Building the World

December 3, 2018
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Sending the Signal

Tom Brady, New England Patriots. Image: wikimedia.

Landmark program of the National Football League (NFL). “My Cause, My Cleats” features football athletes sending a signal. Players declare their cause and customize their shoes to put the cause into action. For the New England Patriots, messages include Tom Brady: Best Buddies; Sony Michel: Haitian Earthquake Disaster Rebuilding; Matthew Slater: International Justice Mission.

Michael Jordan may have started the trend of sending a message through athletic footwear. Image: wikimedia.

Could the idea mobilize the future of climate change? This week, world leaders meet in Katowice, Poland for COP24: three years since COP21, and the Paris Agreement, it’s time to take the climate’s pulse. In light of the IPCC data showing deteriorating climate and nations are not on target, compounded by the recent report on climate and economy in the United States, one of the questions to be debated in Poland may be how to communicate the urgency. Climate scientists have commented that finding the right message and image is challenging. Polar bears didn’t work; plastic in fish led to some awareness but did not solve the problem. What could?

The power of an image and a slogan. Image: Social welfare library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Some of the greatest successful macro initiatives in history came to life with a coined word, a slogan, an image. The Channel Tunnel had been in some form of planning since Napoleon, but it took a newly coined word, “Chunnel,” (by Frank Davidson) to make the idea of a rail tunnel across the channel linking England and France popular enough to get built. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) “sold” the idea of electricity with a slogan “Electricity for ALL” emblazoned on one of the first logos in history: a fist clutching a lightning bolt, reminiscent of Prometheus.

Poland could recommend sports stars and teams adopt one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for example. Another image? #1.5, slogan displayed on the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 2015, and the subject of the world’s largest postcard collaged on a glacier in Switzerland.  “My Cause, My Cleats” might help to mobilize change. Making climate action fashionable can be even more exciting when profitable. The NFL invites fans to bid in an online auction to buy the cleats, assured that 100% of the proceeds will go the player’s charitable cause.

Tokyo 2020 – my cause, my cleats goes global? Image: wikimedia

COP24 could, among its recommendations on climate action, send a global message of peace and sustainability through the 2020 Olympics. When Tokyo hosted the games half a century ago, Japan launched a new era in efficient-energy speed-rail transport: Shinkansen. Will the Olympics of 2020 send the message of climate action in sartorial splendor?

Bobin, Jean-Louis. Les Déconvenues De Prométhée: La longue marche vers l’énergie thermonucléaire. Atlantis Sciences/Atlantica 2001. ISBN: 2843943264.

Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities After Disasters. “Haiti: After the Cameras Have Gone.” 2010. University of Massachusetts Boston.

Davenport, Coral and Kendra Pierre-Louis. “U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy.” 23 November 2018. The New York Times.

NFL . “My Cause My Cleats” NFL Auction.

SDG Knowledge Hub. “Katowice Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP24) 2-14 December 2019. Katowice, Slaskie, Poland. http://sdg.iisd.org/events/unfccc-cop-24/

Sullivan, Tyler. “Patriots players reveal their My Cause, My Cleats.” 30 November 2018. 247sports.com.

UNFCCC. “Katowice Climate Change Conference – December 2018.” United Nations Climate Change. https://unfccc.int/katowice.

United Nations. “Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Through Climate Action.” https://unfccc.int/achieving-the-sustainable-development-goals-through-climate-action

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

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November 26, 2018
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SPACE: Touchdown – InSight Landed on Mars

Mars. “Mars: BeforeAfter Duster-2018” Image: wikimedia commons.

 Touchdown! InSight landed on Mars. “We can’t exactly joystick the landing,” quipped InSight’s Descent and Landing Leader, describing the approach at an angle of precisely 12 degrees, in precisely planned stages measured by velocity changes from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) to 5 mph (8 kph) in seven minutes, all directed by  NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, USA. Once established on the Red Planet, InSight will get to work, revealing data relevant to the deep interior of Mars. One scientist likened the deeper probe to taking Mars’ temperature; if it’s warm, that may have implications for a suspected lake of water inside the planet.

InSight is supported by a team of partners including France’s Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, and Imperial College, Oxford University. With scientific cooperation, how might space advances influence updates of the Outer Space Treaty that governs the rights of planets? Can space become our first true commons establishing shared values, including environment and peace?

