Did you know that Bahrain is the fourth most polluting country in the world and that if the trend continues the Bahraini will have to import water and other aquatic resources? The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has estimated that an average person in Bahrain puts more pressure on the global ecosystem than any other people in the world, except in three countries. Hence, Bahrain is the third contributor to global warming by carbon dioxide emission in the world behind Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. USA comes on this list in the fifth place. Such findings are astounding for a small country such as Bahrain!
Although Bahrain is a rich country, is it ready to do without a clean environment? The country relies a lot on activities that perpetuate the release of carbon dioxide into the environment, coupled with high temperatures. For instance, all the electricity generated in Bahrain is from burning of fossil fuels. As a result, temperatures have been at an all time high in the country, and carbon dioxide emissions rose by 60 percent between 1990 and 1998 to about 23.8 metric tones. Further, the emissions rose steadily to 31 metric tones in 2003 as shown in Figure 1
A rapid increase in carbon dioxide emissions as shown in Figure 1 is a reason for concern about global warming. Global warming is not just an issue tied to Bahrain. Globally, the evidence by occurrence of disastrous events is undeniable. To begin with, glaciers are melting due to high temperatures, animals are being forced from their habitats and the occurrence of severe storm and droughts is surging. For instance, the number of disastrous hurricanes in the world has doubled in the last 30 years, and the flow of glaciers in Greenland has more than double over the past ten years. A notable decline in ice at the North Pole of the earth occurred between 1979 and 2005 as shown in the satellite picture below (Plate 1). A critical look at the plate show that ice declined greatly between the two periods.
Industrialization has led to development to many industries that constantly release harmful gases into the atmosphere, as shown if plate 2
Relevance to current world situation
It is estimated that the occurrence of malaria has spread to highlands that are as high as 7,000 feet above sea level, such as the Colombian Andes due to global warming. Furthermore, many species of animals are migrating from warm areas and moving closer to the poles. Yet the pole glaciers are melting and filling the seas. Given that Bahrain’s islands were mostly reclaimed from the sea, we should expect them to be submerged again at some time if the trend of global warming continues.. Already, WWF has predicted that sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of ice in Greenland, and this will devastate coasts worldwide. Therefore, Bahrain is just at risk.
Bahraini people and other people of the world have to apply concerted efforts to mitigate global warming if the future of the earth has to be a reality. There is no doubt that this problem can be solved.
Pollution due to carbon dioxide emission and high temperature in the world is not a new phenomenon. A Swedish scientist (Svante Arrhenius [1859-1927]) was the first to discover that fuel combustion actually enhanced global warming, and that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affected temperature levels. He suggested that with every doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, there was a 5oC temperature rise.
By that time, the change in temperature due to gases was referred to as greenhouse gas effect. So far, not many measures have been taken to combat green the greenhouse effect, but measures such as signing of the Kyoto Protocol by 186 countries in Bonn in 2001 have tried to address the issue. Since 1998, the greenhouse effect has been referred to as climate change or global warming. The Kyoto Protocol requires that contracting countries should reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide to at least 5 per cent below the 1990 levels with effect from the period between 2008 and 2012. However, countries such as USA and Australia, which are some of the leaders in the emissions, objected to contract.
Progress and address of global warming
Although the Kyoto Protocol was not welcome by many countries, other countries such as Germany have been influential in combating global warming. For instance, Germany imposed tax on fossil fuels, which is about $0.11 on every gallon of gasoline sold. In addition, countries such as USA, Canada and Norway are involved in carbon sequestration (trapping of carbon dioxide emissions and storing the gas in underground tanks). Bahrain could take a similar course!
Status of global warming in the world
Several factors are contributing to the extent of global warming. Automotive pollution and emissions from factories are some of sources of emissions in all countries. Countries that rely on fossil fuels such as Bahrain are on thus worse at contributing to gas emissions.
One country’s activities do not just affect that country alone. For instance, the melting of glaciers is as a result of the cumulative effect of gases produced by many countries. As an example, the environmental effects of the Gulf War in 1991 did not just affect Iraq but all the countries in the Gulf region such as Kuwait and Bahrain.
What has been done by countries to combat global warming and it affects other areas
As mentioned above, developed countries such as USA and Canada are using carbon sequesters to capture emissions. Other measures include pre-treatment of gases before they are discharged into the environment and use of a “green policy.” Trees are very good sequesters of carbon and tree planting has been encouraged in many parts of the world.
In spite of the efforts to control global warming, countries are very cautious when approaching the matter. For example, USA did not sign the Kyoto Protocol due to its projected impact on the economy. In a much similar way if Bahrain were to reduce emissions totally, this would mean that all electricity-generating stations be closed.
We need to act- and act now
We cannot totally do away with gas emissions, but we can minimize their impact on the environment. The effects of pollution have caused declines in coral reefs, dugongs, sea turtles, shrimps, many species of fish and the waterfowl. In addition, there is an acute water shortage in Bahrain due to high rates of evaporation occasioned by high temperatures. The trend is projected to worsen the world over if pollution is not averted. We have to protect coasts from pollution, we have to protect the air from emissions and we have to plant trees. If we do not act, we will soon have to import water and seafood!
Individuals in different countries have to be advised against using personal vehicle in order to minimize the number of cars on roads, hence pollution. Bahrain people as well should use public means of travel. Environmental bodies such as UNEP, WWF and the World Conservation union are involved in lobbying for a clean environment.
Different countries have come up with environmental regulatory authorities as a requirement by UNEP to mitigate pollution.
On the international scale, international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol are vital in ensuring that countries adhere to set standards. The European Union for instance has set standards for carbon dioxide emissions from automotives in member countries.
Developed countries account for a share of the causes of global warming but are least affected by the impacts. They should therefore take a leading role in controlling gas emissions.
Points for thought
Why have we become cynical about the possibility of significant change?
We are always of the opinion that the earth is self sustaining hence what we do does not have a negative impact. We take an opinion of the earth being a public good thus no one has to be responsible for change.
What problems are inherent in inducing change to attitudes and behavior?
Inducing change has its difficulties. We are always in a dilemma on whether to take care of development of the world or care about the earth’s resources.
Why is it so difficult to establish international agreements?
International agreements are usually controlled by developed countries. Yet they are the ones that lead in violating the treaties. There is always a conflict: it is difficult to have a cake and eat it at the same time.
How my issue rates to significant conflict between nations and possibility of conflict leading to war or restrictions between countries
It is easy to have a safe environment and avoid conflict. If we set measure that will bar polluting countries from exporting their goods, they will not pollute the environment. Conflicts usually arise when developed countries invade poor countries’ resources such as oil and use them with wanton destruction.
Global warming is a worldwide issue and affects both polluters and non-polluters. It is therefore imperative that the world joins hands in taming the issue.
WWF. The World Worldlife Fund. 2008. Web.
Philander, S. George. Encyclopedia of Global Warming and Climate Change. London: SAGE, 2008.
Maslin, M., Global Warming, a very short introduction. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004.
An Inconvenient Truth. 2008, What is Global Warming? Web.
Federal Research Division. Bahrain. New York: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.