Actions by individuals and businesses, such as improving energy efficiency in the home or office, make a difference.
The role of technology in keeping climate catastrophe at bay is becoming ever more critical. The resurgence of protests around the world such as the civil havoc wreaked by Extinction Rebellion or the school strikes begun by Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg has renewed pressure on governments to “do something”, no matter how unrealistic or economically ruinous.
The individual and political solutions usually meant by “doing something” are not as straightforward as they sound and may actually create more difficulties than they solve. Actions by individuals and businesses, such as improving energy efficiency in the home or office, make a difference, but this is still a drop in the ocean when put up against the output of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. They are also a bit hit-and-miss. Many of us are happy to do our bit of recycling or to stop the tap running while we brush our teeth, but how many of us are prepared never to fly again or to take up a vegan diet?
Similarly, swingeing political solutions such as carbon and fuel taxes can jolly things along, but such taxes inevitably hit the poor hardest and contribute to their own political unrest, as seen with the Yellow Vest movement in France, which could backfire by encouraging the election of more climate-sceptic leaders such as Donald Trump.
Technology presents only opportunities Yet where individual and political solutions pose their own problems, the technological approach presents only opportunities. The growing recognition of the essential role played by green technology is highlighted by the fact that the World Green Economy Summit held in Dubai last year included a discussion on the role of technology in the green economy, this year it will be the summit’s overarching theme.
One example of the win-win nature of technological solutions to green issues is renewable energy. In its early days, renewables were seen by many as nothing more than a way for governments to spend taxpayers’ money on switching to more expensive energy. But we hung in there and the fruits are beginning to show. Prices of renewables, particularly solar, are through better technology being brought to a point where not only do they no longer require public subsidy, but turn a profit enough that they become an attractive business proposition.
Much still to be done Still, despite renewable power having accounted for 70 percent of net additions to global power generating capacity in 2017, greenhouse gas emissions edged higher that year nonetheless, showing there is still much work to be done. The main laggards were the heating, cooling and transport sectors, which account for about 80 percent of global energy demand.
This shows that although technological breakthroughs in areas such as renewable energy can have a win-win impact – reduced emissions and cheaper energy – the road ahead isn’t easy. For example, if there is a greater take-up of electric cars this might cause oil prices to fall, which in turn could increase demand from the aviation sector that would push up emissions.
Despite advances in green technology such as the smart grid, electric vehicles, bioplastics, carbon capture and storage, green computers and green packaging, some critics insist that these advances are not nearly enough. They say that although we have been led by some of the modern world’s amazing inventions into believing that technology can achieve anything that simply isn’t true. They contend that future advances in green technology cannot be blindly relied upon to save the planet, and that essential breakthroughs such as improved battery efficiency in electric vehicles may still be a long way off.
Technology predicted to potentially cut emissions by 64 percent by 2050 But if there are problems with green technology, they are considerably less than those created by a purely political approach, which will inevitably lead to punitive, and polarising, taxes. Governments would do better to ease the path for innovative firms and startups through funding and supportive legislation so they can find the myriad solutions that will be needed to meet or go beyond the carbon targets of the Paris Agreement. ING in a report issued last year predicted that such an approach could result in a 64 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
To conclude, while the political pressure intensifies to enact all sorts of rash and damaging ecological measures, it is best to keep our heads and do all we can to back and push forward the technological innovations that may not just combat climate change, but do so while strengthening the global economy.
“We all need to work together to nurture a habitable planet for future generations and to play our part in building a greener and cleaner future for all.” by Jessica Corbett, staff writer.
More than 7,000 colleges and universities across the globe declared a climate emergency on Wednesday and unveiled a three-point plan to collectively commit to addressing the crisis.
“Young people around the world feel that schools, colleges, and universities have been too slow to react to the crisis that is now bearing down on us.” —Charlotte Bonner, SOS
The declaration came in a letter—which other education institutions are encouraged to sign—that was organized by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), U.S.-based higher education climate action organization Second Nature, and U.N. Environment Program’s (UNEP) Youth and Education Alliance.
