Building the World

June 29, 2021
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CITIES: Iconic Pride

“Empire State Building in Rainbow Colors for Pride.” Photographer Anthony Quintano. 28 June 2015. Image: wikimedia commons

Cities have an opportunity to inspire and unite urban denizens in shared values. As Toynbee demonstrated in Cities of Destiny, the metropolis can create a unique cultural climate. Many urban centers possess iconic monuments, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, that may serve as cultural billboards. As the world gathered in Paris for COP21 in 2015, that landmark beamed the message: “1.5” –  indicating a shared goal of limiting global warming to that level. Other issues like social justice have illuminated city monuments: San Francisco’s City Hall has often been displayed in rainbow colors.

“City Hall, San Francisco, California, USA.” Photographer Torrenegra. Image: wikimedia

London, England, has many landmarks including the fabled London Bridge and the recent addition to the cityscape: the London Eye. This month, the “Eye,” formally termed the Millennium Wheel when it opened in 2000, displayed rainbow colors to honor Pride, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall turning point for LGBT+ rights.

White House with LGBT+ Rainbow Colors. Image: wikimedia commons.

In June of 2015 when the United States Supreme Court ruled (Obergefell v. Hodges) two people of same sex have the right to marry, the White House celebrated by illuminating the iconic Washington D.C. building in the colors of the rainbow. As we strive to build an equal and sustainable future – environmentally and socially – how can cities Troop the Color?

“Malloy, Allie and Karl de Vries. “White House shines rainbow colors to hail same-sex marriage ruling.” 30 June 2014. CNN. VIDEO https://www.cnn.com/2015/06/26/politics/white-house-rainbow-marriage/index.html

Public Broadcasting System (PBS). “The American Experience: Stonewall.” VIDEO https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/stonewall/

Toynbee, Arnold. Editor. Cities of Destiny. London: Thames and Hudson, 1967.

Wingate, Sophie. “London landmarks light up in rainbow colours to celebrate Pride Month” 2 June 2021. Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/tv/news/london-landmarks-light-up-in-rainbow-colours-for-pride-month-vd05b2fba.

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

April 22, 2021
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Earth Day 2021

“Earth Spinning.” Image animation: wikimedia commons.

Earth Day 2021 brings some good news: we may be on target to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement (COP21). When nations convened in the city of the Eiffel Tower in 2015, the world set a new course. It was not a minute too soon. Climate Action Tracker (CAT) predicted, in 2009, that global warming would rise to 3.5 C by 2100, bringing disastrous conditions for life on Earth. Now, in 2021, things have improved and we may hold global warming to 2.1 C, if we continue to take action. Every year, on Earth Day, we celebrate our planet and also take stock of the state of our climate.

China’s pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2060, with a peak expected well before 2030, is an important part of recent progress. Japan and South Korea pledged to get to net zero by 2050. The European Union has taken it to the next level, not only pledging to cut carbon dioxide emissions 55% by 2030, and reaching net-zero by 2050, but making that goal legally binding. The United States, recently rejoined the Paris agreement and set new goals for climate improvement domestically, including mandating the federal government vehicle fleet to be all electric and allocating funds for 500,000 charging stations across the US Federal Highway system. Today, the United States has convened a global summit for Earth Day 2021 to bring world leaders together to address climate.

What can you do? Every action you choose has some climate impact: you can act to reduce plastic, contribute to green spaces in cities, become a citizen scientist, make art to raise awareness, make a pledge for climate action – click here.

Abnett, Kate. “EU clinches deal on climate law, tougher 2030 emissions goal.” 21 April 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-eu-idUSKBN2C80NZ

Climate Action Tracker (CAT). “Phasing out fossil fuel vehicle sales by 2030 will help to make US transport sector policy 1.5 C compatible.” https://climateactiontracker.org

Earth Day. https://www.earthday.org

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Temperature analysis shows UN goals ‘within reach.'” BBC.com. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-55073169

United Nations. United Nations. Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC). “Earth Day 2021 Is Set to Galvanize Climate Action,” 20 April 2021. https://unfccc.int/news/earth-day-2021-is-set-to-galvanize-climate-action

White House. “FACT SHEET: Executive Actions to Take Climate Change at Home and Abroad.” 27 January 2021. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/27/fact-sheet-president-biden-takes-executive-actions-to-tackle-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad-create-jobs-and-restore-scientific-integrity-across-federal-government/

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

January 11, 2021
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ENERGY: Renewing Hope in 2021

Winds of change are in the air. Literally.

