Building the World

January 25, 2020
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ENERGY: Doomsday Clock

Back in the good old days, when doomsday was just three minutes away. Now, it’s 100 seconds. Time to reset. Image: wikimedia

We are in humanity’s moment of greatest peril,” warn those who keep time on the Doomsday Clock, moving us to 100 seconds before midnight. Midnight means catastrophic global annihilation. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 by those who worked on the Manhattan Project, when doomsday only meant blowing ourselves up with bombs, the Doomsday Clock now includes a second danger: “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers – nuclear war and climate change – that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond.” (Ban Ki-Moon et al 2020)

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, inventors of the Doomsday Clock. Image: wikimedia

The Doomsday Clock does not really tick but is set. It started at seven minutes to midnight in 1947. Its best year to date was 1990, when it was fixed at 17 minutes to midnight, indicating the world was hopeful and relatively calm. The clock held at 2 minutes to midnight through 2017 – 2019, but now it is closer than it has ever been. It’s only been reset 24 times since 1947.

Regarding this week’s setting of the clock to 100 seconds before midnight, the keepers of the clock note two action areas. First, due to expire in 2021, the only remaining bilateral agreement between two nuclear super powers (Russia and USA), the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), must be extended. Regarding the other existential threat, climate change, over 60 countries have committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. While the United States has not committed, California and New York have. That’s encouraging, but it’s still not enough, just 11% of world emissions.

Meanwhile, the clock is moving closer to midnight. Whether or not we suffer a nuclear war or an accident, certainly possible, climate change is not only possible but probable, and accelerating. We need to turn back the Doomsday Clock. What can you do to turn back the hands of time?

It is time to stop climate change, and reset the Doomsday Clock. Image: “Prague Astronomical Clock,” wikimedia.

ANIMATION: “Know the Time.” https://thebulletin.org/multimedia/know-the-time.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock

Sengupta, Somini and Nadja Popovich. “More than 60 countries say they’ll zero out carbon emissions. The catch? They’re not the big emitters.” 25 September 2019. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/25/climate/un-net-zero-emissions.html.

“Why the world is closer than every to Doomsday,” by Jerry Brown, William J. Perry, Mary Robinson, and Ban Ki-Moon. 24 January 2020, CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/24/opinions/doomsday-clock-emergency-moon-robinson-brown-perry/index.html/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

 

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January 17, 2020
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WATER: How an idea for Mt. Everest could help 4 billion people

Mt. Everest: could an idea conceived on the summit improve the health of 4 billion people? Image: wikimedia.

Mt. Everest – a mountain so legendary that everyone wants to climb it. But mountaineers bring more than gear: they leave  28,000 pounds of human waste. Some is dumped in open pits, threatening water supply safety. That’s when Zuraina Zaharin, Everest climber and environmentalist, came up with an innovative idea. Partnering with Imad Agi, inventor of a waterless sanitation system using microbes to turn human waste into fertilizer so safe it can be used as fertilizer in organic farming, the duo launched EcoLoo. The system could be a solution for the 4 billion people worldwide who do not have in-house sanitation. And as water grows scarce in climate change, cutting consumption (we use 141 billion liters of fresh water daily just to flush toilets), EcoLoo could provide an alternative. Bill Gates sponsors a prize to reinvent the toilet, saving 432,000 lives lost each year to disease caused by inadequate sanitation. Water and sanitation have been linked to many advances in civilization, from the Roman Aqueducts to the New River. EcoLoo is now installing systems in remote locations like mountain environments, island vacation retreats; there are several at UNESCO World Heritage site Petra, and the company is planning to make units available for disaster response.

Al-Aidroos, Amani and Tom Page. “How a poop on Everest inspired a toilet that could save lives.” 4 December 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/04/health/ecoloo-waterless-toilet/index.html

EcoLoo. http://www.ecoloogroup.com

World Health Organization. “Sanitation for All by 2030.” https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/01-10-2018-who-calls-for-increased-investment-to-reach-the-goal-of-a-toilet-for-all

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January 13, 2020
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CITIES: Trees

Boston’s Greenway. Image: Greenway Conservancy.

American cities lost 36 million trees in the last five years. Without trees, cities will get hotter and suffer more periods of air pollution. Why are we losing trees? Hurricanes and tornadoes tear them from the earth, fires burn them to the ground, insects and diseases weaken and kill trees. Those are some of the reasons we can’t easily control.