The letter, according to a statement from organizers, “marks the first time further and higher education establishments have come together to make a collective commitment to address the climate emergency,” and outlines the three-point plan:
Committing to going carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the very latest;
Mobilizing more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation; and
Increasing the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curricula, campus, and community outreach programs.
“The young minds that are shaped by our institutions must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and capability to respond to the ever-growing challenges of climate change,” the letter says. “We all need to work together to nurture a habitable planet for future generations and to play our part in building a greener and cleaner future for all.”
The letter, which calls on other institutions and governments to declare a climate emergency and pursue urgent action to combat it, was presented at a Wednesday eventhosted by the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative—a partnership of various United Nations agencies—at U.N. headquarters in New York City.
“The expectation is that over 10,000 institutions of higher and further education will come on board before the end of the 2019, with governments invited to support their leadership with incentives to take action,” said the organizers’ statement. So far, the letter has been signed by 25 networks that represent approximately 7,050 institutions and 59 individual institutions that, combined, have about 652,000 students.
The individual institutions that have joined the declaration include five in the continental United States and two in Puerto Rico as well as colleges and universities in Argentina, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, Kuwait, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
“Young people are increasingly at the forefront of calls for more action on climate and environmental challenges. Initiatives which directly involve the youth in this critical work are a valuable contribution to achieving environmental sustainability.” —Inger Andersen, UNEP
“What we teach shapes the future. We welcome this commitment from universities to go climate neutral by 2030 and to scale-up their efforts on campus,” said UNEP executive director Inger Andersen. “Young people are increasingly at the forefront of calls for more action on climate and environmental challenges. Initiatives which directly involve the youth in this critical work are a valuable contribution to achieving environmental sustainability.”
The declaration follows months of students—from all levels of education—taking to the streets around the world as part of the school strike for climate movement, which calls on governments and powerful institutions to pursue bolder policies targeting the human-caused climate crisis.
Praising the college and universities’ letter on Wednesday, Charlotte Bonner of Students Organizing for Sustainability (SOS) said that “young people around the world feel that schools, colleges, and universities have been too slow to react to the crisis that is now bearing down on us.”
“We welcome the news that they are declaring a climate emergency, we have no time to lose,” Bronner added. “We will be calling on those who haven’t yet supported this initiative, to come on board. Of course, the most important element is the action that follows.”
Israel’s 12-year blockade of the territory has accelerated this trend of Gaza’s crafts industries fast disappearing at a time when normal life seemed ever more difficult to bring back onto its streets. Decades in the besieged enclave, have somehow allowed stores to be reopened, students to head back to schools, and people generally resuming work. This article of Gulf News dated July 10, illustrates fairly well the particular situation of the strip today.
Gaza City, Gaza Strip: When Gazans think of better economic times, images of clay pottery, colorful glassware, bamboo furniture and ancient frame looms weaving bright rugs and mats all come to mind. For decades, these traditional crafts defined the economy of the coastal Palestinian enclave, employing thousands of people and exporting across the region. Today, the industries are almost non-existent.
While such professions have shrunk worldwide in the face of globalisation and Chinese mass production, Gazan business owners say Israel’s 12-year blockade has accelerated the trend. “We have been economically damaged. We are staying, but things are really difficult,” said Abed Abu Sido, one of Gaza’s last glassmakers, as he flipped through a glossy catalogue of his products.
At his quiet workshop, layers of dust covered the few remaining glass artifacts, requiring him to scrub them to reveal their colours. Cardboard boxes of unfinished products and materials were stacked floor-to-ceiling.
Abu Sido opened his business in the 1980s, selling many of his items to vendors in the popular marketplace of Jerusalem’s Old City. In his heyday, he said he took part in exhibitions in Europe. That changed after 2007, when the Hamas militant group overran Gaza, and Israel and Egypt responded by sealing Gaza’s borders. Abu Sido laid off his 15 workers and ceased operations the following year.
Israel says the blockade is needed to contain Hamas and prevent it from arming. But the closure, repeated rounds of fighting with Israel and a power struggle with the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have hit Gaza hard.
