Environmental issues in Saudi Arabia | Wikipedia audio article

The desert-covered Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
is the geographically largest country in the Middle East. Moreover, it accounts for 65% of the overall
population of the GCC countries and 42% of its GDP. Saudi Arabia does not have a strong history
in environmentalism. Thus, as the number of population increases
and the industrial activity grows, environmental issues pose a real challenge to the country. Lack of environmental policy can be linked
to an enormous reliance on oil. Due to intense fossil fuel usage, Saudi Arabia
has generated a number of environmental issues. Urbanization and high standards of living
contribute to ground, water, and air pollution. Agriculture and overconsumption of natural
resources cause deforestation and desertification. Likewise, Saudi Arabia’s oil industry subsidizes
energy use and magnifies carbon dioxide emissions. These environmental issues cause a variety
of health problems including asthma and cancer. Some environmental action is taking place
such as the construction of a renewable energy industry. Policies and programs are also being developed
to ensure environmental sustainability.==Background==Saudi Arabia contains the largest known oil
reserve. This generates an abundance of wealth for
the country and places it as the number one oil exporter in the world. Oil extraction is a priority over environmental
policy. While oil is not environmentally sustainable,
Saudi Arabia has made some contributions to fighting climate change. The kingdom implemented its first environmental
law in 1992, the Presidency of Meteorology and Environmental Protection Act. This measure was enacted to encourage environmental
awareness and sustainable law creation. Moreover, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations
are working together to create a series of international environmental contracts. Saudi Arabia alone has signed eighteen pacts
and ratified thirty-nine environmental agreements. Saudi Arabia’s environmental performance index
(EPI) is 55.3. The EPI is an internationally standardized
scale, with 1 as the lowest environmental performance and 100 as the highest. The scale measures both environmental health
and ecosystem viability. Out of Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia
ranks 9th on the EPI.==Environmental challenges=====
Oil pollution====As the largest oil exporter in OPEC, Saudi
Arabia contributes to the immense environmental impacts associated with oil drilling. This includes hydraulic fracturing, oil spills,
and air pollution. Saudi Arabia contributed to the world’s most
severe spill, the 1991 Gulf War Oil Spill. The environmental impacts from oil spills
are long lasting and often irreversible. The Gulf War spill directly affected the Saudi
Arabian shoreline. While initial research found minuscule long-term
impacts, recent studies show oil persistence in ocean habitats. Oil persistence affects ecosystem relationships
and the livelihood of all marine animals. The Gulf Coast spill increased the toxicity
of Saudi Arabia’s coastline. During the initial aftermath, only visible
oil was removed from the Gulf. The rest of the spill has remained in the
ocean for the past 25 years and contributes to high-risk amounts of hydrocarbons in the
environment. Saudi Arabia’s salt marshes have has a hard
time recovering from past spills. Thick oil coverage permanently changed the
biodiversity and chemical compositions of many ocean related habitats. This environmental damage will take decades
to reverse. An abundance of oil resources promotes wasteful
energy practices throughout Saudi Arabia. The government encourages energy use through
subsidies. Currently, these subsidies are higher than
any other regime at a total of 43 billon US dollars a year. Inexpensive energy supports excessive energy
use, contributing to high rates of domestic oil consumption. The hot, arid climate of the Middle East causes
widespread use of air conditioning for climate control. Power consumption and carbon dioxide emissions
increase each year.====Urban pollution====
Urbanization causes ground, water, and air pollution. Increasingly urban areas call for more desalinated
water and a growing water sector. Desalinization plants use greenhouse gasses
and are highly inefficient. The process of oil extraction also contributes
to air pollution by emitting high rates of carbon dioxide. Excess greenhouse gas emissions deplete the
ozone and raise global temperatures. Marine life and ocean ecosystems are threatened
by urbanization as well. Coastline construction from residential and
tourism projects increase the amount of untreated sewage released into the ocean and excess
trash in cities. Construction and human activities lead to
coastal reef damage and high ocean acidity. Urban and agricultural runoff frequently contaminate
waters by releasing untreated waste. Ground pollution results from both oil drilling
and urbanization. The city of Jeddah and other urban areas face
problems of heavy traffic that leads to roadside contamination and high carbon emissions. Saudi Arabia’s high standard of living encourages
fossil fuel based transportation. Saudi Arabia has yet to develop a concrete
public transport sector. Therefore, private transportation is a major
contributor to air pollution. Moreover, car usage and city life contribute
to dangerous degrees of heavy metals in urban soils. These metals are harmful for both humans and
plants, as soil contamination inhibits plant growth and are poisonous when ingested.===Deforestation and desertification===
Urbanization, expansion of agriculture, and energy consumption contribute to deforestation. Wood is the primary natural resource used
in local communities. Studies show that wood is often used inefficiently
by people living in rural, traditional housing. Saudi Arabia’s growing population increases