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain. Image: wikimedia.

But there is one factor we can influence: city development. Cities are on the rise, rapidly growing into megacities with populations of 10 million or more. The United States, with 80% of the US population living in urban areas, especially in forested coastal regions along the West and East coasts, has a unique opportunity to preserve and enhance urban forests. It’s well worth it. Trees bring environmental and economic benefits.

URBAN TREES:

Provide shade for homes, schools, office buildings, cooling surface temperatures;

Reduce pollution through absorbing carbon and filtering pollutants from the air;

Reduce energy costs by reducing air-conditioning use – economics of $4 billion per year;

Improve water quality by filtering rainwater, absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus in to the ground;

Protect against urban flooding, absorbing surface water;

Reduce noise pollution by absorbing urban sound;

Enhance city soundscape by adding birdsong, and the whisper of wind through leaves;

Protect against UV radiation, absorbing 96% of ultraviolet radiation;

Improve health, physical through cleaner air and shade to exercise outdoors, mental health of being in nature;

Increase tourism and real estate values.

The New River passes through Bowes Park. Image: wikimedia.

Case studies of successful historic urban forestation reveal strategies. In the year 1600, so many people crossed London Bridge to live in the burgeoning London town that water supply became strained. One of the world’s first artificial or built rivers combined two elements: drinking water and trees. Constructed from 1605 to 1639, the New River stretches over 20 miles from Hertfordshire to Islington, just uphill from London, terminating in a water reservoir ready as needed. All along the route, tree-lined walking paths add protection and shade. Today, the New River is run by Thames Water PLC, managing water supply, and maintaining the walking paths traversed by urban hikers including the Ramblers Association. It is interesting to note that Hugh Myddleton, who partnered with King James I to build the New River, was the regent’s former jeweler and may be related to a member of the present House of Windsor.

Boston had a similar idea with Olmstead’s “Emerald Necklace” with recent Rose Fitzgerald Greenway extension of the urban breathing ribbon of green. The Greenway replaced what was formerly the Central Artery that ran traffic anthrough town; the road was placed underneath in a tunnel and the surface became a park. For an even earlier urban greening, some would point to the City of the Eiffel Tower where Haussmann widened tree-lined boulevards to breathe air and design into Paris. Presently, the city of light requires new commercial construction to have either solar or living green roofs.

“Terrasse panoramique @ Le Printemps Haussmann @ Paris.” by Guilhem Vellut, 2017. Image: wikimedia commons.

By 2050, 70% of the world’s people will live in cities. As cities grow, rebuilding better water systems, developing flood prevention plans, redesigning roads to accommodate electric and autonomous vehicles, how can trees become part of the plan? Will the proposed Climate Conservation Corps (CCC) plant trees in cities? A pilot project at Roger Williams University, or an initiative by World War Zero, might lead the way. There may be considerations of legal import: should trees have standing?

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk and Zoe G. Quinn. “Should trees have standing?” Building the World Blog. University of Massachusetts Boston. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2019/03/01/should-trees-have-standing/

Chillag, Amy. “US cities are losing 36 million trees a year. Here’s why it matters and how you can stop it.” 18 September 2019. CNN.https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/20/health/iyw-cities-losing-36-million-trees-how-to-help-trnd/index.html

Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition. https://sufc.org/

New River, http://www.thames-water.com

Ramblers Walking Paths of the New River, http://www.ramblers. org.uk/info/paths/newriver.html.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

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January 7, 2020
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ENERGY: Australia

 

“A river of smoke more than 25 km wide flows toward the Tasman Sea from fires burning in Australia.” Image: NASA

Australia’s fires have wrought damage to every aspect of life: people are perishing, dead animals are falling out of trees, the kelp forests of Tasmania are gone, houses are obliterated, the air is poisoned, kangaroos are herding to safe ground, families are camping on the beach. While some blame deforestation, and others note Australia is the most arid country on earth, many point to energy policy as causal. Studies by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis comment on “government’s defense of increasingly technologically obsolete thermal coal” (coal burned for energy rather than steel manufacturing). Australia also exports coal to China and India, among others. But those customers will soon be gone, having announced plans to transition from the coal sector.

Fires plague Australia, most arid country on earth. Image: wikimedia from a fire in another endangered area, California, USA. Climate change is an increasing factor.

