As it bakes, Egypt looks to the cooling power of the sea for help

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Photo: Shutterstock/Octasy
As Egypt bakes, it looks to the cooling power of the sea for help now that technological advances would allow it . . .

As anyone who visits Egypt between the months of May to September can attest, the weather gets hot, often uncomfortably so.

That is especially true in Cairo—a megacity home to nearly 22 million people—where the mercury can hit 40°C. Those sky-high temperatures are partially a product of the so-called ‘heat island effect,’ which sees buildings, roads, and other infrastructure absorb and re-emit the sun’s warmth more than natural landscapes.

Research shows that things will only get worse for cities due to the climate crisis. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that by the year 2100, many cities across the world could warm as much as 4°C if greenhouse gas emissions continue “at high levels,” – a potential health hazard for inhabitants.

With millions of people in need of air conditioning, it’s no surprise that so much of the power consumption in Cairo is related to cooling. “During the peak summer months, 50 per cent of the electric power goes to air conditioning,” said Alaa Olama, a UNEP consultant, the Head of the Egyptian District Cooling Code and the author of the book District Cooling: Theory and Practice.

Egypt is currently building 22 ‘smart cities’, making the country an ideal location for state-of-the-art cooling technologies, said Olama. Many of those efforts have focused on developing city-wide cooling systems that do not rely on electricity from fossil-fuel-fired power plants.

This is particularly important in the fight against climate change because cities contribute greatly to global warming. Rising global temperatures and warming cities create a vicious cycle where increased demand for cooling systems adds to carbon dioxide emissions that further contribute to global warming and create the need for even more cooling.

According to the International Energy Agency, cooling produces more than 7 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and these emissions are expected to roughly double by 2050. Amidst rising temperatures, the number of air conditioners in use is expected to rise to 4.5 billion by 2050 from 1.2 billion today.

To help break this cycle, UNEP is working with governments to adopt more climate-friendly cooling practices. For example, UNEP recently concluded a feasibility study on a district cooling system called the Seawater Air-conditioning system for New Alamein City, on the north coast of the country.

Here is how the Seawater Air-conditioning system works: Coldwater taken from deep in the Mediterranean Sea is pumped into a cooling station and passed through a heat exchanger, where it absorbs heat from buildings. Cool air generated from the cold water is used to maintain comfortable temperatures in the buildings, while the warm water is sent back into the sea.

Initially, the project would consist of a single district cooling plant to be built over two years, with 30,000 Tones of Refrigeration (TR) capacity, sufficient to cool entire neighborhoods. The Seawater Air-conditioning system is estimated to cost US$117 million in building production facilities and a further US$20-25 million for the distribution network.

With this cooling system, the city would reduce refrigerants emissions by 99 per cent and carbon dioxide emissions by 40 per cent. This is particularly important because these reductions will help Egypt meet its requirements to phase-down hydrofluorocarbon emissions established by the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This landmark multilateral environmental agreement regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals called ozone-depleting substances.

Since many ozone-depleting substances also contribute to global warming, the Montreal Protocol and the Kigali Amendment – which provides for phasing down harmful greenhouse gases used in air conditioning, refrigeration and foam insulation – is expected to avoid up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of this century. This represents a major step in the commitment to limit global warming to below 2°C under the Paris Agreement.

The feasibility study to assess the potential for district cooling in New Alamein City will be published in late May 2022. It is expected to analyze whether it would be financially and technically viable to build a district cooling solution that would reduce or avoid using hydrofluorocarbons.

The study was initiated through the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol, and UNEP supported the development of an institutional framework. The efforts are being elevated through UNEP District Energy in Cities Initiative, which is taking the study to the level of execution.

UNEP’s support for the study is part of a larger effort to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that come with cooling.

In Egypt, UNEP’s OzonAction team is also supporting the development, update, enactment and enforcement of specialized nation-wide codes for ACs, district cooling and refrigerant management, as well as green procurement processes.

