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Nature has had a 3.8 billion years’ head start on humans learning how to solve complex challenges. Humans have been mimicking the natural world to solve the complexities and challenges of the built environment for millennia — from ancient Indian rock-cut architecture in 6000 BCE to Gothic cathedrals.
With the growing realization of how urbanization, industrialization and unfettered economic growth are affecting our world, we must look to nature for sustainability solutions.
Modern building techniques are material-intensive and polluting — it’s responsible for around one-quarter of land system change and 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And with an area the size of Paris being built up each week, we need to do better.
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report issued yet another dire warning and calls out the critical role of the built environment in climate change mitigation. The construction industry has the power to shape a more resilient, nature-positive economy, and nature can show us how: from the city level to the building design level to the material and component level, there’s a wealth of examples from which to learn.
Biomimetic design at the city level
The Mobius project’s futuristic-looking greenhouse showcases just what cities need now: a way to manage a city’s infrastructure system — from waste treatment to the water system, for example — through a closed-loop circular economy approach.
Iguana Architects, the project’s creator, modeled this after the oak tree, one of nature’s brilliant examples that has the potential to reuse its output resources such as materials, energy and water, therefore acting as a closed-loop system and conserving resources. By mimicking a natural ecosystem, Mobius rethinks water treatment, energy generation and waste management. Biological waste, for example, is turned into locally grown food, cutting down on the food miles — or it’s turned into methane to generate electricity for the greenhouse.
Many cities struggle to plant their own food — particularly those in drier regions. The Sahara Forest Project is trying to create life in one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth, learning from nature’s innovations for desert life. Researchers studied how the Namibian fog-basking beetle survives in such an arid environment, finding that it attracts and collects water droplets from fog and wind to drink. The beetle’s hydrophilic shell allows it to survive in a climate that only receives 1 centimeter of water per year. Based on this finding, the idea of the seawater-cooled greenhouse was born.
That’s not all — solar panels were also arranged to receive light reflected from a mirror to harvest the sun’s power at an exponential rate. Exploration, the architectural firm behind this project, created a 2.4-acre pilot project — such a success that they claim that “a facility with [148 acres] of greenhouses could provide all the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines currently imported into Qatar.” The project has been scaled and successfully implemented in Jordan and Tunisia.
While single creatures have a lot to teach us, so do entire ecosystems. Inspired by the concept of ecological succession, in which the structure of a biological community evolves over time, Jan Kudlicka and his team came up with a plan to regenerate the low-income Rio settlement favela da Rocinha. His plan: organizing the region in vertical levels, with the ground floor for stores, medical offices and other services, the middle layer for living and the rooftops destined for playgrounds, open air cinema and gardens. This optimizes the use of space in a crowded area that cannot grow out but must grow “up,” as space is limited by the mountains above and the city below. The project also seeks to regenerate the structure of existing buildings instead of tearing them down to build new ones — thus saving on materials and minimizing pollution.
Biomimetic buildings: How nature has inspired centuries of architecture
Renowned architects — from Antonio Gaudi to Buckminster Fuller to Frei Otto — have drawn inspiration from nature when dreaming up their buildings. Even the Eiffel Tower is said to have been based on the structure of the human femur. While biomimicry has been on architects’ minds for a while, now it is being explored at a new level.
Recently, inspiration has been garnered from something that appears fragile at first glance. The Eden project, a giant greenhouse inspired by the biblical Garden of Eden, was designed to resemble soap bubbles — optimally positioned in the sun to allow for complete self-heating. Dragonfly wings served as inspiration for the best way to assemble pieces of steel —allowing for a lightweight structure that required fewer carbon emissions to transport from place to place.
Lightweighting is a primary concern in designing the built environment: doing more with less. While hemp and bamboo are standout options, we can also draw inspiration from the abalone shell. Chemically, its composition is similar to that of blackboard chalk, although there’s a key structural difference between the two — the manner in which the shell’s calcium carbonate discs are layered make the formation 3,000 times stronger. By mimicking the discs, we can create strong structures with half the volume of materials, reducing the need for virgin materials in construction. Inspired by these abalone discs, scientists are working towards developing bendable concrete that can extend infrastructure’s service life while reducing costs.
