In order to meet increasing water demands and combat the devastating effects of climate change, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is looking toward scientific innovation to help quench the Persian Gulf’s thirst.

Increasing water shortage in UAE

The first issue that leads to UAE water shortages is the essentially non-existent rainfall paired with the country’s high water consumption. The UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi receives only 75mm of rainfall annually, with the country as a whole receiving less than 100mm of rainfall each year . Pair that with a water consumption that is the highest in the world, coming in at 82 percent above global average, and the situation starts to look serous.

But that’s not the only issue in the UAE’s water supply problems. Climate change is making this land even hotter and drier than ever before, with a study stating that the effects of climate change may make the Persian Gulf uninhabitable by 2071.

(MORE: See how ECS scientists are addressing water and sanitation issues around the world.)

For this reason, the UAE is turning toward German and Japanese researchers, offering a $5 million reward to researchers who could help solve this problem.

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Solar Geoengineering and Climate Change

The Earth is getting warmer and greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise. With carbon dioxide levels at their highest in 650,000 years, scientists across the global are grappling with the question of how to stop global warming.

For many, alternative energy sources are the answer. While the implementation of this technology is crucial for the development of a carbon-free society, flipping the grid is easier said than done. The U.S. alone is highly dependent on fossil fuels, which emit high level of greenhouse gases. Additionally, transitioning the grid to 100 percent renewables would not fully solve the issue. Emissions will still exist in the atmosphere, with warming happening right now.

“When people emerge from poverty and move toward prosperity, they consume more energy,” said Adam Heller in a recent plenary lecture.

The Need for a Solution

Currently, 13 percent of carbon dioxide emissions stem from two industries: steel and cement. According to Heller, these industry are directly correlated to global wealth—what he deems the driving force of acceleration in climate change. To put that in perspective, the solar energy technology that is currently in place in the U.S. saves only 0.3 percent through the use of solar energy, according to Heller. With carbon dioxide emissions constantly accelerating, increasing by 2 percent every year, scientists are looking for solutions to this pressing issue.

“This will lead to a catastrophe,” Heller said. “The question is, what do we do about this catastrophe?”

For Heller and other scientists, part of the answer lies in solar geoengineering (SGE).

“We need to learn something about geoengineering,” Heller said. “We need to learn something about reflecting light from the sun through aerosols in the atmosphere.”

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