Recently, a blog run by a UK based company called The Eco Experts published a post ranking the “most ‘toxic’ countries in the world”. Oman ranked 6th. Of course, in today’s media we don’t fact check or care about creditable sources. So, Charles Clark from Business Insider basically republished The Eco Experts’ misleading post, and in a way legitimized a claim from a company who is in the business of selling windows, water heaters, and solar panels for profit. Not scientific research.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not claiming the facts that The Eco Experts used are false. They did their due diligence and cited their sources, but I do think they went a too far by coming up with their own ranking from different data sources on five factors:
- Energy consumption, per capita
- Carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion, per capita
- Air pollution
- Deaths attributable to air pollution, per 100,00 capita
- Renewable energy production
I went through each factor myself.
Energy consumption, per capita
Oman’s total primary energy supply divided by population (toe/capita) is 5.74. That’s not good, but it’s along the same lines as Norway with 5.60 (toe/capita), and not a bad as Iceland with 17.94 (toe/capita). There are a few reasons why Oman is on the higher end of the consumption scale. The first being the need to desalinate most of our drinking water, an energy intensive operation. The second is the highly subsidized fuel and electricity costs having little impact on consumers’ wallets. The third is the need to run air conditioning in the hot climate. The final reason is the lack of energy efficient building materials used in construction.
The country could combat this high consumption by reducing the subsidies (as is happening with gasoline), and implementing building codes that incorporate energy efficient building trends.
Carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion, per capita
It’s bad, really bad. Ugly American bad! Oman releases 14.14 tones of CO2 per capita into the atmosphere. Omanis drive long distances in vehicles that are not tested or held to a CO2 standard. On top of that, 100% of our electricity comes from combusting fossil fuels.
Here is where I start having problems being ranked the 6th most ‘toxic’ country in the world. From what I can tell, The Eco Experts are using the report from the World Health Organization – Ambient air pollution: A global assessment of exposure and burden of disease Well, this is what they linked to at least.
In this report, Oman has a very high amount of particulate matter (PM2.5), as do many other dusty countries; but is this a detriment to our health? The WHO addresses this question by saying,
The health impacts associated with exposure to dust are not yet fully understood, and are currently treated the same way as those from air pollution in industrialized countries where most of the epidemiological studies have been performed.
There is a need to for a better assessment of the health impacts from natural dust, as it could result in much lower burden than those from antropogenic particulate matter.
Let’s use our logic on this one. What’s the least toxic to your health; gaseous contaminates, soot, smog, smoke, or dust?
Needless to say, dusty countries like Oman take a huge hit on this factor in the power ranking, and I don’t think evidence supports it.
Deaths attributable to air pollution, per 100,00 capita
To prove my point from above let’s look at the same report from the WHO as did our “Experts”. In it we find the death rate attributed to air pollution. From a country with one of the highest levels of particulate matter, comes a low air pollution death rate. So, we don’t need to use logic in reality. The WHO facts counter the negative air pollution claims.
Renewable energy production
Oman has zero sources of renewable energy, so again we take a huge hit here. Especially since the potential for solar energy is so great. However, does this make Oman a more toxic country? Is there more pollution because because Oman doesn’t tap into it’s renewable energy wealth?
I guess in a way yes, because if there was renewable energy we could reduce the CO2 output. On the other hand a zero gives you nothing. One plus zero is still one, nothing more.
So, does all this make Oman the 6th most toxic country in the world? Absolutely not! The sultanate could definitely improve in areas of conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy, but the five factors don’t fairly weigh everything together. Maybe this is the reason why the International Energy Agency and the World Health Organization don’t do this power ranking aggregate themselves. Let’s leave it to the real experts.