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Author Topic: Fossil Fuels: Degraded Democracy and Profit Over Planet Pollution  (Read 13697 times)

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Surly1

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For some reason, this story really struck me to drive home the point that we are well and truly **** as humanity. Faced with catastrophic climate change, our response is to air condition the stadiums. Because money. And we know better, but just don't care.

Facing unbearable heat, Qatar has begun to air-condition the outdoors


DOHA, Qatar — It was 116 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade outside the new Al Janoub soccer stadium, and the air felt to air-conditioning expert Saud Ghani as if God had pointed “a giant hair dryer” at Qatar.

Yet inside the open-air stadium, a cool breeze was blowing. Beneath each of the 40,000 seats, small grates adorned with Arabic-style patterns were pushing out cool air at ankle level. And since cool air sinks, waves of it rolled gently down to the grassy playing field. Vents the size of soccer balls fed more cold air onto the field.

Ghani, an engineering professor at Qatar University, designed the system at Al Janoub, one of eight stadiums that the tiny but fabulously rich Qatar must get in shape for the 2022 World Cup. His breakthrough realization was that he had to cool only people, not the upper reaches of the stadium — a graceful structure designed by the famed Zaha Hadid Architects and inspired by traditional boats known as dhows.

“I don’t need to cool the birds,” Ghani said.

Qatar, the world's leading exporter of liquefied natural gas, may be able to cool its stadiums, but it cannot cool the entire country. Fears that the hundreds of thousands of soccer fans might wilt or even die while shuttling between stadiums and metros and hotels in the unforgiving summer heat prompted the decision to delay the World Cup by five months. It is now scheduled for November, during Qatar's milder winter.

The change in the World Cup date is a symptom of a larger problem — climate change.

Already one of the hottest places on Earth, Qatar has seen average temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial times, the current international goal for limiting the damage of global warming. The 2015 Paris climate summit said it would be better to keep temperatures "well below" that, ideally to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Over the past three decades, temperature increases in Qatar have been accelerating. That’s because of the uneven nature of climate change as well as the surge in construction that drives local climate conditions around Doha, the capital. The temperatures are also rising because Qatar, slightly smaller than Connecticut, juts out from Saudi Arabia into the rapidly warming waters of the Persian Gulf.

In a July 2010 heat wave, the temperature hit an all-time high of 50.4 degrees Celsius.

“Qatar is one of the fastest warming areas of the world, at least outside of the Arctic,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate data scientist at Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit temperature analysis group. “Changes there can help give us a sense of what the rest of the world can expect if we do not take action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”

While climate change inflicts suffering in the world’s poorest places from Somalia to Syria, from Guatemala to Bangladesh, in rich places such as the United States, Europe and Qatar global warming poses an engineering problem, not an existential one. And it can be addressed, at least temporarily, with gobs of money and a little technology.

To survive the summer heat, Qatar not only air-conditions its soccer stadiums, but also the outdoors — in markets, along sidewalks, even at outdoor malls so people can window shop with a cool breeze. “If you turn off air conditioners, it will be unbearable. You cannot function effectively,” says Yousef al-Horr, founder of the Gulf Organization for Research and Development.

Al Janoub stadium is one of eight soccer stadiums that Qatar is prepping for the 2022 World Cup.

Engineering professor Saud Ghani designed the open-air stadium’s air-conditioning system.

Small vents push cool air at ankle level inside the stadium.

Yet outdoor air conditioning is part of a vicious cycle. Carbon emissions create global warming, which creates the desire for air conditioning, which creates the need for burning fuels that emit more carbon dioxide. In Qatar, total cooling capacity is expected to nearly double from 2016 to 2030, according to the International District Cooling & Heating Conference.

And it’s going to get hotter.

By the time average global warming hits 2 degrees Celsius, Qatar’s temperatures would soar, said Mohammed Ayoub, senior research director at the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute. In rapidly growing urban areas throughout the Middle East, some predict cities could become uninhabitable.

“We’re talking about 4 to 6 degrees Celsius increase in an area that already experiences high temperatures,” Ayoub said. “So, what we’re looking at more is a question of how does this impact the health and productivity of the population.”