“Vestas V90-3MW Wind Turbine of Kentish Flats Offshore Wind Fram, Thames Estuary, UK” by Phil Hollman, 2006. Wikimedia Commons.Wind Power innovator BladeBUG may aid maintenance of marine turbines, now 40% of the cost of these energy generators. If offshore wind were more affordable and reliable, it could increase its energy contribution by 18 times. BladeBug, a drone-based innovation founded by Chris Cieslak, won recognition from ORE Catapult (Offshore Renewable Energy in Blyth, UK) and will now integrate with MIMRee (Multi-Platform Inspection Maintenance and Repair in Extreme Environments). Both are part of a consortium led by Plant Integrity.

“CLT-plate with three layers of spruce” by Pañh, 2018. Wikimedia Commons.

Another renewable natural resource set to develop increased importance: wood. Can timber help to lessen the carbon impact of concrete and steel in the building industry? A form of ultra-thick plywood termed Cross-laminated Timber (CLT)  can be used for walls and floors. While the Eiffel Tower may not be redesigned, France recently ruled that all new commercial buildings must have solar or green rooftops, and has now legislated that all new public buildings be constructed with at least 50% timber. Enter a new term in architecture: “plyscraper.” Leading manufacturers that investors are watching: Stora Enso, KLH Massivholz GmbH, Binderholz, Mayr-Meinhof Holz Group, Hasslacher.

“Beautiful Sunset,” Reem78, 2015. Wikimedia Commons.

Ever since Peter G. Glaser patented solar power satellites, energy from the sun has proven efficient and relatively inexpensive as technologies for solar panels improve. But until Glaser’s innovation can be pursued, solar panels still collect only one/fifth of what is possible. Oxford PV is employing silicon with perovskite that increases solar panel efficiency by 29.52%, setting a new world record. The company originated at Oxford University, where the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was developed.

Will COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland herald a new era for climate and cooperation? Image: “University of Glasgow, Scotland, 1900” Library of Congress image ppmsc.07600

Brilliant medical and scientific researchers created Covid vaccine innovations through rapid cooperative response to a world crisis that some likened to the Manhattan Project. Climate change is another world crisis. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that has championed causes of public health, sees hope for 2021, noting the November United Nations COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, as catalyst for nations to pledge responses to climate change. With new administrations in the United States, new political definitions of the United Kingdom and European Union, increased commitments to energy neutrality by China and others, there is reason for hope. What do you think will be the most important advances in 2021?

For more:

BladeBUG. https://bladebug.co.uk

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk. “Up on a Roof,” 13 November 2015. Building the World Blog. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2015/11/13/up-on-a-roof/

Glaser, Peter. “Space Solar Power.” 1999 MA Space Grant Consortium Public Lecture. MIT. VIDEO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03x_Q4DGfel

Heap, Tom. “Why I’m feeling hopeful about the environment in 2021.” 4 January 2021. BBC Radio 4.

Hutchins, Mark. “Oxford PV retakes tandem cell efficiency record.” 21 December 2020, PV Magazine. https://www.pv-magazine.com/2020/12/21/oxford-pv-retakes-tandem-cell-efficiency-record/

Jaffe, Paul. “Power Beaming & Space Solar Innovation: Peter Glaser.” 30 July 2020. HDIAC Webinars. VIDEO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhFaLgmJsk

IMARC Group. “Top 5 Cross-Laminated Timber Manufacturers Worldwide.” 4 October 2017. https://www.imarcgroup.com/top-cross-laminated-timber-manufacturers-worldwide

OE Digital. “Spider-like Robot to Change Offshore Wind Blade IMR Game.” 28 April 2020. OEDigital. https://www.oedigital.com/news/277974-spider-like-robot-to-change-offshore-wind-blade-imr-game

Souza, Eduardo, translated by José Tomás Franco. ArchDaily. 20 May 2018. “Cross Laminated Timber (CLT): What It Is and How To Use It.” https://www.archdaily.com/893442/cross-laminated-timber-clt-what-it-is-and-how-to-use-it

Voytko, Lisette. “Bill Gates Has Big, Scientific Hopes for 2021. Here’s Why.” 22 December 2020. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisettevoytko/2020/12/22/bill-gates-has-scienfitic-hopes-for-2021-heres-why/

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

November 19, 2020
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ENERGY: Fueling the Future

Electric Green Camo. Photographer warcow112; image: wikimedia.