Barcelona just had a week of temperatures above 30℃. It’s a few degrees hotter than the long-term average, but no heatwave. In winter, Spain’s second largest city is typically a mild 15℃ or so. With its climate regulated by warm Mediterranean waters, temperatures rarely drop below freezing.
Is this what the future holds for London? One group of scientists certainly thinks so. In a new study, they have tried to convey the risks of global warming by finding the closest modern-day climates to describe what the future might be like for certain cities. They predict that, for instance, Madrid’s climate in 2050 will be like Marrakech’s climate now, Seattle will resemble San Francisco, Stockholm will feel like Budapest, and that London will become like Barcelona.
It makes sense to focus on cities as they are literally “hot-spots” of climate risk due to their dense populations, concentration of assets and susceptibility to extreme weather. Getting this message across to city managers and vulnerable communities is not always easy.
The researchers gathered data on the background climate of 520 major cities. Nineteen variables, including maximum temperature of the warmest month and precipitation seasonality, were combined using a statistical method that takes account of their relative importance and interrelationships. Equivalent variables for 2050 were obtained from three climate models, which were all programmed to take the optimistic view that emissions will stabilise this century. Present and future city climates were then used to “twin” the most similar metropolises.
Pairing cities in this way is a clever idea. But such like-for-like comparisons are just too simplistic. This is because cities make their own climates according to their unique layouts, building materials, artificial heat sources, amounts of open or green spaces, and types of water feature.
There can be fundamental differences between two cities in these respects. For example, Barcelona has among the highest population densities in Europe, at about 16,000 per square kilometre, more than the 10,000 or so recorded by inner London boroughs. Population density is a useful indicator of both the intensity and level of exposure to the urban heat island – compact cities tend to be hotter cities.
While Barcelona is striving to become a greener city, nearly two-thirds of Greater London is already occupied by gardens, parks and water. Across the city, such spaces provide cool refuges for people and biodiversity. For instance, satellite observations reveal that on a hot summers day Richmond Park – a large space on the western edge of the city known for its deer – can be about 10°C cooler than parts of the more central Southwark, Lambeth and Westminster. Even in these central boroughs, temperatures are chillier along the Thames embankment than just a few hundred metres away. Hence, the multiple micro-climates experienced day-to-day and from place-to-place within a city are not readily characterised by a few summary statistics.
The actual “felt” temperature depends on a host of factors, not least the effect of atmospheric humidity. Conditions can become lethal when dangerous combinations of temperature and humidity are exceeded – something that unfortunately already occurs in cities such as Karachi in Pakistan or Kolkata in India.
Global warming means that 350m more people could be exposed to deadly heat by 2050 – and South Asian mega-cities are in the front-line. However, with 4°C of global warming even New York could become heat stressed. So any assessment of future conditions in global cities should evaluate the combined threat of heat with humidity. According to the Lancet Countdown 2018 Report, threats to human health from heatwaves are becoming more frequent and dangerous.
Despite the above reservations, the new study does alert us to the possibility that over one-fifth of the studied cities could shift to climate conditions hitherto unobserved anywhere on Earth. This applies to cities such as Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Libreville in Gabon and Manaus in Brazil, which are all in the tropics.
Extraordinary temperatures are already being experienced within the homes and workplaces of some low income communities of cities such as Accra, Ghana. Trying to visualise how these places might be further stressed by climate change is an important step towards improving the well-being of some of the world’s most vulnerable urban citizens.
The pairing of wind and solar is emerging as a smart strategy to implement renewable energy sources with better economic feasibility.A Fine Couple They Are (Wind and Solar Power) as suggested by Jim Romeo would definitely affect this Energy Transition era if only in terms of duration.
The pairing of wind and solar power is an advantageous complement; the two benefit each other. The synergistic combination is an emerging trend in renewable energy and power generation as costs drop. The pairing of sustainable sources is in early stages, however. And the configuration still has challenges regarding return on investment (ROI), ease of implementation, and storage.
In western Minnesota, a 2-MW wind turbine and 500-kW solar installation—wind-solar hybrid project—is an early entrant to the wind-solar market and one of the first of its kind in the U.S. It was introduced at a cost of about $5 million with high expectations and the goal that Lake Region Electric Cooperative in Pelican Rapids would acquire the power for its 27,000 members.
