Saudi Arabia

COVERING MOST OF the Arabian Peninsula, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a land area of 829,996 sq. mi. (2,149,690 sq. km.), with a population of 24,735,000 (2006 est.) and a population density of 29 people per sq. mi. (11 people per sq. km.). Riyadh, the capital and the largest city, has a population of 4,193,000 and has a population density of 3,891 per sq. mi. (1,500 per sq. km.). Some 2 percent of Saudi Arabia is arable land, with a further 56 percent used for meadows and pasture. With a high standard of living coming from the petroleum industry, and fossil fuels being used for all the country's electricity production, Saudi Arabia has a high rate of per capita carbon dioxide emissions, rising from 12.1 metric tons per person in 1990 to 18.4 metric tons in 1993.

Massive sandstorms over Saudi Arabia, seen from space. A rise in global temperatures is likely to increase desertification.

In 1998, emissions had fallen to 10.9 metric tons per person but rose to 13.4 metric tons in 2004.

Some 64 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions in the country come from liquid fuels, and 32 percent come from gaseous fuels. Electricity generation accounts for 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, with other energy industries contributing another 30 percent. Some 22 percent of carbon dioxide emissions come from manufacturing and construction, with 16 percent from transportation—Saudi Arabia has a high level of private ownership of automobiles and a limited public transport service.

Global warming and climate change, leading to a rise in the temperature, is likely to destroy more arable land, leading to increasing desertification. As the country has no perennial rivers or permanent water bodies, it has established power-hungry desalination plants. It has also drawn up plans for desert reclamation and irrigation schemes to try to achieve self-sufficiency in basic foods.

The Saudi Arabian government took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed in Rio de Janeiro in May 1992. It accepted the Kyoto Protocol to the UNn Framework Convention on Climate Change on January 31, 2005, with it entering into force on May 1, 2005.

SEE ALSO: Climate Change, Effects; Deserts.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Hussein A. Amery, "Water Wars in the Middle East: A Looming Threat," The Geographical Journal (v.168/4, 2002); "Saudi Arabia—Climate and Atmosphere," (cited October 2007); Frank Viviano, "Saudi Arabia on Edge," National Geographic (v.204/4, October 2003).

Robin S. Corfield Independent Scholar

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