Heatwaves are not just a European Problem

Heatwaves are not just a European Problem

Heatwaves are not just a European Problem unless everyone keeps buildings cool as it gets hotter.  Here is INKSTICK‘s

Heatwaves are not just a European Problem

Climate change is affecting all of us, so why does the media only focus on Europe?

 

The summer of 2022 was marked by devastating heatwaves around the world, a level of extreme heat that was yet “another clear indicator that emissions of greenhouse gases by human activity are causing weather extremes that impact our living condition,” said Steve Pawson, chief of the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Temperature records were repeatedly shatteredwildfires blazed across the Mediterranean; and extreme heat contributed to thousands of deaths across Europe.

In June 2022, the distressing heat effects in Europe in particular were the focus of the latest bout of extreme weather events caused by climate change. In July alone, western news outlets reported dozens of stories on how the heatwaves were most seriously affecting Europeans: from threats to Britain’s economy and agricultural industry; to wildfires in Spain and Portugal; to reports of thousands of French residents being evacuated from their homes. One New York Times article even advised readers on how to cope with the changing European tourism landscape as climate change continues to morph the world we’ve always known.

It is true that Europe is targeted by extreme heat more than other mid-latitude areas, and this past summer caused many to confront the continent’s uncertain future in the wake of increasing climate change-fueled emergencies like heatwaves, especially when much of its infrastructure is not AC-equipped. However, while the news coverage from this summer should not be underestimated, it is important to recognize that the volume of mainstream media reporting on Europe’s heatwaves overwhelmingly overshadowed blazing heat crises in other parts of the world like the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

GLOBAL HEAT

In Baghdad, temperatures soared to dangerous 50-degree Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) levels this summer, devastating Iraq’s already vulnerable electrical infrastructure. Iraq now ranks fifth on the list of countries most impacted by climate change, but it has been experiencing more extreme temperatures for years. In 2015, the Iraqi government announced a mandatory “heat holiday” on days above 50 degrees Celsius, and government workers were ordered to stay home. It has been mandating these holidays on extremely hot days since. A 2021 study conducted by the European Institute of Security studies estimated that Baghdad will experience 40 “extreme heat days” per year by 2039, roughly three times the number of annual extreme heat days it experiences now. Increasingly high temperatures will only continue to overwhelm an already fractured Iraq, especially as the country descends into more uncertainty after recent political clashes.

THERE IS STILL “LITTLE INTEREST AND FUNDING FOR STUDYING THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE MEDITERRANEAN AND NORTH AFRICA REGION.”

In North Africa, across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain and Portugal, wildfires also raged in Morocco and Algeriakilling dozens and wounding hundreds, and causing still thousands more to be evacuated from the most fire-ridden areas. The wildfires prompted criticism over both countries’ lack of fire technology. This critique, however, is just a small part of the larger conversation on individual countries’ ability to adapt to skyrocketing temperatures and other climate change-induced effects — a challenge that low- and middle-income countries will most certainly struggle to meet.

One study predicts that, if nothing is done about climate change, the MENA region could see temperatures upwards of 56 degrees Celsius (132.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the second half of this century — just 28 years from now. By 2100, some urban centers could even see 60 degrees — all but guaranteeing near impossible living conditions as well as bubbling tensions due to drought, water woes, and food shortages. So, in the wake of these incredibly apocalyptic predictions, why didn’t the same alarm bells ring for the Middle East as they did for Europe?

UNDER-REPORTING

To start, local climate data in the region is scarce. The same study that predicted the 56-degree Celsius temperatures—a conservative estimate—also argues that much of the scientific data on heatwave projections in the MENA region is “mostly based on global simulations at relatively coarse resolution” or “on regional modeling of the edges of European and Mediterranean model domains.” This reliance on European and global modeling devalues the unique “weather regimes” in the MENA region, specifically its distinct topographical landscape.