Biomimicry for building materials: Zooming in to the microscopic level
We can narrow down to a microscopic level to learn which other tricks nature has up her sleeve. The lotus leaf, for example, boasts tiny hairs covered with a waxy coating that allows it to stay dry. The lotus leaf’s structure has inspired a protective coating for external areas that is water — and dirt — repellent, decreasing buildings’ need for maintenance. When it rains, the droplets roll off, picking up dirt on the way down. This decreases the need for protective finishings, which are usually toxic and can be harsh on the environment.
Limestone-producing bacteria have also served as inspiration to cut maintenance costs by millions of euros while extending buildings’ lifespans. Hendrick Jonkers, a researcher from TU Delft, was fascinated by the way bones regenerate themselves after being broken, and wanted to translate this into regeneration in the built environment. He discovered that certain bacteria can produce limestone, filling the gaps and cracks that affect concrete structures over time.
From the micro to macro level, nature has the power to inspire
Nature can be used to guide urban planning for sustainable cities, shape individual buildings and even act as a muse for material innovation. We already have an expansive library of solutions — we just have to roll them out at scale.
Given the built environment’s impact, it’s time to get serious about building in a way that harmonizes with, rather than harms, nature. While biomimetic design is definitely not the holy grail towards achieving a regenerative built environment, it could become a source of inspiration. We like to think of ourselves as the most intelligent species — but Mother Earth has many more years of experience and she is happy to share her free intellectual property.
Here are some thoughts ‘On Urban Greening 2023 and the challenge of valuing nature at this stage; as the author put it, “Generations of capitalism, consumerism and environmental degradation will take much undoing to move humanity back to operating within our ecological limits.”
Generations of capitalism, consumerism and environmental degradation will take a lot of undoing to move humanity back to operating within our ecological limits.
All those involved in the built environment have their work cut out for them. First, it was operational and embodied carbon. Then it was biodiversity, and soon it will be embodied water.
The Fifth Estate’s Urban Greening 2023 event on Thursday highlights the top thinkers, researchers and practitioners of biophilic design and integrating nature back into our homes, workplaces and places of leisure.
And what better way to kick off the day with appreciation of earth-centred governance with a keynote from Earth Laws Alliance of Australia national convenor, Michelle Maloney?
The earth jurisprudence expert framed the discussion with research from Will Steffen on the “Great Acceleration” – a 2015 study which visualises how the acceleration of industrial system development since the 1950s impacted our socio-economic and planetary wealth in 24 economic and earth system trends.
As the graphs of earth system trends in the image below indicate, increased economic output and development occurs in tandem with stratospheric rises of all indicators, from population to GDP, CO2 to ocean acidification, and tropical forest loss to coastal nitrogen levels.
These trends describe planet Earth’s transition from the Holocene, where all beings live in harmony with each other, to the Anthropocene, where human survival dominates that of all other living things.
The result is that humanity has created an “over-extractivist way of being influenced everything we all do,” Maloney said.
“And not one of us can change it on our own. But there’s an entire body of work that’s out there that’s challenging these systems. And great acceleration…was entirely manmade, entirely reliant on fossil fuels. And something that is entirely capable of being changed into something much better.”
Before launching into what most would consider radical ideas for changing our mindsets and improving our stewardship of the planet, Maloney refers to her work with leading Indigenous thinker Mary Graham to emphasise the importance of working with Indigenous governance systems and the laws of Country to build better futures.
“And that’s why we call ourselves Future Dreaming. Because yes, we’re a little bit out there. But is it weird or unusual to think that we should try to live within ecological limits?”
In her search for what she terms “alternative governance models”, Maloney was enchanted by Graham’s construct of “sacralised ecological custodianship” which has driven much of her focus as an environmental lawyer on “nature personhood” where human rights are conferred on things like mountains, rivers and the like.
The threads of how to modify our governance, financial and economic systems to build a better world carried over into a fascinating discussion featuring panellists from EY, KPMG, NSW government and GHD.
As KPMG head of social and sustainable finance Carolin Leeshaa pointed out: “We tend to think of nature as free, but it’s really not.”
The World Economic Forum, she said, estimates that nature directly contributes $US125 trillion to the world economy every year, and around 50 per cent of global GDP is either moderately or highly dependent on nature.
On the flip side, we now realise that if we degrade nature through deforestation, water pollution and species loss, it carries significant material financial risks.