The UNEP-led Cool Coalition is helping cities in India, Viet Nam and Cambodia develop environmentally-friendly cooling strategies. It is also supporting the construction of networks of freezers, known as cold chains, that can hold everything from farm produce to COVID-19 vaccines.

The concept of using cold water to provide cooling for cities has taken root globally. For instance, in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, the local government implemented the largest lake-source cooling system in the world. Commissioned in 2004, Enwave’s Deep Lake Water Cooling system uses cold lake water as a renewable energy source. Similar large-scale projects have also been built in the United States and France.

This technology, which was pioneered in the West, has in recent years become popular in the East in the Gulf and Emirate States, which boast the greatest number of district cooling technologies. “It’s an important solution for new cities,” said Olama.

 

Hosted by Sweden, the theme of World Environment Day on 5 June 2022 is #OnlyOneEarth – with a focus on ‘Living Sustainably in Harmony With Nature’. Follow #OnlyOneEarth on social media and take transformative, global action, because protecting and restoring this planet is a global responsibility. 

Follow the World Environment Day live feed for updates.

UNEP is at the forefront of supporting the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise well below 2°C, and aiming for 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. To do this, UNEP has developed a Six-Sector Solution, a roadmap to reducing emissions across sectors in line with the Paris Agreement commitments and in pursuit of climate stability. The six sectors identified are: Energy; Industry; Agriculture & Food; Forests & Land Use; Transport; and Buildings & Cities.

 

Climate change affects all countries

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Climate change affects all countries, especially those with high agricultural production and equally those with lower production.  The ingenuity of the producers of the first countries could not oppose any remedy to this phenomenon.  Without wanting to be disillusioned because of this, everyone knows that only a global movement of all the world’s populations could turn this upside down or the other way around.

So, the question would be how to proceed to ensure that the people of the world act the same and at the same time, for a fairly long period.  For many specialists, this period would be forever.

The United Nations has already been working on this with its sustainable development agenda with a program based on 17 clearly defined goals.

These goals would be to transform our world from sustainable development through the action of all countries – poor, rich, and middle-income – to protect the planet while promoting prosperity.

They recognize that ending poverty must go hand in hand with strategies that develop economic growth and address a range of social needs, including education, health, social protection, and employment opportunities while addressing climate change and environmental protection.

The problem is that the planet does not expect its inhabitants to start from a common agreement to push in the same direction.

More virulent phenomena such as desertification, and scarcity of groundwater that mainly due to reductions in precipitation in all climatic areas of the globe.  Paradoxically, there is the fact that seawater levels tend to rise above their normal level as known in recent centuries.

Apart from what is said above, there is a much greater impact.  This is kept away from direct attention.

It is the one that affects those important agricultural producing countries that with this global warming would tend to lose their level of production at the expense of those other countries whose lands froze for centuries and who would see them suddenly turn into arable land.  Conversely, countries whose subsistence production enabled these to go through millennia might be likely to face up to survival of the fittest span of time.

Are we being on the verge of yet another phenomenon consequent from climate change?  It would be that of a new swing in the hierarchy of food producers of the world? The question that has not been asked so far still deserves attention.  That of each and every one.

On my radar: Marwa al-Sabouni’s cultural highlights

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On my radar: Marwa al-Sabouni’s cultural highlights

The above-featured image is that of Damascus by France 24.

The Syrian architect and writer on the idea of home in Branagh’s Belfast, smart Arab horses in Homs and the joy of lentils in Damascus

Marwa al-Sabouni

Marwa al-Sabouni is a Syrian architect and writer. Born in Homs in 1981, she was living in the city when the civil war broke out in 2011 and remained there with her young family throughout the worst bombardments. In her memoir The Battle for Home, published in 2016, al-Sabouni wrote about the vital role that architecture plays in the functioning of society and how Syria’s future could be shaped by its built environment. In 2021, she published a second book, Building for Hope: Towards an Architecture of Belonging. Al-Sabouni is guest co-director of this year’s Brighton festival, which runs until 29 May.