Another study underscores the cyclical harm that underreporting events like heatwaves into global disaster databases can lead to. The Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT), one of the largest of these databases, based in Belgium, records “technological and environmental disasters across the world” ranging from “extreme weather to earthquakes and oil spills, and record their impacts on lives, livelihoods, and economic costs.” A disaster is included in EM-DAT if it is reported to kill more than ten people, affect more than 100 people, cause a state emergency, or call for international assistance. However, extreme heat events in certain parts of the world are “not routinely monitored.” For example, during the week of Jul. 18 to Jul. 24, 2022, EM-DAT reported a heatwave for the whole of Europe, while heatwaves occurring during the same week in countries like Iraq went unrecorded in the database. This gap in reporting diminishes our understanding of how extreme heat can be so deadly, and it eliminates countries’ ability to create future heat action plans.

The only region that perhaps faces an even greater crisis of climate and weather-related modeling, data collection, and reporting than MENA is Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the same study, the EM-DAT lists “no more than two heatwaves in sub-Saharan Africa since the beginning of the 20th Century, leading to 71 recorded premature deaths,” while in contrast, the same database has reported over “83 heatwaves…in Europe over the same timeframe, contributing to more than 140,000 associated deaths.” Since heatwave mortality goes unreported, our understanding of the thresholds that result in heat-related deaths in these parts of the world is unclear.

Despite the dangers that come with data gaps like these, the case for researching more localized climate data in these regions is still weak. In a 2021 news release by the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change, director of the Regional Models and geo-Hydrological Impacts division Paola Mercogliano admitted that there is still “little interest and funding for studying the impacts of climate change in the Mediterranean and North Africa region.”

Beyond the lack of available climate and weather data is the issue of data reporting by governments on heat events and heat-related illnesses and deaths. Some countries in the MENA region, particularly in the Gulf, have been notably unreliable at reporting instances of heat-related health impacts, specifically in the case of affected migrant workers and non-citizens. In Qatar, for example, a BBC investigation recently uncovered that the country has been underreporting the number of migrant workers who have died of heat stroke as temperatures climbed above 50 degrees Celsius this summer.

Of course, many regions outside the MENA region face the very real, present-day horrors of climate change. Reports from April 2022 showed that the Indian subcontinent was already experiencing temperatures upwards of 50 degrees Celsius; China dealt with a devastating, months-long drought; and a third of Pakistan was wiped out by “apocalyptic” flooding during its increasingly long and extreme monsoon season.

A lack of climate and weather-related modeling and data collection unequivocally played a role in the nearly nonexistent heatwave reporting by western news outlets we saw across the Middle East and North Africa this past summer. However, it’s only one piece of the story. Beyond modeling and data collection, there is a lack of willingness of western audiences to understand the bleak reality that vulnerable regions like MENA and Sub-Saharan Africa face, as well as how reporting inequities play a role in the future of these regions.

Rachel Santarsiero is a Spring 2022 Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the National Security Archive. She focuses on issues related to the Middle East as well as Climate Change and Security.

Investing in MENA Green Hydrogen can Drive . . .

Investing in MENA Green Hydrogen can Drive . . .

 

Investing in MENA Green Hydrogen can Drive Global Steel Decarbonization

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MENA. Green Hydrogen. Bigstock

Owing to its significant solar and wind potential, the Middle East and North African (MENA) region has the opportunity to lead the decarbonization of the global steel industry.

Emphasized in a recent report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the regional steel industry – which currently represents one of the most competitive globally – has already taken significant strides to decarbonize through the application of direct reduced iron-electric arc furnace technology (DRI-EAF).

 

Now, with new opportunities emerging across the green hydrogen landscape and government objectives to accelerate the transition even further, the MENA region is set to lead the world in the adoption of green hydrogen within the steel industry.

“The MENA region can lead the world if it shifts promptly to renewables and applies green hydrogen in its steel sector. MENA has an established supply of DR-grade iron ore and its iron ore pelletizing plants are among the world’s largest. In 2021, MENA produced just 3% of global crude steel but accounted for nearly 46% of the world’s DRI production,” said Soroush Basirat, author of the Institute for Energy Economies and Financial Analysis report.