Cook, Jai-Rui and D.C. Agle. “NASA InSight Team on Course for Mars Touchdown,” 21 November 2018. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8389/nasa-insight-team-on-course-for-mars-touchdown/?sight=insight

“Mars Had a Busy Year.” A  review of recent scientific advances including NASA’s Curiosity Rover identifying organic modules in June, followed by July’s discovery by the European Space Agency ESA of a large, watery lake beneath the planet’s southern polar ice, and in November, the confirmation of NASA Mars 2020 Rover landing site on Jezero Crater. The New York Times team. 25 November 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/25/science/mars-nasa-insight-landing.html

Outer Space Treaty: http://www.ifrc.org/docs/idrl/I515EN.pdf

Watch the landing in an interactive visualization: https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/entry-descent-landing/

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November 20, 2018
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Happy 20th Birthday, International Space Station

International Space Station Insignia. Image: Nasa.gov.

What do you get for a birthday present – for a space station? Today is the 20th birthday of the International Space Station. It was on November 20, 1998, that the Zarya module launched from Kazakhstan; two weeks later, the United States launched the NASA module, Unity. A new era of cooperation and peace began when Russia and the United States joined together to build the largest human-made object in space. At 375 feet, it’s just one yard shy of a regulation football field. Over the past 20 years,  230 people have joined the scientific crew, with Peggy Whitson staying the longest – 665 days. For its 20th birthday present, the International Space Station will receive a 3D Printer: combination recycling and fabricator, the Refabricator can melt old plastic and transform the material to build new tools. Regarding birthday cake: surely no candles. But, since astronauts dine while hovering in zero gravity, but maybe root beer floats.

NASA. “NASA, Northrop Grumman Launch Space Station, National Lab Cargo.” 17 November 2018. https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-northrop-grumman-launch-space-station-national-lab-cargo.

Sommerland, Joe. “International Space Station: twenty facts about the ISS as it celebrates its 20th birthday.” 19 November 2018. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/international-space-station-iss-location-nasa-orbit-20-birthday-anniversary-a8641431.html.

Watch an astronaut eat cake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zRKValrrGE

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November 17, 2018
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Signs of the Times

Mont Blanc, highest peak of the Alps. Will the name change with the climate? Image: wikimedia.

Switzerland sent the world a postcard. A collage of 125,000 drawings by children across the world, assembled for aerial display on Switzerland’s Aletsch glacier, receding at 12 meters (13 yards) per year. Organized by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the campaign is part publicity stunt to establish a Guinness world record, and part educational campaign to engage the next generation in climate action. While individual children’s messages on the segments include pledges and pleas (Save the Future for Us), the aerial overview spells out the message “#1.5C” reminding the world of the Paris Agreement where 195 nations pledged to reduce emissions, holding global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“1 Heart 1 Tree” by Naziha Mestaoui. image on Eiffel Tower, 2015, by Yann Caradoc. Wikimedia commons.

France’s Eiffel Tower turned into a banner proclaiming the message to stop climate change in 2015. Artist Naziha Mestaoui designed “1 Heart 1 Tree” for people to add, via a mobile app, a virtual tree to a green installation on the Tower while actual trees were planted in Australia, Brazil, India, Kenya, Peru, and Senegal. Mestaoui was inspired by the “trees of peace” program in Kenya, designed by Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai.

Many cities around the world have iconic monuments: Sydney’s Opera House, New York’s Empire State Building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa are among the possible “billboards” that may invite us to look up into a better future.

Keaton, Jamey. “Kids’ postcards blanket Alpine glacier in eco-friendly stunt.” 16 November 2018. AP News. https://www.apnews.com/97e0023d66754fcc8e6b5832d463a10b.

Paris Agreement complete text: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreemet.pdf. 

Peltier, Elian. “Eiffel Tower Goes Green for Climate Talks.” 29 November 2015, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/climate/2015-paris-climate-talks/eiffel-tower-goes-green-for-climate-talks. 

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November 9, 2018
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Decade of Decision

Biodiversity: the decade of decision. “Mushrooms and diverse fungi of Saskatchewan.” Image: wikimedia.