After 2030, you won’t be able to buy a diesel or gasoline car or van in Britain. That’s five years earlier than planned, but not a minute too late. “We must use the extraordinary powers of invention to repair the economic damage from Covid-19, and to build back better. Now is the time to plan for a green recovery with high-skilled jobs that give people the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to make the country cleaner, greener, and more beautiful,” stated Boris Johnson, Prime Minister. It’s part of a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050: Britain was the first G7 country to put that goal into law, in 2019.  New green jobs are expected to number 250,000, supported by $16 billion (12 billion Pounds) in government funds, tripled in contribution by industry. Britain plans on EV tech in the Midlands, advanced fuel specialists in the Wales, agroforestry practitioners in Scotland: those who train for new green jobs will be certified with a Lifetime Skills Guarantee. It’s a 10 point plan:

Ten from Number 10 Downing.

One – Wind

Two – Hydrogen

Three – Nuclear

Four – Electric vehicles (EV)

Five – Public transport including cycle lanes

Six –  Aircraft (and ships) of zero emission

Seven – Greener homes, schools, hospitals

Eight – Carbon capture and storage

Nine – Planting and rewilding

Ten – Energy innovation fund.

CCC Poster by Albert Bender, 1935. Let’s update the wording to “Everyone’s Opportunity.” Image: wikimedia.

Britain’s plan may provide an example of using post-pandemic funds to fuel a new economy. What will other countries do? In the United States, after the great depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched the Civilian Conservation Corps to build a new vision with jobs in infrastructure that transformed the nation. Is it time now for a new CCC – Climate Conservation Corps? In another time of dire circumstances, the Manhattan Project garnered resources that led to a new form of energy. Now, as we approach 2021, how can American recovery and stimulus funds transform education, industry, and infrastructure?

Johnson, Boris. “Green Jobs,” 18 November 2020, Financial Times. http://www.ukpol.co.uk/boris-johnson-2020-article-in-financial-times-on-green-jobs/

Twidale, Susanna. “Britain to ban new petrol cars by 2030 on road to net zero emissions.” 17 November 2020. Reuters, ESC Environment. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-britain-idUSKBN27X220

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

 

September 21, 2020
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Let Your Voice Be Heard

“The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism,” states the declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations (UN). Founded after the tragedy of World War II, the UN has worked to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedom for all, in the context of sovereign equality of States and the right of self-determination for all. To participate in the 75th anniversary, see videos of presentations here.

Logo of the United Nations. Image: wikimedia.

Emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic will require cooperation across borders, sectors, and generations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sets the theme: “Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive, and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges we face.” The UN invites your ideas for the top three priorities of the future. Where would you like to see the world in 25 years, the 100th anniversry of the UN? Let your voice be heard in setting global priorities and shaping our future together:  take the survey.

United Nations. “The United Nations is running the largest ever global conversation as it turns 75 and wants to hear from you.” https://un75.online/#s2.

United Nations. “Declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations,” September 2020. https://undocs/org/A/75/L.1.

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 10, 2020
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SPACE: Here’s looking at you, Earth

Eye of a Chameleon. Image: wikimedia.

Eyes in the sky, Earth Observation Satellites monitor environmental conditions by reporting hot spots and testing efforts to mitigate climate change. OHB-System has just signed a contract to build a new satellite network to monitor carbon dioxide, helping countries achieve goals of the COP 21 Paris Agreement. Part of the Copernicus System, the first OHB spacecraft will launch in 2025; it will be called CO2M.

Scenographia Systematis Copernicani” engraving circa 1660. Image: wikimedia.

CO2M will join the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation program, a system of satellite sensors called Sentinels that watch the Earth from space. Marco Fuchs, CEO of Germany’s OHB-System, oversees the contract with the European Space Agency. Thales Alenia Space (TAS), a French-Italian company, is a sub-contractor, designing carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide spectrometers. Belgian partner, OIP Sensors, will provide a cloud imager. CO2M will track carbon dioxide to a resolution of 2km by 2km across a span of 250 km. Satellites will carry both a CO2 detector and also secondary sensors that can differentiate between human-produced emissions and those occurring naturally.

TAS logo. Image: wikimedia.

Looking for employment or investment opportunities? Check out satellite enterprises: OHB, TAS, OIP

Since COMSAT launched the first communication satellites, space has become the place that allows us to transmit video, communication, and weather information about Earth. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are leaders. Here’s a look at NASA’s program:

NASA’s Earth Science Division Operating Missions. Image: wikimedia/nasa.gov.

