Energy and the Climate: Perspectives for Middle East

Since energy is an absolute necessity for life on Earth, we have utilized many sources of energy to maintain and improve the lives of people around the globe. The ultimate source of energy is the Sun of course, since all living things on Earth such as plants, trees, animals and humans need the Sun’s energy. In addition to the Sun, we have utilized other sources of energy such as oil, coal and nuclear fission.  However, energy has many different forms and we use different forms of energy for different applications. For example, nuclear energy is mostly used to generate electricity, while oil is used to fuel our cars.

Having established the absolute necessity of energy to maintain life on Earth, it is equally critical to understand that energy is also capable of extinguishing life on Earth if misused. For example, the use of oil and coal to generate energy, produces different gases, mostly carbon monoxide, that have negative impact on the environment. Such a negative impact has been identified by scientists as global warming. It has been established that global warming is directly related to the increased level of carbon monoxide in our atmosphere.  As the temperature on Earth continues to rise, the entire climate will start to change as a result of the higher temperature on the surface of Earth. Moreover, any changes in the climate will have a direct impact on life. For example, many plants, trees and even animals may not be able to survive in hotter climate in a specific region of Earth, yet the impact of such change will be felt all over the world.

Energy and Climate Change

Energy has a direct impact on the climate and as a result has direct impact on all living creatures on Earth. It is the responsibility of all people on Earth to preserve our current climate by using clean sources of energy, such as solar and wind, and moving away from oil and coal. Climate has direct impact not only on the food we eat, but on our ability to survive in certain regions of the planet.

Since most people in developing countries do not completely understand the direct relationship between the energy they use and the climate change as a result, while others in the more developed countries put economical gain ahead of the environment, additional laws with larger penalties may be needed to be enforced around the world. In addition, all governments must focus on the research and development of clean energy sources and slowly move away from oil and coal as both sources are considered to be the ultimate sources of pollution to the environment, which may result in permanent change to the climate on Earth. Meanwhile, and until the clean energy sources are fully developed and utilized around the world, maintaining current trees and planting new ones will definitely help offset the effects caused by the release of Carbone Monoxide into the air.  

Difference between China and the Middle East

It has been known for some time now that China has been one of the largest contributors to air pollution due to its significant economic growth which mostly depends on oil, and its large population; however, the Middle East is also on top of the list of countries and regions that heavily depend on cheap oil prices to power the engine of their economies. The main difference however, between China and the rich-oil countries in the Middle East is that in recent years, China has signed several international agreements to reduce air pollution by different means. The Chinese people in addition, have come a long way to better understand the global impact due to air pollution.

The oil-rich countries in the Middle East on the other hand, are still behind very much the rest of the world in this area, mainly due to the lack of education on many of the environmental issues, as well as the lack of any alternative energy sources. However, time has come for all these countries to start looking into other alternative energy sources before it is too late

Pressure on Industrialized Countries

As more and more people on this planet become aware of the deadly consequences of using oil as a source of energy, the internal and external pressure keeps mounting on the industrialized countries to look for alternative energy sources. In fact, it is only a matter of time before these industrialized countries develop alternative energy sources on mass scale, which may eventually cause the death of the oil industry completely. For example, the use of cold fusion as an energy source would make the price of one barrel of oil less than $1.

Most, if not all of the oil-rich countries today believe that there is no need to make the transition to clean energy because the world needs their oil, or at least, they can continue to power their economies using oil instead of clean energy. But the sad truth is that once an alternative clean energy sources have been identified, these oil rich nations would have no choice but to abandon their oil fields and move into the alternatives. One simple fact these nations need to consider is that in the foreseeable future, developed countries would boycott all products and services created and maintained using oil-powered factories instead of clean energy.

Currently, there are many clean energy sources that have been developed, tested and used around the world. Some of these sources include solar energy, wind energy, water energy, geothermal energy, ocean energy, biomass and of course, nuclear (fission and fusion) energies. The use of any of those alternative energy sources doesn’t release any Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere and will maintain the level of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere at acceptable ratio.

Transition to Clean Energy

For the rich-oil countries in the Middle East, the transition from oil-dependent economies to clean energy dependent economies requires three vital ingredients:

  1. Education: people in the Middle East need to first be educated on all environmental issues and why the transition from oil to clean energy source is a necessity at this time. As long as the average man on the Arab street doesn’t understand the imminent danger of climate change and how it is related to the use of oil, then the transition will be difficult, slow and costly. Educating people is the starting point.
  2. Investment: the transition to clean energy will initially require a huge investment in a new infrastructure especially for clean energy. Such infrastructure may not be cheap to build from the ground up, but the return on investment (ROI) will be quit high at the end.
  3. Time: phasing out the oil-dependent economies completely takes time. The transition to clean energy will take many years before reaching the ultimate goal. However, a well-thought out plan to make such a transition is possible provided that these countries are serious, willing and able to make such a move. Starting with one step at a time will definitely lead to the end goal, but someone has to take the first step

Finally, as energy consumption is directly related to climate change, energy conservation is also directly related to environmental issues. Though physics laws show the energy is conserved, yet the form of energy we use is not. Therefore, people around the world, especially in the Middle Eastern countries, need to be made aware of the importance of energy conservation. The Middle East countries in general, and GCC countries in particular, must start educating their citizens on energy, climate change and environmental issues.

About Mohamad Alhashish

Dr. Mohamad Alhashish holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nuclear and Energy Engineering from the University of Arizona, a Master’s Degree in Nuclear and Materials Engineering and PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Maryland. Dr. Alhashish has held many executive positions in the Telecommunications, Satellite, Information Technology and Cloud fields starting with Sprint, Real Networks, ACS, Hughes and Virtustream. Dr. Alhashish has also been teaching for more than 10 years at different Universities in the Washington DC area. Some of the Universities he has been teaching at are Capitol College, Westwood College, University of Maryland and Marymount University. Dr. Alhashish has been working on different research projects in the area of renewable/green energy, in addition to Nuclear Fusion technology.
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