She pointed to a growing realisation among corporates that preserving nature needs to be part of investment and strategic decision-making. “We’re bounded by nature because we simply cannot grow beyond our planetary boundaries.”
The need to incorporate nature into economic language and terminology gives Rasika Mohan market lead for sustainability, resilience and ESG for GHD Advisory, “a twinge of discomfort because it seems like this is the only way we can preserve and protect nature.”
Her most depressing example of this is that in land valuation, a patch of land is worth more if it is cleared than if it is rich in natural diversity, because cleared land is thought to be economically productive, “whereas land that has wilderness on it is considered to be a poor return.”
Mohan pointed to GHD’s recent work on the Fishermans Bend redevelopment in Melbourne where the company studied ways to implement biodiversity sensitive urban design to revegetate and rehabilitate former industrial spaces, and a rehabilitation at the aptly named Boggy Creek in Victoria’s Otway Ranges, a former sand quarry and creek. Finding quality data is a recurring issue, she added, even in the face of advancements such as digital twins and LIDAR (light detection and ranging).
Amy Croucher spoke about NSW Treasury’s Sustainability Advantage program that works with businesses to undertake a Nature Health Check and an action plan to implement change.
The program developed a natural capital accounting framework for the Wollondilly Shire Council, a peri-urban development area to the south of Sydney, which [tp1] is home to critically endangered ecological communities, where the aim was to quantify the amount and type of native vegetation that might be impacted by development.
Emma Herd, partner with EY, likened the process of incorporating natural capital into existing economic and financial systems as a “translation exercise.. it’s about taking the large amorphous and turning it into things that business must and can be doing, and measurable impacts and outcomes from them.
“Getting business to do things is often giving them the language and the tools they need to make decisions and act as well. The challenge is, how do we do that in a way that doesn’t throw out all the new, by bringing it into the fold?”
Mohan said it wasn’t capitalism that felt uncomfortable, rather it was the fear of the unknown. “You can’t really predict the future, but you can only be resilient enough to be able to adapt to it and bounce back from it…so I think it’s a deeply uncomfortable space.”
We need to conserve 30 per cent of nature by 2030
Leeshaa described the signing of the Gulf Biodiversity Framework at COP 15 last year, which stipulates that 30 per cent of nature must be conserved by 2030, as a landmark development for the nature positive movement because it will translate into new national legislation, as is occurring with the federal government’s new Nature Repair Markets Bill.
Having the tools to assign a monetary value to nature is one thing, but it will all be for naught if consumers are unwilling to pay for it.
What the developers think
No one knows this more keenly than large-scale property developers. The Fifth Estate managing editor Tina Perinotto, moderated a panel that included Mulpha head of developments Tim Spencer, who observed a general flight to quality towards sustainable buildings but argued that to achieve better outcomes, it was necessary to push architects harder to allocate space for green infrastructure because they tended to want to maximise the amount of built form on a given site.
Melissa Schulz, general manager of sustainability at QIC described the fund manager’s master plan to develop green spaces around the Castle Towers shopping mall in Sydney’s northwest. “I think I’m speaking to the converted when I say that Western Sydney has a problem with the urban heat island effect. So [adding green infrastructure in that location is really, really important.” QIC is also pushing the green envelope at its office tower in Albert Street, Brisbane, one of the above-station developments as part of the Cross River Rail project.
Not to be outdone, Mirvac senior sustainability manager Andrew Scerri pointed to a master-planned community in Western Australia where the developer had managed to preserve 600 established trees. “And it’s actually a cost saving as well because transplanting them within the site was a lot cheaper than buying them.”
But the property developer‘s curse is that no matter how much you flex your green credentials and no matter how many trees you plant, someone will always point to flaws in your track record. Mirvac’s Scerri was painfully reminded of this when a Hornsby Shire councillor in the audience took the floor in a fiery exchange to ask how this could be reconciled with the company recently cutting down “hundreds of trees” at a recent project in her municipality.
With time running out before the Taskforce for Nature-Related Financial Disclosures releases its framework guidance in September, developers, fund managers and consultants alike are scrambling to find the data and tools they need to measure and manage the ecological footprint of their operations.
While it’s clear that some have a lot of catching up to do, it’s also apparent that even in the short space of a year since Urban Greening 2022, the industry’s approach to listening, understanding and working with nature has significantly evolved.
It feels like the “translation exercise” is well underway.
