In Dubai, it’s normal to leave your air conditioning running at all times, even if you go away for weeks. Qatar has the largest air-conditioned outdoor jogging tracks in the world. Across the United Arab Emirates, water is so cheap that some people run the shower just to listen to it.
The monarchies that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman — built their cities on hot, arid lands, including the world’s largest continuous sand desert. In summer months, temperatures top 50 degrees Celsius, contributing to some of the highest levels of per-capita energy use in the world: Qatar ranks first, Bahrain fourth, the UAE fifth and Saudi Arabia 14th. That footprint will grow as the population of GCC countries, including foreign workers, swells from 59 million today to an estimated 84 million by 2100.
The extra people are key to economic growth in a region that has long relied on state-owned oil for income. But to accommodate them while meeting stated climate goals, Gulf countries would have to make major adjustments. Governments and companies will need to dramatically increase renewable…
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