The writings is on the wall, even if some politicians speak of alternative facts, and other walls. Coal is on the way out. Coal stocks in the United States dropped 50% in 2019 while renewable energy American utility Nextera Energy gained 42% more market share. Banks like Credit Suisee and Goldman Sachs are rethinking and restricting financing thermal coal and coal-fired power plants. Investors might observe the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change – with trillions under management – aligns pension funds to the goals of the Paris Agreement. Like former financial agreements such as those decided at Bretton Woods, investment and banking groups may increasingly link investment policy to environmental goals.

“Australian energy resources and major export ports,” based on Australian government Department of Resources, Energy, and Tourism, 2008 report. Image: Historicair, 2011, wikimedia.

Meanwhile, Australia might think of Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric as an example of mobilizing response to adverse conditions. The macro achievement was built after drought plagued early chapters of Australia’s history. From 1813 to 1815, drought parched the land; from 1824 to 1829 there was another. When a third drought occurred from 1837 to 1840, the land baked, crops failed, livestock died, and the once-lush landscape became so dry that people organized horse races on the Murrumbidgee River, using its dry bed as a dusty track. Snowy Mountains brought irrigation from snow melt, generating hydroelectric power to light a growing country. If Australia might again mobilize a suffering nation’s ingenuity and resolve in response to 2020’s parched and burned landscape, it should be noted that Snowy Mountains Hydro took 25 years to complete. If Australia sets a macro goal to rebuild energy and environment by 2025, what are the first three steps?

“Three Sisters, Blue Mountains,” Australia. Image: wikimedia.

O’Malley, Nick. “The world has made the link between Australian coal, fires, and climate.” 4 January 2020, The Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/the-world-has-made-the-link-between-australian-coal-fires-and-climate-20200103-p53omu.html.

Koning Beals, Rachel. “Goldman Sachs becomes first major U.S. bank to stop funding Arctic drilling, pulls back on coal.” 21 December 2019. MarketWatch. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/goldman-sachs-becomes-first-major-us-bank-to-stop-funding-arctic-drilling-pulls-back-on-coal-2019-12-16

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods. Princeton University Press, 2012. ISBN: 9780691162379.

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December 28, 2019
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TRANSPORT: 7,000 mph (or maybe just 3,000 for now)

Boeing/Lockheed Martin’s hypersonic aircraft concept sketch. wikimedia. Image: NASA

The history of transport may be the history of speed. On a test flight, Avangard clocked velocity of 7,000 miles per hour (11,200 kilometers per hour). The hypersonic glide-vehicle entered combat duty on 27 December 2019. It’s also a nuclear missile. Is there hope for peace as well as war? Precedent: atomic energy, developed during World War II’s Manhattan Project, was initially a weapon, but later adapted to supply electricity. Recent European Union Green Deal includes nuclear energy as a renewable. Future forms of nuclear may advance atomic energy: Bill Gates favors Traveling Wave; ITER is working on Nuclear Fusion. Could Russia aim Avangard towards peace? China and the United States, also working on hypersonic systems, could develop commercial uses. Meanwhile, if you want to travel at a slightly slower speed of 3,000 miles per hour, soon-successor to the fabled Concorde is close to take-off. ZEHST (Zero Emission Hyper Sonic Transport), by JAXA, Japan’s Aerospace Agency, and EADS (Airbus), promises to carry 50 to 100 passengers from Tokyo to Paris in 2.5 hours; London to New York in 60 minutes. Boeing’s X-51A WaveRider, Lockheed Martin’s QueSST are also in the fast flight race. But maybe the best news in hypersonic transport could be environmental: ZEHST will run on seaweed biofuel with emissions: water vapor.

Baggaley, Kate. “These planes could jet you around the world at hypersonic speed: Aerospace firms aim to usher in a new era of travel.” 31 January 2018. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/these-planes-could-jet-you-around-world-hypersonic-speed-ncna843386

BBC.com. “Russia deploys Avangard hypersonic missle system.” 27 December 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50927648

Burns, Matt. “The ZEHST is the 3,000 mph, zero emissions airplane of 2050.” 20 June 2011. TechCrunch.com. https://techcrunch.com/2011/06/20/zehst/

Cet avion va révolutionner le transport aérien.” Le Parisien, 18 June 2011.