Here are The Latest Middle East & North Africa Tourism Statistics [2022-2023] as compiled by TrustYou
Hospitality Hotspots: The Latest Middle East & North Africa Tourism Statistics [2022-2023]
By Catalina Brinza
The latest Middle East & North Africa tourism statistics from top-performing countries based on the latest third-party and TrustYou data [2022-2023]
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) travel industry benefited from one of the strongest recoveries last year, especially the Middle East. While the global recovery was estimated at 63% in 2022, arrivals in the Middle East reached 83% of pre-pandemic numbers. Hosting FIFA World Cup was a major contributor to the success and increase of tourism there. In Q4 2022, the region registered a 4% increase in arrivals compared to 2019, way above the global numbers (a 30% decrease compared to 2019).
MENA is a dynamic and diverse region with much to offer for leisure and business travelers: luxurious hotels and restaurants, rich culture and traditions, breathtaking scenery, and historical landmarks.
To give you an overview of the state of MENA travel, we looked at the top-performing MENA countries based on guest feedback and compiled the latest third-party and TrustYou statistics.
#1 Top-Performing Countries in MENA
Using TrustYou’s Performance Score, we looked at the top-performing countries in terms of reputation. Performance Score is a metric showing an accommodation’s and/or restaurant’s average rating over a selected period. For this list, we chose the countries with the highest review volumes – over 100k reviews in 2022 and 25k reviews in Q1 2023. We ordered the countries with the same performance score based on the highest review volume.
Compared to 2022, Q1 2023 brought a newcomer to the list: Egypt, currently fourth in our top-performing MENA countries.
What makes these countries receive higher scores from travelers? We decided to take a deep dive into the latest statistics to understand the specifics of each country and identify emerging trends.
#2 Morocco Tourism Statistics Onwards and Upwards
In Q1-Q3 2022, Morocco ranked third among the most visited Arab countries, with 11 million visitors, representing 84% of the 2019 numbers. Saudi Arabia ranked 1st, with 18 million visitors, followed by United Arab Emirates (UAE), with 15 million visitors.
Casablanca is among the most popular tourist destinations in Marocco
Last year, the sector’s revenue more than doubled compared to 2021, reaching 91 billion dirhams, exceeding 2019 levels.
The historic success of the national team at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar brought more than a sense of unprecedented pride for the North-African country—the interest in visiting Morocco surged in the first months of 2023. Forty days after the World Cup, the country registered a 40% increase in arrivals.
By the end of February 2023, 1.9 million tourists visited Morocco, 464% more than in 2022.The authorities seek ways to capitalize on these successes and substantially boost the sector. By 2026, Morocco aims to reach the top 10 global destinations and increase its number of arrivals to 17.5 million tourists. The actions that will help achieve these targets include launching new air routes, 200k new jobs, and a $580 million investment in the sector.
#3 Qatar Tourism Statistics
Qatar was the first Arab country to host a FIFA World Cup. What’s next after the World Cup?
The FIFA World Cup brought an impressive number of visitors to Qatar. In November and December 2022, international arrivals more than tripled compared to the previous months.
International arrivals registering record increases during the World Cup, source: Qatar Tourism
This event placed QATAR on the world tourism map, with authorities aiming to increase the country’s attractiveness.
By 2030, Qatar wants to reach 6 million tourists annually and increase tourism contribution to GDP from 7% to 12%. Immediately after the World Cup, Qatar registered another win. Doha was chosen as the Arab Capital of Tourism awarded by the Arab Ministerial Council for Tourism, proving its commitment to improving its performance as a destination. Among other indicators of excellence, Qatar Airlines have been chosen for the seventh time as the best airline worldwide, based on 14 million surveys distributed across 100 countries by Skytrax.
The first numbers for 2023 also show an encouraging recovery. Qatar Tourism reports 340k arrivals in January 2023 and 389k in February 2023.
Further plans include hosting a few sports events – the 2023 Asian Football Cup and the Asia Games. Qatar is also preparing its candidacy for the 2036 Olympic Games. All these actions will help leverage the stadiums built to host the FIFA World Cup.
#4 Israel Tourism Statistics
The Holy Land welcomed 2.7 million international visitors in 2022 – 60% compared to 2019. The first data for 2023 shows an accelerated recovery – 199% more tourists visited the country compared to Q1 2022, reaching 87% of pre-pandemic levels.