With the region offering the highest potential for photovoltaic power globally – with theoretical production estimated at more than 5.8 KWh per m² – converting existing gas-powered generating plants to green hydrogen would create a carbon-free steel industry in the region. Decarbonizing the steel industry aligns with the World Bank’s prediction that by 2050, more than 83GW of wind and 334GW of solar will be added to the regional energy mix, improving the provision of clean energy and making the conversion to green hydrogen-powered steel production that much simpler.

“MENA’s knowledge of this specific steel technology is an invaluable asset. This production knowledge, abetted by further work on iron ore beneficiation, pelletizing and DR plants, is among the most important steel decarbonization pillars, and will greatly assist MENA’s transition. Compared to other regions, MENA’s existing DRI-EAF capacity means that no extra investment is needed for replacing the base technology. All new investment could be focused on expanding production of green hydrogen among other renewables. If it acts fast, MENA has the potential to lead the world in green steel production,” Basirat said.

Living materials are the future of sustainable building

Living materials are the future of sustainable building

A Pennsylvania State University RESEARCH on living materials that are the future of sustainable building has elaborated on this aspect of the building materials and / or their combination as illustrated by the above image of Jose Duarte, professor of architecture, and doctoral student Elena Vazquez adjust panels on a prototype of a dynamic window shading system that Vazquez designed and built.  Credit to: Patrick Mansell. All rights reserved.  If this goes through, we could safely say that building sites will look a bit different in the future.
Keep buildings cool as it gets hotter

Keep buildings cool as it gets hotter

In most of the MENA and the Gulf region, we reach for the A/C control when entering any living or working space. But as we casually flip a switch, we tend not to consider all those carbon emissions caused by machines.  

After years of indulgence and as witnessed by all of the end results, climate change is forcing all to go green by trying to keep buildings cool as it gets hotter. Greening the Global Construction Industry has already engaged in developing new techniques, tools, products and technologies – such as heat pumps, better windows, more vital insulation, energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy and more imaginative design – has enabled emissions to stabilize the past few years.

The above image is of I Love Qatar

 

Keep buildings cool as it gets hotter

Windcatchers in Iran use natural air flow to keep buildings cool. Andrzej Lisowski Travel/Shutterstock

 

Keep buildings cool as it gets hotter by resurrecting traditional architectural techniques – podcast

By Gemma Ware, The Conversation and Daniel Merino, The Conversation

The Conversation Weekly podcast is now back after a short break. Every Thursday, we explore the fascinating discoveries researchers are using to make sense of the world and the big questions they’re still trying to answer.

In this episode we find out how “modern” styles of architecture using concrete and glass have often usurped local building techniques better suited to parts of the world with hotter climates. Now some architects are resurrecting traditional techniques to help keep buildings cool.

From western Europe to China, North Africa and the US, severe heatwaves brought drought, fire and death to the summer of 2022. The heatwaves also raised serious questions about the ability of existing infrastructure to cope with extreme heat, which is projected to become more common due to climate change.

Yet, for thousands of years, people living in parts of the world used to high temperatures have deployed traditional passive cooling techniques in the way they designed their buildings. In Nigeria, for example, people have long used biomimicry to copy the style of local flora and fauna as they design their homes, according to Anthony Ogbuokiri, a senior lecturer in architectural design at Nottingham Trent University in the UK.

But in the 20th century, cities even in very hot climates began following an international template for building design that meant cities around the world, regardless of where they were, often had similar looking skylines. Ogbuokiri calls this “duplitecture”, and says it “ramped up the cooling load” due to an in-built reliance on air conditioners.

Alongside this, there was a massive boom in the use of concrete, particularly after the second world war when the Soviet Union and the US started gifting their cold war allies concrete technology. “It was a competition both to discover who actually mastered concrete and who was better at gathering the materials, the people and the energy to make concrete,” explains Vyta Pivo, assistant professor of architecture at the University of Michigan in the US. But too much concrete can contribute to the phenomenon of urban heat islands, where heat is concentrated in cities. Concrete is also a considerable contributor to global carbon emissions.

