Editor’s Letter: Putting the world first

Jonathan Sheikh-Miller reflects on a hot and fiery summer

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Flicking through the news channels the other day, I was confronted by recurring images of fire and flood laying waste to towns and countryside. It seemed as though the world was coming to an apocalyptic end.

Sure, some of those climactic disasters on my TV screen were in parts of the world not unfamiliar with the damaging consequences of extreme weather, be it unrelenting heat or ceaseless monsoon rain, but when the forests of Sweden on the cusp of the Arctic Circle go up in smoke – you have to ask yourself why.

We are all aware of the most common explanation given for the rise in episodes of extreme weather but it would be wise to temper a rush to judgement. Some wildfires are the result of accident or misdeed and it would be wrong to blame global warming for every storm or typhoon.

But heat waves all over the globe from Kyoto to Cordoba reveal a bigger picture. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2018 is set to be the fourth warmest year on record: behind 2015, 2016 and 2017.

This is my last Editor’s Letter for Oil & Gas Middle East before moving on to pastures new. As I pen this valedictory message, I recognise climate change is arguably the challenge of our times.

Worldwide temperatures have increased around 1C since pre-industrial days but another 2-3C is forecast and a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests the Arabian Gulf could become uninhabitable if global warming is not curtailed. CO2 emissions via the burning of fossil fuels are acknowledged as the biggest factor in the warming of the planet.

But oil, gas and coal have revolutionised modern living from how we get around to how we heat and build our homes. Products derived from crude oil are integral to daily life.

In truth, we cannot do without oil and gas, yet we have the capability to enhance extraction techniques and innovate their future use. Forward thinking hydrocarbon operators are looking towards sustainability and the growing role of renewables.

The Paris Agreement of 2016 was never a panacea to solve this issue but it was, at least, a starting point. Presently there is another concern. The country that will shortly become the world’s largest oil producer - the United States – and no longer a signatory to the Paris accord, has announced it will use its “oil resources with less concern,” partly due to its increasing generation of tight oil.

The oil industry is rarely credited for its positive contributions to the world, but it certainly doesn’t need a climate change sceptic such as Donald Trump running the administration in the leading producer at such a critical time for our planet.

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