Jerusalem is a top destination for religious pilgrimages. One of the world’s oldest and most sacred cities, it attracts more than 1.5 million Jewish, Muslim, and Christian pilgrims each spring, increasing the city’s population by 55% during Passover, Ramadan, and Easter. Tourism Continues to Be VAT Exempt After Pressures From the Industry
The Netanyahu government planned to cancel the 17% tax on services exemption for tourists starting with the next state budget. Currently, travelers visiting Israel are exempt from the tax on accommodation, car rental, travel agency services, catering, etc. The government estimated that reintroducing the tax can generate up to $500 million yearly. But industry experts said the losses would be more significant than the gains. This proposal, which also was rejected in 2013, didn’t pass a ministerial committee.
#5 United Arab Emirates Tourism Statistics
When thinking about the Emirates, one place is at the top of the mind of almost every tourist: Dubai. In 2022, the iconic destination welcomed nearly 14.4 million overnight visitors, a 97% increase from 2021 and 86% of the 2019 volume – above the global averages for recovery indicators. The occupancy rate also increased – from 67% in 2021 to 73% in 2022.
The beginning of 2023 is more than encouraging. The first numbers for January and February show a 42% increase in tourism visitors compared to last year.
In 2023, a new decade starts for Dubai’s economy and tourism with the Dubai Economic Agenda D33. The strategy aims to double the size of Dubai’s economy by 2033 and place it among the top three global cities for tourism and business.
Scrapping Taxes to Boost Tourism
Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are revising certain taxes to make the tourism sector more attractive for travelers and industry professionals. Since the beginning of 2023, Dubai has no longer applied the 30% municipality tax on alcohol. Tourists and ex-pats don’t have to pay fees to get an individual liquor license for purchasing alcohol.
Abu Dhabi is also scrapping taxes in an effort to boost event tourism. Organizers are now exempted from the 10% tax per ticket sold.
#6 Jordan Tourism Statistics
In 2022, Jordan registered an increase of 110.5% in tourism revenue, corresponding to a recovery in visitor arrivals – 5.05 million, compared to 2.36 million in 2021. The income has slightly surpassed the pre-pandemic levels by 0.4%.
2023 looks even more promising: in the first quarter, the Kingdom’s tourism revenue grew by 88.4% compared to the same period in 2022. The number of overnight visits increased by 90.7% compared to 2022, surpassing the pre-pandemic volume by 5%.
In March 2023, another Jordanian landmark was recognized for its focus on preserving traditions and promoting inclusiveness and accessibility. The village of Umm Qais received the UNWTO’s Best Tourism Villages Award.
View of the ruins of the ancient city of Gadara in Umm Qais. The village recently focused on reviving the Aqueduct Tunnel to scale up adventure tourism. Known as the longest water tunnel in the world, the Aqueduct connects Southern Syria with Umm Quais. Tourism Reform Continues
In April 2023, the government launched the third phase of reforming the tourism sector. Part of the Kingdom’s National Tourism Strategy 2021-2025, this stage focuses on improving the licensing system by creating a clear and simplified regulatory framework for businesses in the sector.
#7 Egypt Tourism Statistics
Egypt recorded a 46% growth in the number of tourists in 2022 compared to 2021. Last year, 11.7 million visitors entered the country of pyramids.
Authorities expect a 28% increase in the number of tourists in 2023. The recent data for the first months of the year indicate a strong beginning. In February and March alone, the number of tourists increased by 34% compared to 2022.
According to the recently adopted tourism strategy, the government aims to attract 30 million tourists by 2030. This will be possible if the yearly growth reaches 25%-30%.
Doubling the hotel rooms, enhancing air connectivity, investing in promotional projects, and improving the overall visitors’ experience are among the main priorities to help boost tourism.
Among the first actions taken by the government are focused on simplifying the visa process. In March, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced that citizens of more than 180 countries can apply for a 5-year multiple-entry visa. Tourist visas for certain countries will be automatically renewed at Egyptian airports.
#8 How TrustYou Can Help Destinations Attract More Visitors
For destinations, the competition is getting stronger in the post-pandemic scene. Countries are planning elaborate strategies to help the sector go beyond recovery and make tourism a driver of economic growth.
