Building the World

June 17, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Linking the World

“Ancient Silk Road,” image: wikimedia commons.

The history of civilization may be measured by connection. First it was the Silk Road that connected cities; then it was the age of ships that created ports from Singapore to Suez.  Canals threaded connection through waterways, making one route from inland to sea: the Grand Canal, Canal des Deux Mers, Erie, Panama. Rail linked continents: the Trans-Continental, Canadian Pacific, and the Trans-Siberian united people across vast spans. But each of these achievements was a separate project.

“Belt and Road Initiative.” graphic design by Mathildem 16, 2020. Image: wikimedia.

BRI or B3W? Now, there are two plans to connect the world in a more comprehensive way: the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) announced and begun in 2013 by China, and the “Build Back Better for the World” (B3W) proposed by the G7 in 2021. China is ahead: more than 100 countries have signed BRI agreements. Some comment that the BRI is able to move quickly from plan to construction of new ports linked to rail and road routes, and also express concern regarding resourcing: financial, human, and natural. But some say that the G7 could take inspiration from Charlemagne who united disparate groups through links of education, as well as land and sea. The G7’s B3W may include capital to fund areas like climate, digital technology, health security, as well as transport.

Will B3W make waves of change? “47th G7 2021 Waves Logo,” wikimedia commons.

Climate change will cause a new vision. It is certain that the world needs rebuilding: old bridges, ports, rail, and roads are in dire need of replacement, while new infrastructure could transform many places not yet linked. Some have cited the Marshall Plan as precedent to rebuilding and linking a new vision of the world. Others may see different possibilities that include contemporary concerns. As BRI and B3W consider terms of engagement and goals of success, is there an opportunity to link the world through the values of inclusion, peace, and sustainable resilience?  What is your vision of an interconnected world?

Ruta, Michele. “Three Opportunities and Three Risks of the Belt and Road Initiative.” 4 May 2018. World Bank Blog. https://blogs.worldbank.org/trade/three-opportunities-and-three-risks-belt-and-road-initiative

Sanger, Davi. E. and Mark Landler. “Biden Tries to Rally G7 Nations to Counter China’s Influence.” 12 June 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/12/world/europe/biden-china-g7html?referringSource=articleShare

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

December 31, 2020
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ENERGY: 2020 by the Numbers

The year 2020 will go down in history for many reasons, including climate change. Temperatures were 1.08 degrees Fahrenheit (0.6 Celsius) warmer than the 1981-2010 average and 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit (1.25 Celsius) above pre-industrial times. Rising temperatures have consequences. In January of 2020, Australia suffered wildfires burning an area bigger than Florida. In summer, Atlantic hurricane season brought 30 named storms, carrying more water (warming oceans produce more water, higher waves, increased flooding). Western United States areas like California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington witnessed fires that destroyed 10.3 million acres. In the Arctic, data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service showed the region is warming faster than feared, more than twice the pace as the rest of the globe, with 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). Environmental scientists noted that 2020 set a record for carbon dioxide concentrations, rising to 413 ppm (parts per million) in May of 2020, even with Covid-19 lockdowns. (Kann and Miller, 2021)

“Wildfire in Santa Clarita, California.” Image: wikimedia.

Price tag? $95 billion. And that’s just for U.S. climate-related damage, according to Munich Re, insurance company to other insurance firms that covered damage from Atlantic storms and California wildfires. Chief climate scientist of Munich Re Ernst Rauch warned that building in high-risk areas added to losses. Hurricanes  were significant in damage, causing $43 billion in losses. Convective storms (like hailstorms and tornadoes) caused $40 billion. Wildfires added up to $7 billion including destruction of crops, endangering food security. Residential and business properties sustained damage and claimed insurance losses, over 4000 properties in Oregon and many more in California. According to Donald L. Griffin of American Property Casualty Insurance Association, “We can’t, as an industry, continue to just collect more and more money, and rebuild and rebuild and rebuild in the same way.” (Flavelle, 2021) Beyond the United States, the numbers are just as dire. Cyclone Amphan struck Bangladesh and India in May, resulting in $14 billion in damage. Asia sustained $67 billion in losses from natural disasters.

Cyclone Amphan May 2020. Image: wikimedia commons.

What does this mean for 2021? Following the money and perhaps led by the insurance industry, new ways to rebuild may lead us into the New Year. We’ll take a look at some hopeful trends, next.