“Ultra-rapid air vehicle and related method for aerial locomotion.” US Patent US9079661B2, granted in 2009 to inventors Marco Prampolini and Yohann Coraboeuf, Airbus Group SAS Ariane Group SAS. https://patents.google.com/patent/US9079661B2/en/

Van der Linden, R.F. “Au Revoir, Concorde.” February 2019, Air & Space Magazine. https://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/au-revoir-concorde-180971223/

ZEHST. Video simulation, Youtube. https://youtu.be/8/h1PE7StoDE/

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December 20, 2019
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TRANSPORT: Steering USMCA

“Chevy Corvette Stingray Z06 at Detroit Auto Show,” 2014 by Tuner Tom. Image: wikimedia

United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA), a sequel to Nafta, offers a unique opportunity to combine two goals: net zero energy and regional connection. Call it a vehicle for change or a road to the future, USMCA could build a transport system connected in more ways than one. Macro visions require large-scale cooperation on natural, financial, and human resources: a USMCA charging-ready highway, combined with shared manufacturing of electric vehicles, could transform the region. The new “Nafta” agreement demands cars and trucks be 75% built (increased from current 62.5%) in Canada, United States, and Mexico. Another increase: 30% (then 40% by 2023) of vehicle labor from workers making $16 per hour.  The United States House Ways and Means Committee issued a Summary.

Canada, United States, Mexico: building a connected region. Image: wikimedia

Will the United States Federal Highway System, with its network of gas stations, become a nexus of charging stations and special lanes, perhaps extending to Canada and Mexico? Ford Motor company is launching FordPass, a charging initiative like that pioneered by Ionity. Should the Alaska Highway, partner road of Canada and USA, be a cooperative network to power new transport?  The renewed Nafta, USMCA, signed by Canada, Mexico, and United States, offers an opportunity to meet net zero goals and build a regional connection unique in the world.

Will USMCA lead a new era of safer, cleaner transport? “Steward-Cassier Highway, Canada” Bruce McKay, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

Ford Motor Company. “FordPass Charging Network,” https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2019/10/17/ford-introduces-north-americas-largest-electric-vehicle-charting-network.html

Lobosco, Katie, Brian Fung, and Tami Luhby. “6 key differences between NAFTA and the USMCA deal that replaces it.” 17 December 2019 CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/10/politics/nafta-us-mexico-canada-trade-deal-differences/index.html

Long, Heather. “The USMCA is finally done. Here’s what is in it.” 10 December 2019, The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/12/10/usmca-is-finally-done-deal-after-democrats-sign-off-heres-what-is-it/.

Ways and Means. United States House of Representatives. “Improvements to the USMCA.”December 2019. https://waysandmeans.house.gov/sites/democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov/files/documents/USMCA%20win%20factsheet%20.pdf.

United States of America, United Mexican States, Canada. “Agreement between the United States of America, the United Mexican States, and Canada 05/30/19 Text” https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/united-states-mexico-canada-agreement-between.

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December 15, 2019
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Hearing (and Listening to) the Voices of the Future

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It is the world’s youth who must face consequences of decisions made now. Youth4Nature sent a COP25 delegation, and sailing across the Atlantic to get there, the world heard the message of Greta Thunberg, founder of Fridays for Future. Voices of youth may be louder than dicta of governments. UN Secretary General Guterres states: “The technologies that are necessary to make this possible are already available. Signals of hope are multiplying. Public option is waking up everywhere. Young people are showing remarkable leadership and mobilization. We need political will to put a price on carbon, political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels, and start taxing pollution instead of people.”

Youth Climate Strike, San Francisco, March 2019. Image: wikimedia

Many macro achievements, throughout history, can be traced to the genius and innovation of youth. A 12-year old conceived of a canal joining the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea, the Canal des Deux Mers of France. Even younger, 10 year-old Ferdinand de Lesseps formed a friendship that would later turn into the Suez Canal. At COP25, it was the youth who insisted and persisted until a draft agreement on responses to climate change could be strengthened by contracts fulfilling promises made in Paris 2015. There is much to be agreed and achieved, including carbon contracts; now that debate awaits Glasgow. Meanwhile, it is hoped the world is not only hearing, but also listening to, the Voices of the Future, Greta Thunberg is TIME Person of the Year.

Irfan, Umair. “‘We are desperate for any signs of hope,’ Greta Thunberg tells UN climate negotiators.” 11 December 2019, Vox. com. https://www.vox.com/2019/12/11/21010673/cop25-greta-thunberg-climate-change-un-meeting-madrid

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Longest talks end with compromise deal.” 15 December 2019. BBC: Science & Environment.