Decisions made in the next decade may shape the future. In 2020, the United States will hold an important election; Japan will host the Olympics. All eyes on the future. Species, both animal and plant, are disappearing 1,000 times faster than before humans appeared. Earth is threatened by climate change; water is becoming more scarce; and, as Hansjorg Wyss states: “extractive industries chew further into the wild.” Wyss believes there may be an answer: conserve remaining wild lands as public reserves. The world’s first national park (Yellowstone in 1872) opened a new idea of preservation: now, 15% of earth’s land and 7% of the oceans is protected. Wilderness tamed and framed like the National Trails System; greenways like that on Boston’s Central Artery as nature ribboning through cities; rivers granted personhood rights are among the regulatory and legal measures of protection. Edward O Wilson, founder of Half-Earth Day, warns we must preserve half the earth to save the whole. Timing may be urgent: 77% of land on earth has been modified by humans. Wyss pledged $1 billion over the next decade with the goal of protecting 30% of the planet by 2030.When the United Nations Biodiversity Conference convenes in land of the Suez Canal on November 13, 190 countries will seek agreement to preserve the natural systems that support the earth. Here’s a link to include your voice.

Albeck-Ripka, Livia. “Scientists Warn That World’s Wilderness Areas Are Disappearing: ‘Wild areas provide a lot of life support systems for the planet,’ said the author of a study that found 77 percent of earth’s land had been modified by humans.”31 October 2018, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/31/world/australia-wilderness-environment-gone.html.

Half-Earth Project. https://www.half-earthproject.org

Jackson, Michael, Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones, and USA for Africa Chorus: “We Are the World.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9BNoNFKCBI

Watson, James E.M., Oscar Venter, Jasmine Lee, Kendall R. Jones, John G. Robinson, Hugh P. Possingham, James R. Allen. “Protect the last of the wild.” 31 October 2018, Naturehttps://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07183-6

Wilson, Edward O. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. 2016. ISBN: 9781631490828.

Wyss, Hansjorg. “We Have to Save the Planet. So I’m Donating $1 Billion.” 31 October 2018. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/31/opinion/earth-biodiversity-conservation-billion-dollars.html.

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November 3, 2018
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Migration and Innovation

Net Migration Rate, Map by Kamalthebest, 2017. Image: wikimedia

Human history is one of migration. We all came from Africa. Cyrene, ancient city-state where art and science flourished (the first map of the stars, the mathematics of doubling a cube), was founded by climate migrants escaping drought on Santorini. Atomic energy was the discovery of an immigrant: Albert Einstein advised President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the danger, and potential, that resulted in the Manhattan Project. Migrants shaped the future of Australia: two-thirds of the 100,000 builders of Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric were recruited from displaced refugee camps after a war that had forced many from their homeland. Far from being seen as a threat, homeless were recruited by Sir William Hudson, first commissioner of the Snowy: You won’t be Balts or Slavs…you will be people of the Snowy!

Immigrants founded AT&T, Comcast, eBay, DuPont, Goldman Sachs, Google, Pfizer, and Tesla, among others. Immigrants are twice as likely to start a new business as those native born, perhaps because of the courage, hope, and vision it takes to walk to a new horizon. Everyone who is an American is either indigenous (0.8%), immigrant or refugee. Immigrants start 25% of engineering and technology companies in the United States, employing 560,000 people and producing sales of $63 billion.

Conca, James. “We Are All Immigrants, Refugees Or Their Descendants. ” Forbes, 4 July 2014. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/07/04/we-are-all-immigrants-refugees-or-their-descendants.

Davidson, Frank P. and Kathleen Lusk Brooke, Building the World, Volume 2, page 529. Greenwood:ABC-CLIO 2006. ISBN: 0313333742. www.buildingtheworld.com

Livi-Bacci, Massimo. In Cammino, 2010. Translated to English, A Short History of Migration, by Carl Ipsen (2012). ISBN: 9780745661865.

McKissen, Dustin “This Study: Immigrants are Far More Likely to Start New Businesses Than Native-Born Americans: Research shows that the economy benefits, in a big way, from immigration.” 1 February 2017. Inc. https://www.inc.com/dustin-mckissen/study-shows-immigrants-are-more-than-twice-as-likely-to-become-entrepreneurs.html.

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October 27, 2018
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Bridging the Future

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, China. Take a test drive. Image: wikimedia.

World’s longest span, China’s Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, stretches 34 miles  (55 km) across the Pearl River Delta. An artificial island supporting Zhuhai’s port joins the financial centers of Hong Kong, Shenzhen (Special Economic Zone), and manufacturing areas like Dongguan. The bridge cuts travel time between Zhuhai and Hong Kong, formerly taking 4 hours, to 40 minutes. One unique aspect revealing cultural history: traffic patterns change from left-lane driving (in once-British Hong Kong) to right-lane vehicular traffic (the rule of the road in China).

