Unbearable heat and less than desirable weather patterns have forced Qatar to begin seemingly bizarre practices to stay cool: air conditioning the outside.
With temperatures exceeding 115 degrees Fahrenheit, being able to comfortably enjoy outdoor spaces has become challenging.
Outdoor malls, stadiums, as well as sidewalks are now being air conditioned to allow individuals to leave their homes without risk of negative health impacts. Qatar naturally has some of the highest temperatures on Earth, however, even for them this is out of the norm.
This situation can be a microcosm for what is to come in the future. With the looming threat of climate change on the horizon, many countries have begun to envision what they will need to do to adapt and survive.
The question of who will be able to survive and adapt to these environmental changes has come to the forefront of study for many interested experts, “[developing states] are the ones who are going to be impacted most dramatically by climate change and are also the ones who have the least resources to adapt to it. So, what they are asking is that adaptation be just as important as mitigation, and that hasn’t been the case historically,” said Derick Hulme, professor of political science.
While this may seem far removed from what Americans experience in the Western Hemisphere, situations like this are ringing alarm bells for climate scientists across the globe. “It’s a canary in the coalmine,” said Hulme.
Reacting to climate change has become a matter of economic inequality; which countries will be successful in this goal will come down to who can afford to adapt. “What you’ve got in the Qatar situation is the most extreme example of climate change adaptation by a state that can afford to do it, and it has almost become a tourist attraction,” said Hulme.
As temperatures rise and what has been seen in Qatar becomes more common, areas will become unlivable and individuals will be forced to move to survive. “You’re seeing 48-degree Celsius days in India this past summer. It is literally unlivable. It’s unbearable,” said Hulme. He continued, “I think parts of the world will become uninhabitable. The people who will least be able to afford to adapt to it will have to move to live.”
Bringing the luxury of indoor living to the outdoors may become more common, or people will simply have to stay inside. “Air conditioning is going to become a staple in places where it never had been before because (extreme heat) will become increasingly problematic,” said Hulme.
Staying inside during the summer as a matter of necessity will become the new normal. “We will be treating living indoors in historically colder climates [such as Michigan] in the way we treat living indoors during the winter; that it is just something that you do,” said Hulme.
The irony of using fossil fuels to power air conditioning units to combat climate change may soon become a thing of the past. “Renewables are significantly less expensive than fossil fuels in many different situations,” said Hulme. He also commented that countries will ultimately find the most economical way to address this problem.
Hulme explained that while what is happening in Qatar is important, larger countries such as China, the United States, India and Germany will ultimately play a pivotal role in the overall scope of climate change. He went on to say, “if these countries don’t get it together, then we are all in trouble.”
The effects of climate change once seemed distant, however, this situation has shown that adaption may be sooner than expected. “There is incredible urgency and that if things don’t happen now, they will be irreversible,” said Hulme.
Students who are passionate about combating climate change are encouraged by Hulme to reach out to their elected officials. “Time is not working in our favor. There has to be enormous political pressure exerted by young people, and climate change has to no longer be a political issue; it has to be a given,” said Hulme.