Time. “Greta Thunberg: TIME Person of the Year 2019.”https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/

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December 2, 2019
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ENERGY: COP25 MADRID where promise meets contract

“Gran Via, Madrid,” will Spain lead the way with COP25? Image: wikimedia.

As the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP25, gathers in Madrid, Spain, there’s some bad news. Greenhouse gas emission concentrations hit a peak in 2018. While 70 countries plan to be carbon neutral by 2050, the world will need a five-fold increase in carbon-cutting actions to keep warming under 1.5C, the goal agreed at COP21 in Paris. Right now, we’re on target for 3.2 degree rise, a number portending disaster. And then there’s loss and damage: loss refers to unrecoverable destruction of species, habitat, lives; damage is repairable destruction like roads, bridges. Rising seas will cause both loss and damage. It is estimated sea rise might cost $14 trillion by 2100; worse, if seas rise 1.8m, it could cost lives, land, and $27 trillion per year – that’s almost 3% of global GDP.

Carbon contracts, key agenda for COP25. Image: “Certified emission reduction units by country.” wikimedia

Carbon contracts are also on Madrid’s agenda: some countries and businesses pay carbon offsets; for example, fund tree planting elsewhere, while still using carbon-emitting fuels. COP21, article 6, raised the issue of carbon markets, opening doors for business involvement. Now, promise must become contract. Historically, our world has found few occasions for large-scale financial agreements linked with values and outcomes. Could lessons learned at Bretton Woods be helpful in Madrid? Are there parallels with the Atomic Energy Act?

Madrid: where promise meets contract. Image: wikimedia.

Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition – CPLC. “Article 6 is the secret ingredient of the Paris Agreement.” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pY1KVu537B4.

Climate Action Studio. “Article 6,” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=13YiF6Mt2dc.

Fridays for Future. Climate action movement founded by Greta Thunberg. @FridaysForFuture.

Fried, Charles. Contract as Promise. Harvard University Press, 1981. ISBN: 0674169255

Harvey, Fiona. “COP25: youth ‘leadership’ contrasts with government inaction, says UN chief.” 2 December 2019. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/dec/01/island-states-want-decisive-action-to-prevent-inundation.

Jevrejeva, Svetlana et al.  “Rising sea levels could cost the world $14 trillion a year by 2100.” 3 July 2018. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180703190745.htm.

Litwin, Evan T. “The Climate Diaspora.” University of Massachusetts Boston, 2011. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1912859.

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Critical year for climate change starts in Madrid.” 2 December 2019. BBC: Science & Environment. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50588128.

Mandelbaum, Michael. “The triumph of the market,” The Ideas That Conquered The World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the Twenty-First Century. pp 277-304. PublicAffairs, Perseus: 2002. ISBN: 1586482068.

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods. Princeton University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780691162379.

United Nations. “UN Climate Change Conference – December 2019.” https://unfcc.int/cop25.

Youth4Nature. https://www.youth4nature.org/cop-25.

Thanks to colleagues who suggested Bretton Woods as precedent, and to Charles Fried for contract as promise.

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November 22, 2019
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ENERGY: Building with the Sun

“August 31, 2012 Solar Corona CME.” Image: NASA Goddard Flight Center, wikimedia.

Heliogen: using solar to build the future. Solar roofs are not new: houses and office buildings often top with photovoltaic panels. Paris has decreed that new construction must have either a solar or green roof. Solar panels also are common in space. But until recently, it has not been possible to use solar technology to generate the extreme heat needed to produce building materials – cement, steel, glass. Heliogen, founded by CEO Bill Gross, backed by Patrick Soon-Shiong (physician and owner of the Los Angeles Times) and Bill Gates (Microsoft), uses artificial intelligence and mirrors to capture sunlight in such concentrations that high heat needed for industrial processes can now be generated by the sun. It’s clean, and the sun’s energy is free: both factors far outshine using fossil fuels for industrial construction that requires extremely high heat. In fact, Heliogen’s technology will be equivalent o 25% of the heat found on the surface of the sun itself. Building houses, schools, hospitals, and offices generates 20% of global emissions. Heliogen may soon go public, and is now seeking customers like cement companies who want what the company calls “green heat.”