1. Film

Belfast (Dir Kenneth Branagh, 2021)

From left: Caitriona Balfe, Jude Hill, Lewis McAskie and Jamie Dornan in Belfast. Photograph: Rob Youngson/Focus Features

 

 

I watched this at home recently – there are no cinemas in Homs. It’s a film about war and love and friendship, about difficult decisions in a time of crisis. I liked the story and how real the actors made it, but also the way it handled the theme of home, which I very much related to – how the family was torn between staying and leaving. The whole dilemma of what to do, and how different people deal with similar questions and end up with different answers, was explored so well. It’s a great movie.

 

2. Novel

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a story set in a fictional version of England many centuries ago. It’s about grudges, and Ishiguro writes about this without naming the feeling, creating a fictional creature – the buried giant – for it as a reference. It’s also about a family’s journey to discover this feeling, and to find a way towards forgiveness. What I loved about this story is the indirect and imaginative way it has of dealing with hidden feelings that we bury deep down in our psyche, and how to access them.

3. Sport

Homs Equestrian Club

Marwa al-Sabouni’s horse Salah al-Din, a Syrian Arab.

I don’t go out much to busy places, and because of the war we don’t have many places to go. But I do go and ride every day at the equestrian club in Homs. My horse is called Salah al-Din. He’s a very strong horse from a special breed – Syrian Arab horses are among the best in the world for strength, endurance and performance. They are really smart animals and very independent and spirited, which is a humbling experience on a daily basis. The social aspect of the club is disastrous; it’s all about the horses.

4. TV

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (Apple TV+)

Dominique Fishback and Samuel L Jackson in The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey. Photograph: TCD/DB/Alamy

Samuel L Jackson gives a phenomenal performance in this TV series. He plays an old man suffering from dementia who takes an experimental medicine that gains him a few days of lucidity. He uses those precious moments to access his memories and explain to himself the nightmares he had, which are related to racism. The show deals with different questions with great sensitivity, and in the end it’s about true friendship and genuine feelings. For me, it’s the story of the human mind and how precious this gift is.

5. Music

Georges Wassouf

Watch a video for Georges Wassouf’s Ya Al Zaman.

Georges Wassouf is from a rural area near Homs, but his career took off from Beirut. I just love his music – he has a poignant way of speaking about love and a fantastic way of bending the lyrics to express the music. It’s also lovely how his artistic character is so closely related to his real-life character. He’s a very accessible figure who lives among his people, and he didn’t change his lifestyle in a way that would separate him from his own small village. Ahla Ayam El Omr, which translates as Life’s Most Beautiful Days, is one of my favourite of his songs.

6. Restaurant

Naranj, Damascus

Naranj restaurant in Damascus. Photograph: Peter Horree/Alamy

Homs restaurants are rubbish, but there are plenty of good ones in Damascus. The one that I really like is Naranj, in the old part of the city where the Muslim and the Christian quarters merge. The food is great and the menu is very much based on what’s in season. The breads come right out of the oven, hot and delicious, and I would recommend the lentil dish harrak isbao, which means “the one that burns your fingers” because it’s so delicious that you will dive straight in.

The Guardian

 

Without Fossil Fuels There Is No Need For Electricity

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Without Fossil Fuels There Is No Need For Electricity – OpEd

By Ronald Stein

America is in a fast pursuit toward achieving President Biden’s stated goal that “we are going to get rid of fossil fuels  to achieve the Green New Deal’s (GND) pursuit of wind turbines and solar panels to provide electricity to run the world, but WAIT, everything in our materialistic lives and economies cannot exist without crude oil, coal, and natural gas.

Everything that needs electricity, from lights, vehicles, iPhones, defibrillators, computers, telecommunications, etc., are all made with the oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil.

The need for electricity will decrease over time without crude oil.  With no new things to power, and the deterioration of current things made with oil derivatives over the next few decades and centuries, the existing items that need electricity will not have replacement parts and will ultimately become obsolete in the future and the need for electricity will diminish accordingly.

The Green New Deal proposal calls on the federal government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and focus on electricity from wind and solar, but why? What will there be to power in the future without fossil fuels?