The pioneering project got a boost amid the lower costs of solar. The power generation from both renewable sources is calculated to provide dividends on its investment.
According to market researcher Global Market Insights, hybrid solar-wind projects are expected to grow by 4% in the U.S. over the next five years to join a $1.5 billion global market. Some attribute the growth to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference objectives, combined with lower costs of development and materials, and a keen interest by many nations to rely more on renewable energy sources. Because wind turbine power and solar both have excess capacity, together they offer far greater possibilities.
Lucrative but Limited
Renewables especially make economic sense in non-urban areas, where costs per kWh are higher, said Mike Voll, principal and sector lead for Smart Technologies at Stantec. “So, rural communities and remote locations, where energy prices often reach $0.40 to $0.45 per kilowatt-hour, actually see an ROI from these projects. When it comes to combining both wind and solar with storage, however, the list of locations is even smaller still. In a perfect world, we’d have a place that has excellent radiance with enough wind and low cloud cover, but the reality is there are very few locations that meet the geographic requirements. So even as the price continues to drop, there will still be significant limitations to pairing solar and wind.”
Despite limitations, renewables can work well in locations where everything clicks. A storage option is an essential component. “Adding energy storage can reduce intermittency of output, reshape the generation profile to match to load, and enable dispatch of the renewable energy to maximize revenue generation through ISO market participation or utility programs,” said Todd Tolliver, senior manager at ICF, a global consulting and technology services company headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia.
Tolliver said the economic viability of these systems is constrained by equipment, costs of storage, and limited or irregular revenue streams. But he explained that the most common combination today is solar plus battery storage, thanks to investment tax credit and incentive programs in certain markets that provide clear lower costs and better revenue streams. Still, wind power energy storage has challenges.
RIBA trustees today formally agreed to join the global declaration of an environment and climate emergency at the triannual meeting of RIBA Council members.
At the meeting, which brings together elected trustees to debate and discuss the biggest issues facing the profession, the Institute also committed to developing the RIBA Ethics and Sustainable Development Commission’s action plan and a pledge to support the government’s 2050 net zero emissions target.
RIBA President, Ben Derbyshire, said:
“The climate emergency is the biggest challenge facing our planet and our profession. But to have a significant impact we need to do more than make symbolic statements – we need to turn warm words into impactful actions.
The implementation of a five-year action plan we have committed to today will ensure we are able to benchmark change and evaluate the actions that make most impact.”
The Ethics and Sustainable Development Action Plan will include measurable actions to support a net zero carbon built environment. It will drive change at a national and international level in industry standards and practice; in government and inter-governmental policy and regulation; and in the RIBA’s own carbon footprint.
The RIBA should work to support chartered member practices (in the UK and internationally) enabling them to commit to voluntary reporting of core building performance metrics and to work towards the whole-life net zero carbon standard and standard Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) reporting metrics when the guidance is available.
RIBA Chief Executive, Alan Vallance said:
“With a background in the meteorological sector I have a deep insight into the impact of climate change and the vast and urgent task ahead of us. RIBA Council’s commitment to the climate emergency declaration is an important moment for the institute and the profession – a catalyst for the further action and change that is needed to ensure that architects and the built environment sector are at the forefront of a zero-carbon future.”
Next steps will include the implementation of a five-year detailed action plan to embed sustainable industry standards and practice and use the RIBA’s influence to improve government and inter-government policy and regulation.
Chair of the RIBA’s Sustainable Futures Group, Gary Clark said:
“The RIBA Sustainable Futures Group welcomes the RIBA Council decision to declare a climate emergency. This is an important first step that formally recognises the scale and urgency of climate change and that as architects we have an obligation to demonstrate leadership for a sustainable future. Now the hard work starts – we only have 11 years to agree and implement a net zero carbon trajectory for new and retrofitted buildings, and infrastructure. The RIBA will be guiding the profession but we must all take action to voluntarily reduce operational emissions and embodied carbon significantly beyond regulation.”