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KUWAIT LIES ON the Arabian Gulf; its geography is made up of mostly flat desert on the mainland, and nine islands off the coast, some marshy and uninhabited. The climate of Kuwait can be extreme, with temperatures ranging from very cold to very hot, although the average annual temperature is 91 degrees F (33 degrees C). The highest temperature ever recorded was 126 degrees F (52 degrees C) in July 1978. The long, dry summer extends May through October, with August the hottest month, having an average temperature of 112 degrees F (44 degrees C). The winters are mild, with January the coolest month, with an average temperature of 45 degrees F (7 degrees C). Rain storms may occur, and the wind may cause dust storms.

Despite the harshness of the environment, Kuwait supports more than 2 million people. With valuable oil fields estimated at 10 percent of world oil reserves, or 99 billion barrels, the major industries revolve around oil (including refining, marketing, and distribution). Kuwait's poor, dry soil means less than 1 percent can be used for farmland. Kuwait is one of at least 11 countries consuming more than 100 percent of their renewable water resources, though the water is reportedly free of water-borne pathogens. Limited fresh water means desalination plants are needed to supply fresh water. These plants require energy to heat the salt water to boiling and energy to provide cooling to condense the steam into fresh water droplets.

In March 2005, Kuwait ratified the Kyoto Protocol (an international and legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, which took effect on February 16, 2005). It took effect in Kuwait's entry in June 2005. As a participant in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kuwait is responsible for providing national communication, including assessment of potential impacts of climate change. To meet this challenge, the Environment Public Authority (EPA), with an administrator appointed by the Council of Ministers, oversees environmental testing and education for voluntary programs. In addition, the EPA acts in a resource capacity. It advises federal and governmental policy makers on developing regulations and has authority to enforce the regulations provided within Kuwait's environmental laws through monitoring and compliance enforcement.

As an oil producer, Kuwait contributes to global emissions. Kuwait experienced the effects of human-induced climate change following the Gulf War; Iraqis set oil wells on fire while retreating. The fires burned an average of 5 million barrels of oil, and 70 million cubic meters of gas per day, producing emissions of carbon dioxide (500,000 tons per day) and sulfur dioxide (40,000 tons per day). In addition to emissions, the regional climate impact from smoke caused the surrounding areas to cool (between 10 and 20 degrees) and damage to the land allowed the wind to blow away eroded soil. Future impacts from climate change may include: changes in the coastline, a decline in the water supply that is already poor, and an increase in temperatures causing higher incidence of heat stress. It may also impair air quality, primarily through increases in ground-level ozone pollution in heavily populated urban areas.

SEE ALSo: Oil, Consumption of; Oil, Production of; Salinity.

BIBLioGRAPHY. Environment Public Authority, www.epa. org.kw (cited November 2007); Kuwait Information Office in India, www.kuwait-info.com (cited November 2007).

Lyn Michaud Independent Scholar

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