Rather than list the more than 6,000 products made from the oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil, I will let the readers list what is NOT dependent on oil derivatives that will need electricity. They can begin listing them here ______   ________    _______.

And by the way, crude oil came before electricity. The electricity that came AFTER the discovery of oil, is comprised of components made with those same oil derivatives from crude oil. Thus, getting rid of crude oil, also eliminates our ability to make wind turbines, solar panels, as well as those vehicles intended to be powered by an EV battery.

Today, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) divesting in fossil fuels are all the rage with big banks, Wall Street firms, and financial institutions, to divest in all 3 fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and crude oil.  Both President Biden and the United Nations support allowing banks and investment giants to collude to reshape economies and our energy infrastructure toward JUST electricity from wind and solar.

A reduction in the usage of coal, natural gas, and crude oil would lead us to life as it was without the crude oil infrastructure and those products manufactured from oil that did not exist before 1900, i.e., the decarbonized world that existed in the 1800’s and before when life was hard, and life expectancy was short.

Ridding the world of crude oil would result in less manufactured oil derivatives and lead to a reduction in each of the following:

  • The 50,000 heavy-weight and long-range merchant ships that are moving products throughout the world.
  • The 50,000 heavy-weight and long-range jets used by commercial airlines, private usage, and the military.
  • The number of wind turbines and solar panels as they are made with oil derivatives from crude oil.
  • The pesticides to control locusts and other pests.
  • The tires for the billions of vehicles.
  • The asphalt for the millions of miles of roadways.
  • The medications and medical equipment.
  • The vaccines.
  • The water filtration systems.
  • The sanitation systems.
  • The communications systems, including cell phones, computers, iPhones, and iPads.
  • The number of cruise ships that now move twenty-five million passengers around the world.
  • The space program.

Before we rid the world of all three fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and crude oil, the greenies need to identify the replacement or clone for crude oil, to keep the world’s population of 8 billion fed and healthy, and economies running with the more than 6,000 products now made with manufactured derivatives from crude oil, along with the fuels manufactured from crude oil to move the heavy-weight and long-range needs of more than 50,000 jets and more than 50,000 merchant ships, and the military and space programs.

Open government policies should be focused on reducing our usage, via both conservation and improved efficiencies, to REDUCE not ELIMINATE crude oil, and reduce its footprint as much as practical and possible, is truly the only plan that will work.

Wind and solar may be able to generate electricity from breezes and sunshine, but they cannot manufacture anything.  Again, what is the need for the Green New Deal’s electricity from breezes and sunshine when you have nothing new to power in the future?

Ronald Stein, Founder and Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure of PTS Advance, headquartered in Irvine, California.

 

We won’t get anywhere without placing the SDGs in local contexts

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We won’t get anywhere without placing the SDGs in local contexts

By Su Li Chong, Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) in Times Higher Education (THE) says :
Applying the SDGs looks vastly different in a Western city and a rural Asian village. Su Li Chong explains how universities can help us get past a one-size-fits-all approach

Never in human history has the world been more focused on a singular aim: to rescue and resuscitate planet earth. Systematically broken down the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this is the only masterplan to which all world leaders have signed up, and this aim sees all nations, big and small, rich and poor, tasked with achieving the SDGs and ensuring control of consumption that will lead to a net zero carbon future.

The recent Climate Change Conference (COP26) was abuzz with deep debates over what counts as consumption, sustainability and responsibility. Meanwhile, there is vast discordance on how concepts such as “consumption” and “emissions” are defined by developing and developed nations.

So, how can we really understand and apply the SDGs if definitions are, at best, not easily agreed upon? If we are to take up the clarion call to observe and comply with internationally agreed measures, it stands to reason that this must be done with respect to local cultures.

Japan can give us a lesson in this regard. The reintroduction of the “circular economy” into the 21st century’s popular imagination may mislead some into thinking this is a modern idea, but it is not new by any stretch of the imagination. Although known by a different name, this cyclical practice of using, designing and reappropriating materiality was already commonplace in Japan’s Edo community more than 300 years ago.