The danger is acute in Qatar because of the Persian Gulf humidity. The human body cools off when its sweat evaporates. But when humidity is very high, evaporation slows or stops. “If it’s hot and humid and the relative humidity is close to 100 percent, you can die from the heat you produce yourself,” said Jos Lelieveld, an atmospheric chemist at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany who is an expert on Middle East climate.

That became abundantly clear in late September, as Doha hosted the 2019 World Athletics Championships. It moved the start time for the women’s marathon to midnight Sept. 28. Water stations handed out sponges dipped in ice-cold water. First-aid responders outnumbered the contestants. But temperatures hovered around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 28 of the 68 starters failed to finish, some taken off in wheelchairs.

Workers are particularly at risk. A German television report alleged hundreds of deaths among foreign workers in Qatar in recent years, prompting new limits on outdoor work. A July article in the journal Cardiology said that 200 of 571 fatal cardiac problems among Nepalese migrants working there were caused by “severe heat stress” and could have been avoided.

The U.S. Air Force calls very hot days “black flag days” and limits exposure of troops stationed at al-Udeid Air Base. Personnel conducting patrols or aircraft maintenance work for 20 minutes, then rest for 40 minutes and drink two bottles of water an hour. People doing heavy work in the fire department or aircraft repair may work for only 10 minutes at a time, followed by 50 minutes of rest, according to a spokesman for the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing.

In early July, Qatar’s Civil Defense Command warned against doing outdoor work between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., putting gas cylinders in the sun, turning on water heaters, completely filling fuel tanks or car tires, or needlessly running the air conditioner. It urged people to drink plenty of fluids — and to beware of snakes and scorpions.

‘Expect Amazing’

For now, managing climate change in a place like Qatar, whose slogan for the World Cup is “Expect Amazing,” is primarily a matter of money.

And Qatar has plenty. Its sovereign wealth fund is worth about $320 billion. A few of its stakes include Harrods department store, London’s gigantic Canary Wharf, the Paris Saint-Germain soccer club, the CityCenterDC office and residential development and a 10 percent stake in the Empire State Building.

Qatar has used its riches to great effect at home, where 11 winners of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize have built striking high-rises and stadiums. The result is a strange combination of avant-garde architecture, oil wealth, Islamic conservatism, shopping malls and climate change that Qatari American artist Sophia al-Maria has dubbed “Gulf Futurism.”

“With the coming global environmental collapse, to live completely indoors is like, the only way we’ll be able to survive. The Gulf’s a prophecy of what’s to come,” she said in an interview in Dazed Digital, an online magazine covering fashion and culture.

So far, Qatar has maintained outdoor life through a vast expansion of outdoor air conditioning. In the restored Souq Waqif market, a maze of shops, restaurants and small hotels, three- to four-foot-high air-conditioning units blow cool air onto cafe customers. At a cost of $80 to $250 each depending on the quality, they are the only things that make outdoor dining possible in a place where overnight low temperatures in summer rarely dip below 90 degrees.

Recently, the luxury French department store Galeries Lafayette opened in a shopping mall that features stylish air-conditioning grates in the broad cobblestone walkways outside. Each of the vents, about 1 by 6 feet, has a decorative design. Many of them hug the outside of buildings, cooling off window shoppers looking at expensive fashions. Though nearly deserted in the heat, by 5 p.m. some people begin to emerge to sit outside places like Cafe Pouchkine.

One recent afternoon as the temperature eased to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, Aida Adi Baziac, an interior designer, was sharing iced lattes with a friend. They had just finished work and were perched over a cooling grate at an outdoor table at Joe’s Cafe.

“I would say it’s wasteful,” Adi Baziac said. “I know how it impacts the environment negatively.”

But it allows them to enjoy the outdoors in the summer, she added. “We can sit outside in an air-conditioned, controlled area, and we sit and mix and mingle.”

Even Qatar’s small band of climate activists sympathize. Asked about the outdoor air conditioners, Neeshad Shafi, executive director of Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar, said, “That’s about survival. It’s too hot. That’s the reality.”


See the rest of the article, plus more photographs and interactive graphics here:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/climate-change-qatar-air-conditioning-outdoors/?utm_source=reddit.com&wpisrc=nl_powerup&wpmm=1

 

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