning and energy-rich processes for desalination of sea-water.

As a result, it has become one of the highest per capita commercial energy consumers in the world and GHG emissions have risen. However, these rates may decline as more oil companies adopt zero emission flaming technologies. Expansion in the use of natural gas in power and desalination plants will also help to limit emissions of some GHGs. The potential impact of climate change on West Asia has not been fully examined. It could possibly increase temperatures and aggravate the region’s vulnerability to extreme events and natural disasters. These include drought, food shortages, flash floods, dust storms (Box 1), lightning strikes and pest infestations. Sea-level rise could also cause inundation of low-lying coastal areas (IPCC 2001, UNEP 2003). Decreased water availability and food production (especially if there is a shortage of water for irrigation) would lead to indirect impacts on human health associated with nutritional and hygiene issues (IPCC 2001). Climate change may also have negative health effects, mainly through heat stress and possible increases in vector-borne and waterborne
diseases.


Box 1: Dust and sand storms
Dust and sand storms are among the most significant weather phenomena in the West Asia region. They have widespread adverse effects on natural ecosystems, the economy, and the quality of life. In many areas, they act as carriers of various types of pollutants, especially heavy metals (ROPME 2004).The incidence of dust storms has increased in recent years. This may reflect the degradation of terrestrial ecosystems, climate change, damage associated with conflicts and wars, industrial and agricultural activities, mining of sand and gravel, stripping of vegetation cover and overgrazing (UNEP 2003, World Bank 2005). Satellite observations have indicated that most storm-generated particulate matter comes from exposed desert surfaces or abandoned croplands. Remote sensing observations in April, May and August 2005 showed a series of large dust storms spreading across northern Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Other observations made in the area show advancing sand storms over Baghdad and Kuwait (NASA 2005). Fine dust from the region can spread worldwide. Deposits of black powdery dusts on the Japanese sea coast in 2003 were attributed to incomplete combustion of oil flares burning in Iraq and the frequent sandstorms in the area. The carbon-bearing particles may have been transported as cloud nuclei from Iraq to Japan (Tazaki and others 2004).
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