The majority of Saudis believe that climate change will affect their lives but don't think they, nor their government, could be doing more about it, a YouGov climate change survey recently found.
Published last month, the research covered 30,000 people in 28 countries including seven in the Middle East. These include Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar. The study analyzed and compared views on climate change in the "East" versus the "West."
Most individuals from Arab countries who took part in the survey acknowledged the effects of climate change. But, their outlook on battling the phenomenon differed slightly. The majority of the world believes humanity is partly responsible for the changing climate, but people in Saudi Arabia are the least to think this.
In Saudi Arabia, 35 percent of those surveyed said they believe humanity is mainly responsible for the changing climate while 36 percent said humanity is partly responsible. Though these numbers may seem average, they aren't when compared to other countries. To put things in perspective, 71 percent of those surveyed in India said humanity was mainly responsible for climate change.
Saudis don't think they can do anything to help fight climate change
In a statement to Arab News, Scott Booth, head of data products and services for YouGov MENA raised alarm over the Middle Eastern perspective on the matter.
"The area of concern that stands out for the Middle East, in general, is the proportion of respondents in the region who believe either they or their country could be doing more to combat climate change."
"Fewer than half … thought they or their country could be doing more. In all cases, a lower proportion thought they themselves could be doing more to tackle climate change," he said.
Less than 50 percent of those surveyed in Saudi Arabia said they believe more could be done to curb climate change — on an individual and governmental level. People in the Middle East, as a whole, are the least likely to think they, or their country, could be doing more in the fight against climate change.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia witnessed some of the effects of climate change as some governorates recorded their highest temperatures ever this summer. Last winter, people in the country experienced snow and hail storms on an unprecedented scale. Amid these changes, some local environmental activists have been calling on the country's government to take action.
Is Saudi Arabia doing enough to combat the phenomenon?
According to the YouGov survey Saudis don't think their government could be doing more to help battle climate change. Though the kingdom has been moving towards establishing renewable energy sources, it's still being criticized for neglecting the battle against climate change.
There have been some local initiatives aimed at rethinking how the country is dealing with the matter but local officials haven't moved to adopt emission reduction targets. The country continues to be one of the major CO2 emitters per capita with numbers equivalent to "15.94 tons per person."
Earlier this year, the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) - which breaks down the efforts of 60 different countries in the fight against climate change - ranked Saudi Arabia at the bottom of its list.
The kingdom scored 8 out of 100 on the index and was outranked by several other Arab nations including Morocco — which ranked fourth on the list.
If nothing is done, the Middle East may become uninhabitable
In the Arab world, climate change has long been an issue neglected by many local governments though it should be a matter of public concern.
Morocco has proven to be an outlier in the fight against climate change in the Arab region. It has become a leader in pursuing sustainable energy solutions, so much that Morocco's King Mohammed VI received an award in 2017 for his "visionary" leadership in renewable energy. Morocco plans to care for 42 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 and 52 percent by 2030. The kingdom also aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent within 15 years.
Other Arab countries should definitely follow suit before the region becomes uninhabitable by the end of the century as indicated in a 2016 report.
"MENA is a climate change hotspot that could turn into a scorching area in summer," the researchers wrote in the study published in the scientific journal Climatic Change.