Why is one of the world’s richest oil exporters becoming uninhabitable?

With a GDP per capita at parity of the purchasing power (PPP) that reaches almost 60,000 dollars, the small country of Kuwait is one of the richest and hottest places in the world so survival there is not guaranteed.

In 2016, the thermometers marked 54 °C, and in June of last year exceeded 50°C,weeks before a heat spike. The high temperatures in summer meant that even waiting for a bus at the Maliya station in Kuwait City represents a very serious risk to the health of the inhabitants.

It is estimated that parts of Kuwait could warm up to 4.5°C more between 2071 and 2100 compared to the historical average, according the Environmental Public Authority, which would make large areas of the country uninhabitable.

However, the dangers to wildlife are now a reality. During the summer months dead birds appear on the roofs of houses, unable to find shade or water.

Veterinarians are inundated with cats on the verge of death from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Even wild foxes, drought-resistant animals, are leaving the desert to seek refuge in urban areas, where they are treated like pests.

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“That’s why we’re seeing less and less wildlife in Kuwait, it’s because most of them don’t survive the seasons,” He said Tamara Qabazard, a wildlife veterinarian from Kuwait told Bloomberg. “Last year, we had three or four days at the end of July that were incredibly humid and very hot, and it was hard to even walk outside and there was no wind.”

Insufficient climate promises

Kuwait, which is the fourth largest oil exporter in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and with a little over 4.5 million inhabitants, has not taken the necessary measures to reduce greenhouse gases and adapt to a warmest planet.

During the COP26 summit in November, the country committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7.4% by 2035, a target that falls short of the 45% reduction needed to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by 2030.

“Compared to the rest of the Middle East, Kuwait is lagging behind in its climate action,” said Manal Shehabi, a visiting scholar at Oxford University who studies the Gulf nations. In a region that is far from doing enough to avert catastrophic global warming, “climate promises in Kuwait are significantly lower“, he denounced.