food insecurity. In turn, forests are cleared at higher rates
to make more area for agriculture. Deforestation occurs both legally and illegally. Research on woodland conservation shows that
there are few initiatives taking place to slow deforestation. Increasing global temperatures are projected
to accelerate desertification within Saudi Arabia. Desertification will have a variety of impacts
on the country’s population. Desertification limits residential expansion
and prevents small scale farmers from gaining access to lands. The growing industrial agriculture sector
contributes to desertification. Mass monoculture disrupts soil processes and
depletes the fertile soils on nutrients. The expansion of industrial agriculture misuses
the scarce water resources available to Saudi Arabian farmers. This practice depletes naturally fertile land
of water, leading to desertification as well.==Environmental action=====
Renewable energy===Currently, there are no programs encouraging
reduced fossil fuel use. Although the government provides subsidies
for oil consumption, record breaking oil use has pushed policy towards renewable energy. Peak load, where high energy use creates power
outages, is a common fear among the citizens of Saudi Arabia. This anxiety creates further urgency for alternate
energy plans to support the population. Mass oil consumption is not sustainable. This realization recently created a new market
for renewable energies and further research for cleaner initiatives. Scholars are developing plans to transition
Saudi Arabia to renewable energy. Thus, Saudi Arabia is ranked the 6th worldwide
in solar energy potential. As opposed to overall energy reduction, the
government organization Saudi Aramco wishes to create a solar energy sector. Saudi Arabia has a goal to create 41 GW of
renewable energy plants, which would place the country as a leading solar energy exporter. Currently, the country is at 17 MW of solar
energy and as a ways to go before reaching the goal. Hydroelectric and water based powers are also
being discussed as alternatives to carbon emitting energies.Concerns of inefficiency
and expense are holding Saudi Arabia back from converting to renewable energy. Long term costs for environmentally friendly
practices are low. However, developers often ignore environmental
restrictions during oil expansion. It is possible for Saudi Arabia to reduce
carbon dioxide emissions and encourage renewable energy use. Preoccupation on energy security strengthen
the movement towards renewable energies. The current wealth from oil abundance and
pressure from international organizations could encourage the energy sector to move
towards sustainable policy. Natural resources are finite. The transition from voluntary sustainability
to mandatory environmental regulation can push Saudi Arabia towards environmentally
friendly practices. In the framework of Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi
Arabia is opt to increase its renewable energy supply by 30%. This is planned to be achieved by partnering
Shanghai Electric. The First Saudi Environment Week
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture organized in 2019 the first Saudi Environment
Week. The motto of the event was “protecting our
environment for our society’s well-being”. The event was organized in 13 Saudi provinces
where around 230,715 wild trees were planted.===Environmental policy and programs===The General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental
Protection, or PME, is the Saudi Arabian environmental protection agency that handles all environmental
policy. Due to a lack of natural Gulf Coast restoration,
the Kingdom is implementing a plan to restore the coast from oil pollution. A scientific evaluation of the coastline’s
toxicity is underway in hopes to rebuild the coastal environment. The government recently created the King Abdullah
University of Science and Technology (KAUST), an institute dedicated towards efficient,
environmentally friendly energy use. The organization is working towards a city
model that only uses nuclear and renewable energies.The National Commission for Wildlife
Conservation and Development (NCWCD) is a government sector created for endangered animal
preservation. The Saudi government works towards creating
designated areas for wildlife protection and natural resource conservation. The parks limit hunting and human development
to preserve unique plant and animal species. The goal of the NCWCD is to revive destroyed
areas and maintain biodiversity while increasing public environmental education research. Specifically, the NCWCD strives to protect
the lava field in Harrat Al-Harrah and the sand sea and cuesta in Uruq Bani Mu’arid. In hope to increase environmental awareness
to schoolchildren the government has partnered with the United States to create the Global
Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program. The goal of the program is to increase international
environmental awareness through education and technology. The courses implement environmental issues
and solutions into every subject. GLOBE trains teachers and supplies them with
instruction materials in both Saudi Arabia and the United States. Students are exposed to the complexity of
international environmental issues and the environmental problems stemming from globalization.In
order to boost organic agriculture, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture allocated
an amount of $431,000 to help many farmers go organic.==See also==
Saudi Environmental Society==
Suggested readings==Energy and the Environment: Concerns and Opportunities
by Nahed Taher Encyclopedia of Global Warming and Climate
Change by Bill Kte’pi Renewable Energy Scenarios For Major Oil Producing
Nations: The Case of Saudi Arabia by Yasser Al-saleh
Protected Areas in Saudi Arabia: Sustainable Use of Natural Resources by Abdullah Alwelaje

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