American Property Casualty Insurance Association. https://www.apci.org

Flavelle, Christopher. “U.S. Disaster Costs Doubled in 2020, Reflecting Costs of Climate Change.” 7 January 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/07/climate/2020-disaster-costs.html?referringSource=articleShare

Kann, Drew and Brandon Miller. “2020 was tied for the hottest year ever recorded — but the disasters field by climate change set it apart.” 8 January 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/08/weather/2020-global-temperatures-tied-for-warmest-on-record-copernicus/index.html

Munich Re. https://www.munichre.com/en.html

Thanks to Jason W. Lusk for editorial guidance and suggestions.

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

August 19, 2019
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CITIES: Forecasting the Future

“Canton Tower,” Guanzhou, China, one of the world’s cities most vulnerable to climate change. Image: wikimedia commons.

Cities are getting hotter, bigger, and more densely populated; it may be difficult for policy makers, and families, to keep pace with the environmental consequences of climate change, especially in urban areas that will house more than 70% of the world’s population by 2050. Like anything gradual, today doesn’t quite yet feel like tomorrow. Because the bicameral human brain works by comparison, a new app, using a method of climate-analog mapping, by Fitzlab shows what your city will feel like in the future:

Boston, Massachusetts = Rosedale, Maryland (Boston will be 7 degrees (F) warmer and 17% wetter;

Houston, Texas – Ciudad Mante, Mexico (Houston will be 4 degrees (F) warmer and 27% wetter.

“Boston: Back Bay.” Photographer: R. Shade, 2013. Image: wikimedia.

In general, most cities in North America will feel like areas 500 miles to their south. Globally, results of climate change on cities and surrounding regions will force more migrations, and cause a $54 trillion economic loss. Weather will wreak havoc; in 2017, 16 severe weather events in the USA caused  $306 billion in damage.

Rebuilding cities for resiliency in climate change will affect every country on earth, and perhaps seeing new capitals, and even new countries. Cities and capitals throughout history have been founded to inaugurate new visions: Abuja, new capital of Nigeria; Brasilia, new capital of Brazil; and Washington, D.C.,  founding capital of the USA. In the era of climate change, Indonesia may be considering moving the capital from Jakarta: like Abuja and Brasilia, the new capital will be more and less: more representative of the total population and less subject to rising seas. Rising seas may cause whole countries to move; Pacific Island nations are among those considering options. Every 1.5 degrees of Centigrade warming might cause 0.26 meters (0.85 feet) of sea rise. Every tenth of a degree exposes 10 million more people to possible migration due to flooding. Cities in most danger: Guangzhou, China; New Orleans, USA; New York City, USA; Mumbai, India; Osaka, Japan. Check your city on Resource Watch’s site.

Bendix, A. “We asked 11 climate scientists where they’d live in the US to avoid future natural disasters – here’s what they said.” 9 October, 2018. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/where-to-live-to-avoid-natural-disaster-climatologists-2018-8.

Brooke, K. “Jakarta – first capital to move due to sea rise.” 1 May, 2019. Building the World Blog. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2019/05/01/jakarta-first-capital-to-move-due-to-sea-rise/

Fitzpatrick, M.C. and Dunn, R.R. “Contemporary climate analogs for 540 North American urban areas in the late 21st century.” 12 February 2019. Nature Communications 10, Article number 614. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-08540-3/.

Fitzlab. “What will climate feel like in 60 years? Check your city.” https://fitzlab.shinyapps.io/cityapp/

Litwin, E. “The Climate Diaspora: Indo-Pacific Emigration from Small Island Developing States.” 2011. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://papers.ssm.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1912859

Resource Watch. “Explore Data Sets.” https://resourcewatch.org/data/explore.

Woodward, A. “A troubling new map shows what your city’s climate may look like in 60 years. San Francisco may feel like Los Angeles, and New York may be more like Arkansas.” 15 February 2019. Business Insider. https://amp.businessinsider.com/climate-change-map-what-cities-will-feel-like-60-years-2019-2.

World Bank. “Cities and Climate Change: An Urgent Agenda.” December 2010, Volume 10. https://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTUWM/Resources/340232-1205330656272/CitiesandClimateChange.pdf.

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

October 6, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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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.

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

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