Egan, Matt. “Secretive energy startup backed by Bill Gates achieves solar breakthrough,” 19 November 2019. CNN Business. https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/19/business/heliogen-solar-energy-bill-gates/index.html.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data.

Glaser, Peter E. “Solar Power from Space: US3781647A – Method and apparatus for converting solar radiation to electrical power.” https://patents.google.com/patent/US3781647/en.

Heliogen. “Replacing Fuel with Sunlight.” https://heliogen.com

Rodgers, Lucy. “Climate change: The massive CO2 emitter you may not know about.” 17 December 2018, BBC.com https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46455844

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November 17, 2019
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CITIES Underwater – Venice

St. Mark’s, Venice, underwater again. “Aqua Alta Venise,” Image: wikimedia

Venice, UNESCO World Heritage Site, has suffered the worst flood in 50 years, attributed in its severity to climate change. Inside the city’s venerable buildings are paintings by Francesco Guardi, J.M.W.Turner, and many other priceless treasures. St. Mark’s Basilica, flooded just six times in nine centuries, shows inundation-damaged marble floors; there is fear the iconic columns may also be weakened. Modern art is also affected: Banksy’s “Shipwrecked Girl” mural on the Rio di Ca’Foscari canal is now underwater.

What can be done to prevent the loss of life, property, and infrastructure that cities like Venice must anticipate in the future? Coastal cities may soon have more accurate information about sea-rise. As Venice flooded in November 2019, Sentinel-6a entered testing in the final stage before expected launch in November 2020. Sea-rise is accelerating: five-year span 2014 – 2019 revealed a 4.8mm/year increase.  Copernicus Sentinel’s Jason-2 Poseidon Altimeters will map ocean floor peaks and valleys, reading temperature, salinity, gravity, currents and speed.

Coperniicus Sentinel-2A Satellite, 8 August 2017. “Greenland, wildfire.” Image: wikimedia commons.

A global system like COMSAT, Sentinel coordinates orbiting devices. Sentinel-6 moves between 66 degrees North and South; Sentinel-3 goes to 82 degrees. Sentinel-6 repeats its cycle every 10 days, monitoring big areas like the Gulf Stream or the Kuroshio Current; Sentinel-3 repeats every 27 days, focusing on smaller ocean eddies that move more slowly. Earth Science Division of NASA may link Landsat to Sentinel-2, completing the circle.

Meanwhile, Venice’s regional council may be having second thoughts about their recent veto to fund a proposal to combat climate change. Just minutes later, their Ferro Fini Palace offices flooded, sending the fleeing officials into the flooded streets, with  70% of Venice engulfed. From St. Mark’s Square, Venice’s mayor Brugnaro expressed hopes that the Mose system, a series of barriers consisting of mobile gates located at inlets, will soon protect the city from inundations. Venice is not alone: Boston and other cities may build harbor barrier systems. Worldwide, hundreds of cities  face the same fate: what are some of the ways cities can respond, from Amsterdam to Jakarta to Yangon?

The once and future Venice: “Piazza San Marco with the Basilica,” 1720. Image: wikimedia.

Amos, Jonathan. “Sentinel for sea-level rise enters testing.” 15 November 2019. BBC Science & Environment.

Cerini, Marianna. “Venice is flooding — what lies ahead for its cultural and historical sites?” 16 November 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/venice-flooding-st-mark-damages/index.html.

Giuffrida, Angela. “Venice council flooded moments after rejecting climate crisis plan: proposals rejected as lagoon city faces worst flooding in 53 years.” 15 November 2019. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/15/venice-council-flooded-moments-after-rejecting-climate-crisis-plan/.

Kirshen, Paul, et. al. “Feasibility of Harbor-wide Barrier Systems: Preliminary Analysis for Boston Harbor.”   2018. Sustainable Solutions Lab, University of Massachusetts Boston.

Lemperiere, Francois and Luc DeRoo. “Peut-on éviter les inondations a Paris?” Symposium du CFBR, 25 janvier 2018 a Chambery. Thanks to David Edwards-May.

Mazzel, Patricia. “82 Days Underwater: The Tide Is High, but They’re Holding On.” 24 November 2019, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/24/us/florida-keys-flooding-king-tide.html?smid=nytcore.ios.share.

MOSE SYSTEM: The mobile barriers for the protection of Venice from high tides.” https://www.mosevenezia.eu/project/?lang-en

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