Brooklyn Bridge. Image: wikimedia commons.

Bridges have long encouraged economic activity. London Bridge was perhaps the first shopping mall: spaces along the span were leased to stores whose taxes paid for bridge maintenance. The Brooklyn Bridge cost $15 million to build. Tolls varied: it cost one penny to walk across but double that if you brought a horse or cow, and ten times more with a one-horse wagon. Fifteen years after the bridge joined Manhattan and Brooklyn, the latter’s population doubled and both economies grew rapidly.

China’s new bridge may promise economic development but also drew headlines for costs: $7 billion for the 14 mile main span; $13 billion for tunnels. The project used enough steel (400,000 tons) to build 60 Eiffel Towers. There were also costs in lives lost: 10 people perished during construction; another 500 were injured. There were costly delays (the project was two years late) and troubling scandals: 19 people were indicted on criminal charges for fake concrete. Another cost: the number of rare white dolphins (sometimes called China’s marine panda)  swimming in Hong Kong waters dropped by half, even though $68 million was devoted to their protection.

Rare white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) sometimes called China’s marine panda. Image: wikimedia commons.

How can the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge assure environmental stability? Will the University Alliance of the Silk Road and the Confucius Institute help to bring sustainable and inclusive values that are perhaps the most important bridges?

Confucius Institute. http://chinesecio.com

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Test Drive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9VOhEH4te0

Ramsey, Austin. “China opens giant bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland,” 23 October 2018, The New York Times.

University Alliance of the Silk Road. http://uasr.xjtu.edu.cn/About_UASR/UASR_Introduction.htm

Zhou, Christina, and Bang Xiao. “China’s massive sea bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai slashes rare white dolphin population.” 25 October 2018. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-25/white-dolphin-numbers-drop-worlds-longest-sea-bridge-opens-china/10428038.

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October 20, 2018
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Building the Vegetable Kingdom

“Carrots of many colors” Image: USDA, Agricultural Research Service, IDK11611-1. Wikimedia commons.

Building a better world – with carrots. That crunchy veggie could be used to strengthen concrete, improving construction techniques, and the environment. Blending carrots into building products makes those materials as much as 80% stronger, according to Mohamed Saafi, Professor and Chair in Structural Integrity and Materials at Lancaster University. Not only stronger, carrot-fortified concrete also develops fewer cracks – the carrots seem to act like superglue – so less cement is required, resulting in a lower carbon output. Could it make a difference in our world? Yes. Cement is the source of 7% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

Roman Bridge at Cangas. Image: wikimedia commons.

Ancient Rome built superior roads and bridges by using materials strengthened by a mix-in of volcanic ash. The Great Wall of China was initially built by compacting reeds and mud, a combination that proved stronger and easily scalable, since the materials were available onsite, important when building a 13,000 mile wall. Bridges on the Grand Canal are another example. Mix-ins have long strengthened building materials.

Meanwhile, the next time you munch on a carrot, consider what Christian Kemp-Griffin, CEO of CelluComp, explained: “Those fibers have strength characteristics in them. It’s the building blocks of the strength of a vegetable.” Because carrots contain so much water, only a very small amount of cellulose of a carrot will alter the property of cement, because water changes as cement hardens. Kemp-Griffin continued: “It’s not the physical fiber that’s causing the strength. It’s the way it holds water. There’s a chemical reaction happening between the fibers and the cement.”

“The Iconic Ohakune Carrot,” photographer: Jane Treadwell-Hoye, 2014. Ohakuna is New Zealand’s carrot capital. Image: wikimedia.

Finally, it’s free, or almost free. CelluComp uses industrial leftovers: carrot peels from those machines that give you pre-cut carrots. Beets are next; there’s a lot of beet pulp after sugar production; 20% of the world’s sugar is made from beets. Brazil leads in sugar production (mainly cane sugar, the other 80%); but building markets may take note of Russia, France, USA, Germany, and Turkey, largest producers of sugar beets. Or, building big with carrots may happen in New Zealand, home to Ohakune, and the big carrot pictured above.

CelluComp. “We develop micro fibrillated cellulose based on waste streams of root vegetables.” https://www.cellucomp.com/

CommodityBasis. “Sugar Prices and Producers.” https://www.commoditybasis.com/sugar_prices.

