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Qatar postponed the 2020 summer Olympics in Doha because it was 46.7C in the shade; they feared fans might overheat and die in the arena.
Saud Ghani, a local air-conditioning expert, said the heat felt as if “God had pointed a giant hair dryer at Qatar".
Qatar's response? Blow right back.
In an effort to reduce temperatures, city engineers installed giant fans and coolers in Doha streets and outdoor markets, in addition to an innovative cooling system in the open-air Olympic stadium.
But AC-ing the outdoors is simply the beginning of a vicious cycle as electric coolers gorge on fossil fuels increasing emissions and creating more heat.
To cool off in the long term Doha, and other too-hot cities like it, can shift to renewable resources and adopt greener transportation and construction methods.
Let's take a look at some of the options.
The cooling technology in place at Khalifa International Stadium makes the venue the largest open-air stadium in the world to be cooled.
In the past thirty years temperatures have accelerated due to a surge of construction in cities. Dubai, Shenzhen and Delhi top the list of cities with the most construction and, record high heat. Using automated electric vehicles to transport local, recycled building materials will help reduce the impact of the construction industry.
And, automated delivery enhanced with location-based technology like advanced mapping can reduce traffic congestion, improving air quality and opening up streets to cyclists and pedestrians.
The Olympic games in Qatar is bringing in $200 billion for a new airport, metro lines and roads. With the money comes the opportunity to reduce temperatures by implementing permanent green mobility solutions:
Building HOV lanes for carpools/shares and removing some of the individual lanes would reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Cities can further support these initiatives by offering parking incentives at metro stations like San Francisco did with its new BART carpool program or by joining up with ride-hails like Uber to promote the sale of transit passes.
Surprise-- you can cycle in Doha, in Los Angeles, in Dubai... Doha has racing paths and a car-free road that leads to the airport. But due to the heat, cycling remains somewhat unattractive. City planners can make new and existing living-wall pedestrian walkways more bike friendly by simply adding a designated lane. Then both pedestrians and cyclists are safe in the shade.
Doha already has an extensive bus system and a new rapid rail service. Expanding public transit to reach suburban areas, reducing costs for low-income earners and connecting the system to other green options like cycling, car-sharing and ride-hailing via HERE's Transit and Traffic tools will help people avoid the heat and connect to green, multi-modal, transportation options.
While urban planners are designing cooling devices including paving over roads with blue sun-reflecting material, Qatar can make better use of its two biggest renewable energy resources— wind and sun. While the wind easily defeats cooling systems, it can be harnessed and transformed into electricity. And, when it's combined with solar panels, high-consumption cities can ensure a steady supply of renewable energy.
AC-ing the outdoors is a quick fix with a short shelf-life. Real heat-reducing solutions are found when cities redirect resources away from fossil fuels towards advanced mobility options enhanced by renewable resources.
If you or your city is having a hard time making greener choices, perhaps a carbon tracker app can help?