ESA’s Sentinel satellite system is comprehensive, and will expand when CO2M joins the initiative. For now, here’s the Sentinel array and specific capabilities:

Sentinel-1: monitor Earth’s surface in all weather conditions

Sentinel-2: monitor land changes

Sentinel-3: observe oceans

Sentinel-4: measure atmospheric gases

Sentinel-5: monitor air quality

Sentinel-6: measure rising seas

When CO2M becomes operational, joining the Sentinel series, it will track CO2 around the whole globe every five days. CO2M’s data, along with other Sentinel reporting, and NASA’s initiatives as well as others, will help meet the climate goals established by COP21 also known as the Paris Agreement. The Eiffel Tower displayed the message: now we must meet the goals. Space, looking at Earth, can help.

“#1Heart1Tree” image on the Eiffel Tower, Paris, during COP21 where climate goals were agreed by most nations of the world. Earth Observation Satellites will help meet those environmental goals.  Photo by Yann Caradec, image: wikimedia.

If you are interested in learning more about Earth Observation Satellites, join the Copernicus Academy’s MOOC, beginning in September 2020.

Amos, Jonathan. “European Sentinel satellites to map global CO2 emissions.” 1 August 2020, BBC.com.

Copernicus Earth Observation System. https://www.copernicus.eu/en

Copernicus Academy, 160 members fromthe EU 28 plus Iceland and Norway, sharing research and providing training on Earth Observation. Join the MOOC starting in September 2020.https://www.copernicus.eu/en/opportunities/education/copernicus-mooc

OHB Magazine. https://www.ohb.de/en/magazine/

NASA, Edited by Andrew J. Butrica. “Beyond the Ionosphere: Fifty Years of Satellite Communication.” National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1997. https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4217/sp4217.htm

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

May 9, 2020
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WATER: Rising Seas

“Sea Level Rise: 1880-2013, depicted in stripe graphic,” created by Dr. Richard Selwyn Jones, Durham University. Image: wikimedia.

CLIMATE HOT SPOTS

“2 Degrees Centigrade: Beyond The Limit,” a Washington Post series of articles won the 2020 Pulitzer for Explanatory Reporting.  The series looks at what the world will be like if we reach that temperature increase, as well as explores areas that have already exceeded 2 Degrees Centigrade. The Northeast Corridor, including Boston and New York, is one area. Another is the coastal curve south of Santa Barbara, California running through Los Angeles and into the arroyos along the Mexican border: the area has warmed at double the rate of the rest of the United States, seeing an increase of 2.3 degrees.

California coast. Image: wikimedia

SEA RISE IS CERTAIN

California was also the focus of Pulitzer Prize Finalist, the Los Angeles Times, presenting articles on rising seas on the Pacific coast. The LA Times series included a climate change/oceans interactive game.

Sea rise is so gradual as to be almost invisible, but that is changing. In the last 100 years, sea rise was just 9 inches; predictions estimate it may swell to 9 feet in the next half century. Even if we meet global carbon emissions goals, global seas will rise 12 inches (NOAA 2019).

“The Rising Sea Level” as measured by TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 satellites. Image: nasa.gov

 

SEA RISE: REGIONAL RESPONSE  THROUGH TRADE, EDUCATION, AND INNOVATION

Rising seas are global but response is regional. California is linked to Mexico (in fact it once was Mexico, along with parts of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming). Canada is connected, too.

Canada, United States, Mexico showing Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Image: wikimedia.

Mexico, United States, and Canada already have a trade agreement, recently updated. Should the new trade agreement include a strategy for rising seas? Is there an educational mission included in the agreement? Universities and businesses along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of all three countries should work together to design solutions. Internships and apprenticeships in businesses engaged in sea rise response could seed a new generation of experts, just as they will be needed. Regional response is scalable: the Belt and Road Initiative is another example of a connected network linked by contracts and agreements.

Belt and Road Initiative. Image: wikimedia.

INVESTING IN A SURE THING

The construction industry is predicted to increase in importance in the decades to come because sea rise will be a constant business. Some of the industry’s innovators include:

AECOM: Climate change adaptation facility for Asia and the Pacific, weADAPT. https://aecom.com, and https://www.weadapt.org/knowledge-base-climate-finance/usaid-adapt-asia-pacific/

ARCADIS: design and consultancy for natural and built assets. https://twitter.com/arcadisglobal/

JACOBS/CH2M Hill: challenging today, reinventing tomorrow. https://www.jacobs.com

Flood Control America – Removable Flood Wall Barriers: floodcontrolam.com

Environmental Business International (EBI) – climate chance adaptation industry forecasts: https://ebionline.org/product/climate-change-industry-report/

Concept Storm Surge Barrier, St. Petersburg flood defense barrier and USA Concept Storm Surge Barrier 2012 – Halcrow Group and State University of New York SUNY: https://seagrant.sunysb.edu/media/sandy12/HalcrowGroup-Sandy1112.pdf

Delta Works: world’s largest storm barrier. www.deltawerken.com

Delta Works, Maeslantkering. Scale model. Image: wikimedia.

