December 21, 2010

Travel Blog: Top 5 Things I Learned in Jordan

  1. The real concerns (and potentially limiting factors) about embracing nuclear energy in the Middle East/North Africa region are more extensive than I suspected. This is especially the case for: dampening tourism in areas on coasts or near lakes (given the need to locate most types of reactors near major water sources); the waste problem; and – this one surprised me most – the cost of decommissioning plants once they are retired. As a side note, several people I met also voiced concern that nuclear reactors would provide targets too attractive to potential adversaries. They warned that the region (even Jordan) is not as stable as many countries that house nuclear reactors. (Note, of course Pakistan and North Korea are among countries even less stable with nuclear power…but then, that kind of proves the point.)
  2. When I mentioned the increasing U.S. concerns for potential instability in oil-exporting countries upon global transition to renewable fuels and/or their oil supplies waning, it was universally met with skepticism and even laughs. In this group at least, the troubles caused by reliance on oil export profits (and all that that business entails) eclipsed any hypothetical side effects of the world diversifying its energy sources. 
  3. There is a great deal of focus on combining solar energy and water desalination technologies.Jordan Several participants more technical than I spoke of combined systems in which the synergies in heat and energy produced could provide exponential benefits in efficiency.
  4. The region seems to be witnessing an emerging movement of scholars looking to the long history of civilization in the Middle East and North Africa for pointers on adapting to climate change in water, agriculture, and infrastructure. Ancient civilizations in the region developed many advanced systems for rainwater collection and improving crop productivity. Perhaps some keys to modern adaptation can be found in their methods.
  5. The troubling gaps between climate science and policy makers is even more universal than I’d previously thought (see tomorrow’s post).