To a degree, this explains Japan’s enviable and extraordinary recycling culture today. So, how have they been successful? Among other factors, Japan’s education system – which prizes values and cultural awareness – has been credited for its success. Particularly, Japan’s ongoing efforts in Education for Sustainable Development that involve institutions, educators, youth and local communities ensure that generations of Japanese citizens are educated to understand their individual roles in creating a shared, sustainable future.

After all, counting carbon emissions is really about human behaviour. And human behaviour is teachable. This suggests that, to sustain planet earth, the most fundamental change must take place within the engine of education. But how does education relate to the SDGs, especially if it is itself one of the goals?

The key is to become interconnected. Interconnectedness is understood to be about cultural awareness, biodiversity and sustainability. Thus, initiatives pertaining to sustainability must be located within a country’s historical, cultural and ecological landscape.

So, with interconnectedness at its foundation and education at its heart, this is how we should understand and really apply the SDGs:

  1. Interpret a particular SDG through the local lens

How is the goal worded when translated into local languages? Does the goal have an equivalent or even different meaning? For example, SDG 4, quality education, is among the oldest of the 17 SDGs, and central to this aim is the eradication of illiteracy. In the Western world, the idea of reading has been broadened to cover more than word-based recognition. However, in the Malay language for example, illiteracy is translated as “letter blindness” (buta huruf). This indicates that for a Malay-speaking community, the understanding of quality education and literacy is still narrowly defined as being about letter recognition when, in fact, it should be about the ability to make meaning from multiple sign systems.

For example, a child who spends a lot of time outdoors will eventually be literate in nature’s sign systems, such as weather changes or plant ecology. Using this broad perspective, innovative pedagogies can be introduced into literacy lessons that could apply multiliteracies in environmental themes. This should encourage creative ideas that will champion local versions of good practice that can sustain a balanced biodiversity.

How universities can help: provide a pool of authentic experts who have relevant and long-running experience with the practical problems of local communities so that these experts can become the bridge to connect high-level innovations with day-to-day living.

  1. Appropriate a particular SDG to the strengths of the community

For example, SDG 13 on climate action sets a complex requirement to combat climate change, with one of its aims being to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon emissions will have no immediate relevance to a child in rural Asia, but the child’s carbon-free walk or bicycle ride to school can be lauded as being an important contribution to saving the planet. Further to this, SDG 13 can be appropriated around rewarding those who continue to walk or cycle to school. The goal needs to be applied to the local context so that not just an environmental awareness but a cultural one can be raised, because the culture of net zero is fundamentally about our everyday behaviour.

How universities can help: be the voice that champions and celebrates the strengths of local communities by partnering with local schools and providing mentorship to school students. This will allow young people to know that their actions, even if apparently small, are highly valued and respected.

  1. Be prepared to tackle big, complex questions and issues

The application of any of the SDGs requires individual nations to be courageous in confronting difficult questions, especially relating to core issues such as education and livelihoods. SDG 1, end poverty in all its forms, is another goal that underpins all the others. And indeed, developing nations may have to consider poverty eradication above the other goals. Overconsumption is not relevant in a context where basic needs such as food, equitable education and safe shelter are not met. An understanding of a community’s historical trajectory as far as poverty patterns and injustice towards minority groups are concerned, while difficult to address, is key to mobilising the rest of the goals.

How universities can help: encourage honest research that is inclusive of both the humanities and the sciences so that problems connecting society and its innovations can be scrutinised and critiqued. Provide safe spaces for “hard talk” to be had, so the university community sees critical questioning as a necessary part of genuine scholarship, which is not to be avoided.

In sum, our journey may be one, but our paths are many. There is danger in reducing an internationally set structure into a singular narrative, but there is hope in being inclusive and respectful of local perspectives for the greater good of the global community.

Su Li Chong is senior lecturer in the Institute of Self-Sustainable Building, Department of Management and Humanities, at Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Malaysia. She is also head of university social responsibility (education pillar).

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