Investment in innovation and technologies to meet, solve, and improve climate may be part of the ‘stubborn optimism’ described in The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Optimism gets things done – what can we do about rising seas?

Read the Pulitzer Prize journalism on climate change here.

Ariza, Mario. “These are the companies who will get rich helping Miami adapt to rising seas.” 9 July 2017. The New Tropic. https://thenewtropic.com/these-companies-will-profit-from-helping-miami-adapt-to-rising-seas/

Attenborough, Sir David, Christiana Figueres, Paul Dickinson, Tom Rivett-Carnac. “The Power of Outrage and Optimism with David Attenborough. Podcast, 2019. outrageandoatimism.libsyn.com/episode-1-the-power-of-outrage-and-optimism-with-david-attenborough/

Cowin, Laurie. “Deal of the Year: Jacobs buys CY2M Hill,” 4 December 2017. ConstructionDive. https://www.constructiondive.com/news/deal-of-the-year-jacobs-buys-ch2m-jill/510610

Figueres, Christiana and Tom Rivett-Carnac. The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Knopf, 2020. ISBN: 9780525658351. https://globaloptimism.com/the-future-we-choose-book/

Fischetti, Mark. “Russian Flood Barrier Is a Model for New York City.” 10 June 2013. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/russian-flood-barrier/

Fischetti, Mark. “Sea Level Could Rise 5 Feet in New York by 2100.” 1 June 2013. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fischetti-sea-level-could-rise-five-feet-new-york-city-nyc-2100/

Franzen, Carl. “Meet the companies that are going to get rich from global warming: A warmer, wetter world won’t be bad for these industries.” US Army Corps of Engineers. 12 August 2013. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2013/8/12/4613802/cashing-in-on-climate-change-flood-wall-air-conditioning

Invenko, Chris. “Dutch Masters: The Netherlands exports flood-control expertise.” Earth Magazine. https://www.earthmagazine.org/article/dutch-masters-netherlands-expoerts-flood-control-expertise/

Lindsey, Rebecca. “Climate Change: Global Sea Level.” 19 November 2019. NOAA/Climate.gov. https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-sea-level/

Ryszard, Daniel, Tim Paulus. “Selection of a Gate Type,” in Lock Gates and Other Closures in Hydraulic Projects, 2019. Butterworth-Heinemann/Elsevier, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-809264-4.09994-8 and https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/storm-surge-barrier/

United States Trade Agreement: USMCA (and links to Canada/Mexico versions). https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/united-states-mexico-canada-agreement/agreement-between

Wilson, Scott. “2 Degrees Celsius: Beyond the Limit: Fires, floods, and free parking – California’s unending fight against climate change.” 5 December 2019. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/national/climate-environment/climate-change-california/

Xia, Rosanna, Swetha Kannan, Terry Castleman. “The California coast is disappearing under the rising sea.” Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-sea-level-rise-california-coast/

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

April 28, 2020
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ENERGY: Petersberg Climate Dialogue

Petersberg, near Bonn, Germany. Image: wikimedia.

High upon a virtual mountaintop, the Petersberg Climate Dialogue gathered 35 countries to steer the course for achieving Paris Agreement goals. Alok Sharma, UK Secretary of State for Business and Energy and President of COP26, and Svenja Schulze, Federal Environment Minister of Germany, co-chaired ‘International Climate Action after the Coronavirus Pandemic.” While there is good news, including the cost of solar energy now 85% lower than in 2010, it is not enough: 840 million people lack access to electricity. As world governments allocate funding to rebuild economies after Covid-19, there is an unprecedented opportunity forfinance to support a green economic recovery and foster ambitious climate action.” We have not acted fast enough to reach climate goals, in part due to funding. The world might now have A UNIQUE opportunity to rebuild. Petersberg Climate Dialogue is digital: participate here.

Petersberg Climate Dialogue Digital Conference. https://www.bmu.de/press/live-broadcast/

Petersberg Climate Dialogue Digital Conference. “Financing Climate Ambition in the context of COVID-19.” Video Conference, 29 April 2020. https://www.bmu.de/en/event/financing-climate-ambition-in-the-context-of-covid-19/

Sharma, Alok. “Reaching Climate Goals.” https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cop26-president-remarks-at-first-day-of-petersberg-climate-dialogue.

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

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

 

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.

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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