A true understanding of customer profiles in the post-pandemic world is the key to luring high-yielding tourists to your destination and making connections that enable unforgettable experiences. This is made possible through one thing only: listening to travelers. Listening gets you feedback and data.
Create inspiring, exciting, unforgettable experiences. Collect feedback. Attract more visitors.
With TrustYou’s reputation management platform, you access valuable insights from thousands of hotel reviews – to understand your visitor’s behavior and improve key areas. You can integrate our review widgets onto your DMO website to give travelers the information they need to make a booking decision. Benchmark yourself against competitor destinations to identify your strengths and weaknesses to position yourself properly in the market. Help your DMO’s accommodations build their collection and understanding of guest feedback to increase the number of reviews. Contact us today to find out how to keep your visitors happy every step of the way.
Catalina is a social media and data enthusiast. At TrustYou, she’s on the mission to bring the most out of travel and hospitality data. One day, she hopes to experience Japan’s culture to its fullest.
In Architectural DesignTRAVEL, 9 Stunning Pictures of Earth You’ve Probably Never Seen are diligently offered for the admiration and/or embezzlement of each and every one of us. Would these 9 Stunning Pictures of Earth that You’ve Probably Never Seen help in any way as Tips on environmental protection?
The image above is a Photo: Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco/Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto
9 Stunning Pictures of Earth You’ve Probably Never Seen
From inside a sinkhole in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula to Baobab trees in sub-Saharan Africa, these images are as shocking as they are beautiful
For years, amid growing awareness of how finite our planet’s resources are, sustainability has become the watchword in architecture and design. Anyone with a pulse will be well aware of our ongoing climate crisis: In the past half century, global temperatures have risen an average of roughly one quarter degree Fahrenheit per decade, almost twice as fast as the previous half century. And scientists predict that in the next 20 years the global average temperature will rise by around a third of a degree Fahrenheit per decade.
As we celebrate Earth Day, it’s important to acknowledge that any built environment is inextricably linked to the health of its natural surroundings. Here, study the works of nine talented photographers who captured nature’s strength, as well as its fragility—its diversity and its depletion. Photographer Edward Burtynsky says he hopes his images raise awareness: “It’s to show the cost of growing our civilization without the necessary consideration for sustainable industrial practices.”
Seeing the images below should not only raise awareness, but also alarm to the delicateness of our only and beautiful planet.
Masking the true scale of action needed to avert Climate Change is increasingly obvious to many observers around the world. Here is Kevin Anderson, University of Manchester with his own perception of the issue.
IPCC’s conservative nature masks true scale of action needed to avert catastrophic climate change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) synthesis report recently landed with an authoritative thump, giving voice to hundreds of scientists endeavouring to understand the unfolding calamity of global heating. What’s changed since the last one in 2014? Well, we’ve dumped an additional third of a trillion tonnes of CO₂ into the atmosphere, primarily from burning fossil fuels. While world leaders promised to cut global emissions, they have presided over a 5% rise.
The new report evokes a mild sense of urgency, calling on governments to mobilise finance to accelerate the uptake of green technology. But its conclusions are far removed from a direct interpretation of the IPCC’s own carbon budgets (the total amount of CO₂ scientists estimate can be put into the atmosphere for a given temperature rise).
The report claims that, to maintain a 50:50 chance of warming not exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, CO₂ emissions must be cut to “net-zero” by the “early 2050s”. Yet, updating the IPCC’s estimate of the 1.5°C carbon budget, from 2020 to 2023, and then drawing a straight line down from today’s total emissions to the point where all carbon emissions must cease, and without exceeding this budget, gives a zero CO₂ date of 2040.
A full description of the above chart is available here.
Given it will take a few years to organise the necessary political structures and technical deployment, the date for eliminating all CO₂ emissions to remain within 1.5°C of warming comes closer still, to around the mid-2030s. This is a strikingly different level of urgency to that evoked by the IPCC’s “early 2050s”. Similar smoke and mirrors lie behind the “early 2070s” timeline the IPCC conjures for limiting global heating to 2°C.
IPCC science embeds colonial attitudes
For over two decades, the IPCC’s work on cutting emissions (what experts call “mitigation”) has been dominated by a particular group of modellers who use huge computer models to simulate what may happen to emissions under different assumptions, primarily related to price and technology. I’ve raised concerns before about how this select cadre, almost entirely based in wealthy, high-emitting nations, has undermined the necessary scale of emission reductions.