Some architects and researchers are working to rehabilitate and improve traditional passive techniques that help keep buildings cool without using energy. Susan Abed Hassan, a professor of architectural engineering at Al-Nahrain University in Baghdad, Iraq, focuses a lot on windcatchers in her work, a type of chimney which funnels air through houses to keep them cooler in hot climates. She’s now looking at how to combining underground water pipes with windcatchers to enhance their cooling effects.

Listen to the full episode to find out about other techniques being used to keep buildings cool without relying on air conditioning.

This episode was produced by Mend Mariwany, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. The executive producer was Gemma Ware. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email. You can also sign up to The Conversation’s free daily email here. A transcript of this episode is available here.

You can listen to The Conversation Weekly via any of the apps listed above, download it directly via our RSS feed, or find out how else to listen here.The Conversation

Gemma Ware, Editor and Co-Host, The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation and Daniel Merino, Assistant Science Editor & Co-Host of The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation

Read the original article.

The Conversation

Solving Europe’s energy challenge

Solving Europe’s energy challenge

Summer 2022 is ending, and oil prices in the market continue in their well-known volatility. The barrel of oil, despite fears about its supply, is now at a price made worse by recession concerns that continue to cap any market forces.The global market, however, continues to fear Russia’s willingness to use energy as a weapon to put pressure on its adversaries. Especially since deliveries of Russian gas to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline are still suspended, fueling fears of shortages for the forthcoming winter.And if that is not enough, all of the above could be apprehended as not solving Europe’s energy challenge of going through this winter. Far from it, last week, the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies (OPEC+) decided to reduce their total production volume by 100,000 barrels per day. A symbolic reduction that “suggests that this gathering of producers is ready to defend the environment from high prices,” say analysts.  Here is a MEED’s view on the issue. 
With oil and gas prices surging, the countries of Europe face a looming winter energy crisis. Can the Middle East and North Africa help overcome the challenge?

Solving Europe’s energy challenge

 

Published in partnership with

One of the most apparent aspects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict is the rapid increase in energy prices brought on by Moscow’s reduction in exports to its European neighbours.

In 2021, Russia was the largest exporter of oil and gas to Europe, supplying some 40 per cent of its energy requirements, including 100 per cent of the total gas imports of five EU states, according to the International Energy Agency.

The continent’s three largest economies – Germany, Italy and France – depended on Russian gas for 46 per cent, 34 per cent and 18 per cent of their energy needs, respectively.

The imposition of sanctions on Russia in March 2022, followed by Moscow’s threat to suspend hydrocarbon exports, has resulted in a surge in energy prices.

Opec’s crude basket price increased from $78 a barrel at the start of the year to $122 in early June, while Henry Hub natural gas prices more than doubled from $3.8 a million British thermal units (BTUs) to $8.7 a million BTUs over the same period.

Expensive energy bills

This rapid energy inflation has been passed on to consumers through higher electricity bills.

In the UK, for instance, the energy regulator Ofgem estimates that the default tariff price cap will more than double from £1,300 ($1,529) in January to £3,580 in October, and reach a peak of £4,266 in the first three months of 2023, when demand will be highest during the colder winter months.

Replicated across the continent, this is likely to result in millions of households entering ‘fuel poverty’ as they struggle to pay their energy bills.

The Mena region is well-positioned to plug the shortfall in Russian gas exports as European governments scramble to source gas from new markets to reduce their dependence on Moscow

Reducing reliance on Russia

The subject was not surprisingly a central theme of debate at Siemens Energy’s Middle East & Africa Energy Week held in June, where attendees agreed on two main conclusions drawn from the crisis.

The first was that the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) is well-positioned to plug the shortfall in Russian gas exports as European governments scramble to source gas from new markets to reduce their dependence on Moscow.

The GCC alone globally exports almost exactly half of the 411 billion cubic metres of gas that Russia supplies to Europe annually. Most of this is in the form of long-term liquefied natural gas (LNG) contracts to east Asia, but there is some limited capacity available – primarily from Qatar – to fill part of the shortfall.

European nations have been quick to recognise this. For example, following a visit to the region by its Vice-Chancellor and Climate & Energy Minister Robert Habeck in March, Germany – Europe’s largest energy market – is now fast-tracking the construction of two LNG import terminals and has entered a long-term energy partnership with Qatar, the world’s largest LNG exporter.