Drury, Jim. “Carrots could be key to making greener buildings, say researchers.” 19 October 2018. Reuters. (Includes video.)https://www.reuters.com/article/us-environment-concrete-carrot/carrots-could-be-key-to-making-greener-buildings-say-researchers-idUSKCN1MT1VA.

Economist. “Making buildings, cars, and planes from materials based on plant fibres.” 14 June 2018. https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2018/06/14/making-buildings-cars-and-planes-from-materials-based-on-plant-fibres/

Saadi, Mohamed. Research Portal. http://www.research.lancs.ac.uk/portal/en/people/mohamed-saafi(355a81a6-210e-4f37-a495-a387b16506c1.html.

Statista. “Leading sugar beet producers worldwide in 2016, based on production volume.” https://www.statista.com/statistics/264670/top-sugar-beet-producers-worldwide-by-volume/.

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October 13, 2018
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Eyes on the Prize

Nobel Prize in Economics 2018 goes to carbon tax advocates: William Nordhaus and Paul Romer. Image: wikimedia.

The Nobel Prize in Economics, awarded to William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer, followed a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning of urgent and dire effects if the world does not limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). Nordhaus advocated carbon pricing and taxation, stating: When I talk to people about how to design a carbon price, I think the model is British Columbia. You raise electricity prizes by $100 a year, but then the government gives back a dividend that lowers internet prices by $100 a year. You’re raising the price of carbon goods but lowering the prices of non-carbon-intensive goods.

Co-laureate Paul Romer stated at a press conference following the announcement: It’s entirely possible for humans to produce less carbon. There will be some tradeoffs, but once we begin to produce fewer carbon emissions we’ll be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as it was anticipated. Romer advocated supporting and encouraging innovation, while at the same time starting with a very low tax on emissions that will rise over time, if required. Outcome? “Innovators will start investing now in ways for people to get what they want without paying the tax. They will stop investing in ways to extract more fossil fuels that will be subject to the tax. Recent pessimistic environmental warnings might be true, but bad news is not always motivating, and can even cause avoidance and apathy. Romer continued: Optimism is part of what helps motivate people attack a hard problem, hoping that the Nobel award “will help everyone see that humans are capable of amazing accomplishments when we set about trying to do something.”

Davenport, Coral. “After Nobel in Economics, William Nordhaus Talks About Who’s Getting Pollution-Tax Ideas Right: A few governments – notably parts of Canada and South Korea – have adapted the the ideas in ways that frame them as a financial windfall for taxpayers.” 13 October 2018. The New York Times.

http://www.nber.org/chapters/c7620.pdf

Nordhaus, William. https://economics.yale.edu/people/william-d-nordhaus

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Few countries are pricing carbon high enough to meet climate targets.” 18 September 2018. http://www.oecd.org/tax/few-countries-are-pricing-carbon-high-enough-to-meet-climate-targets.htm.

Rathi, Akshat. “Why the newest Nobel laureate is optimistic about beating climate change.” 8 October 2018. Quartz Media. https://qz.com/1417222/why-new-nobel-laureate-paul-romer-is-optimistic-about-beating-climate-change/.

Romer, Paul. https://paulromer.net/about-paul-romer/

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October 6, 2018
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Report Card: Warning on Warming

“Simulating Carbon,” by William Putnam, 18 November 2014, NASA Visualization Explorer. Image: nasa.gov.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a warning: if the world keeps going at present rate, we’ll miss the target agreed upon in Paris 2015 (COP21) for limiting global warming. The goal of 1.5 may be out of reach; 2.0 Celsius may be unlikely.

Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0 Centigrade of global warming, above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8 to 1.2. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5 between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.

Global warming in 2015; things now are even worse, warns IPCC. Image: wikimedia commons.

Consequences include extreme weather events, damage to warm water corals, mangroves, arctic, coastal flooding, fluvial flooding, terrestrial ecosystem, crop yields. (Reasons for Concern RFCs). The IPCC advocates climate-resilient development pathways (CRDPs) that “strengthen sustainable development at multiple scales and efforts to eradicate poverty through equitable societal system transitions and transformations while reducing the threat of climate change through ambitious mitigation, adaptation, and climate resilience.” (IPCC SR1.5)

IPCC, Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Centigrade (SR15), 6 October 2018. http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15

IPCC, “Global Warming of 1.5Centigrade: Summary for Policymakers.” http://report.ipcc/ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf.

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