In 2023, I can no longer tiptoe around the sensibilities of those overseeing this bias. In my view, they have been as damaging to the agenda of cutting emissions as Exxon was in misleading the public about climate science. The IPCC’s mitigation report in 2022 did include a chapter on “demand, services and social aspects” as a repository for alternative voices, but these were reduced to an inaudible whisper in the latest report’s influential summary for policymakers.
The specialist modelling groups (referred to as Integrated Assessment Modelling, or IAMs) have successfully crowded out competing voices, reducing the task of mitigation to price-induced shifts in technology – some of the most important of which, like so-called “negative emissions technologies”, are barely out of the laboratory.
The IPCC offers many “scenarios” of future low-carbon energy systems and how we might get there from here. But as the work of academic Tejal Kanitkar and others has made clear, not only do these scenarios prefer speculative technology tomorrow over deeply challenging policies today (effectively a greenwashed business-as-usual), they also systematically embed colonial attitudes towards “developing nations”.
With few if any exceptions, they maintain current levels of inequality between developed and developing nations, with several scenarios actually increasing the levels of inequality. Granted, many IAM modellers strive to work objectively, but they do so within deeply subjective boundaries established and preserved by those leading such groups.
What happened to equity?
If we step outside the rarefied realm of IAM scenarios that leading climate scientist Johan Rockström describes as “academic gymnastics that have nothing to do with reality”, it’s clear that not exceeding 1.5°C or 2°C will require fundamental changes to most facets of modern life.
Starting now, to not exceed 1.5°C of warming requires 11% year-on-year cuts in emissions, falling to nearer 5% for 2°C. However, these global average rates ignore the core concept of equity, central to all UN climate negotiations, which gives “developing country parties” a little longer to decarbonise.
Include equity and most “developed” nations need to reach zero CO₂ emissions between 2030 and 2035, with developing nations following suit up to a decade later. Any delay will shrink these timelines still further.
Most IAM models ignore and often even exacerbate the obscene inequality in energy use and emissions, both within nations and between individuals. As the International Energy Agency recently reported, the top 10% of emitters accounted for nearly half of global CO₂ emissions from energy use in 2021, compared with 0.2% for the bottom 10%. More disturbingly, the greenhouse gas emissions of the top 1% are 1.5 times those of the bottom half of the world’s population.
So where does this leave us? In wealthier nations, any hope of arresting global heating at 1.5 or 2°C demands a technical revolution on the scale of the post-war Marshall Plan. Rather than relying on technologies such as direct air capture of CO₂ to mature in the near future, countries like the UK must rapidly deploy tried-and-tested technologies.
Retrofit housing stock, shift from mass ownership of combustion-engine cars to expanded zero-carbon public transport, electrify industries, build new homes to Passivhaus standard, roll-out a zero-carbon energy supply and, crucially, phase out fossil fuel production.
Three decades of complacency has meant technology on its own cannot now cut emissions fast enough. A second, accompanying phase, must be the rapid reduction of energy and material consumption.
Given deep inequalities, this, and deploying zero-carbon infrastructure, is only possible by re-allocating society’s productive capacity away from enabling the private luxury of a few and austerity for everyone else, and towards wider public prosperity and private sufficiency.
For most people, tackling climate change will bring multiple benefits, from affordable housing to secure employment. But for those few of us who have disproportionately benefited from the status quo, it means a profound reduction in how much energy we use and stuff we accumulate.
The question now is, will we high-consuming few make (voluntarily or by force) the fundamental changes needed for decarbonisation in a timely and organised manner? Or will we fight to maintain our privileges and let the rapidly changing climate do it, chaotically and brutally, for us?
Originally posted on HUMAN WRONGS WATCH: Human Wrongs Watch (UN News)* — Disinformation, hate speech and deadly attacks against journalists are threatening freedom of the press worldwide, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday [2 May 2023], calling for greater solidarity with the people who bring us the news. UN Photo/Mark Garten | File photo…
Originally posted on Moroccan Travel Blog: When it comes to vibrant and diverse cultures, Morocco certainly stands out as one of the most colorful and fascinating destinations in the world. With its rich history, a blend of Arab, Berber, and French influences, and breathtaking landscapes, this North African gem has much to offer to curious…
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