Energy Week

The second principal finding from the Middle East & Africa Energy Week was that the conflict would act as an additional catalyst for renewable energy development as nations globally attempt to diversify their energy sources and reduce their dependence on imported fossil fuels.

This was in keeping with the results of a poll of up to 400 of the event’s participants. The survey, which forms the central component of the Siemens Energy’s Middle East & Africa Energy Transition Readiness Index, revealed that attendees considered the acceleration of renewables as the highest priority among 11 energy policies in their efforts to tackle the climate crisis, as well as the one with the greatest potential impact.

The Middle East is already taking a clear lead in this as it sets ambitious targets for clean, renewable capacity. For example, Saudi Arabia is looking to scale up its share of gas and renewable energy in its energy mix to 50 per cent by 2030.

Similarly, the UAE has set ambitious targets for 2050: to improve energy efficiency by 40 per cent, reduce emissions from the power sector by 70 per cent and increase the share of renewables in the energy mix to 44 per cent.

While Europe is looking for alternative gas supplies to urgently fill the gap in the short term, there is little doubt that in the longer term renewable energies and hydrogen will dominate the energy markets
Dietmar Siersdorfer, Siemens Energy

Hydrogen

In the long run, the energy crisis also provides momentum for the development of hydrogen production in the region, one of four other central themes emerging from the Energy Week.

Demand for hydrogen in Europe alone is forecast to double to 30 million tonnes a year (t/y) by 2030 and to 95 million t/y by 2050. Thanks to its geographical position, the Middle East is ideally located to meet this demand either by ship or pipeline.

Today, there are at least 46 known green hydrogen and ammonia projects across the Middle East and Africa, worth an estimated $92bn, almost all of which are export-orientated.

“While Europe is looking for alternative gas supplies to urgently fill the gap in the short term, there is little doubt that in the longer term renewable energies and hydrogen will dominate the energy markets. That the robust mix of the energy (gas and renewables) will make the energy system more resilient and support energy supply security while we, at the same time, move us at a fast pace into a renewable future,” says Dietmar Siersdorfer, Siemens Energy’s Managing Director for the Middle East and UAE.

Electricity to Europe

Another unintended consequence of the Ukraine crisis is to turn attention to direct electricity supply from the Mena region to Europe.

Although plans for exploiting the high solar irradiation levels and space provided by the Sahara desert through initiatives such as DESERTEC have long been mooted as an alternative solution, a combination of the crisis, lower costs and improving technologies are increasing impetus.

Some projects are already capitalising on the trend. For example, a joint venture of Octopus Energy and cable firm Xlinks recently received regulatory approval for a 3.6GW subsea interconnector between Morocco and the UK, using energy produced from vast solar arrays in the desert.

A similar project is the 2GW high-voltage EuroAfrica connector currently under construction linking Egypt with Greece via Crete. Plans are also under way for a third power connection between Morocco and Spain, which today is the only operational electricity link between Africa and Europe.

With the Egyptian-Saudi interconnector now under construction, and agreements recently reached for interconnectors between Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Kuwait and Iraq, the region is growing closer to supplying power to Europe directly.

“The development of regional grids has brought the prospect of direct current connection with Europe ever closer,” says Siemens Energy’s VP and Head of Grid Stabilisation in the Middle East, Elyes San-Haji. “Due to its plentiful solar resources, the Mena region could become an energy hub with a global network of high-voltage highways and super grids.”

Connection benefits

Interconnection makes sense on many levels. Not only would Europe benefit from a diversified, economical and renewable energy source, but its season of peak demand, winter, coincides with when supply is lowest in the Middle East, and vice-versa. Power transfer would not necessarily have to be in one direction only.

The Ukraine conflict and ensuing energy crisis have created an unprecedented opportunity for the Middle East and Africa to become more closely integrated with Europe. Whether in the form of fuel exports, either gas or potentially green hydrogen fuels, or direct electricity supply, the Arab world has never had a better chance to become the energy partner of choice for its European neighbours.

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