Building the World

December 15, 2021
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WATER: Jason and the Return of the Argonauts

“Argo Temperature/Salinity Float Network” by Dmcdevit, 2007 for Global Warming Art. License GNU Free 1.2. Image: wikimedia.

Recent tornadoes, storms, floods caused loss of life and damage of property. While warmer temperatures are known to fuel and intensify tornadoes, scientists are uncertain if tornadoes that swept across four U.S. states were caused by climate change. What is certain is unseen, but even more troubling. Antarctic currents are changing. The above NASA illustration shows the movement of ocean currents including the Antarctic Circumpolar Current:  at 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometers) wide and two miles (3 kilometers) deep, it is the globe’s largest current. Its motion draws the deepest water from the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans to swirl it to the surface. In the process, the water exchanges heat and carbon dioxide with the atmosphere. It’s called an upwelling.

“Upwelling” in an animation by NOAA. Image: public domain, wikimedia.

With a warming world, upwelling may release more carbon dioxide that had formerly been sequestered in the blue deep of the oceans. Oceans have sequestered 25% of carbon dioxide and 90% of excess heat from burning fossil fuels. What if that were to change? Moreover, the warming upwelling waters that travel through and beneath Antarctic are melting ice shelves like those near the Thwaites glacier. If those ice sheets melt into the ocean, sea rise could advance by as much as 12 feet (3.66 meters). Ice sheets act as a blockade, protecting glaciers: if that blockade breaks, glaciers will also melt more quickly and release even more water to rising seas. (Fountain and White, 2021) Watch a video about the Thwaites glacier here.

“Thwaits Glacier.” NASA, 2014. Public domain, wikimedia.

What can be done? Gathering more data is a first step. Robotic autonomous floats called ‘Argo Floats‘ are a small army of 3900 presently bobbing in the world’s oceans, sending back data. When below water for their ten-day shift, Argo Floats gather data; when they pop up to the surface, they transmit. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  and the Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing (GOMO) program is named after the mythical Jason and the Argonauts who sailed to find the Golden Fleece.

“Scenes from the Story of the Argonauts” by Biagio d’Antonio, circa 1472-1516. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, donated to wikimedia for public domain open access use.

Jason and the Argonauts may be one of the oldest myths of a hero’s quest. The present initiative references not only the ancient Greek myth, but also the ocean mission. The title also indicates its complementary relationship with the Jason satellite altimeters that study the situation from above. The instruments called ‘Argo Floats:’ the measurements of sea surface height are termed ‘Jason measurements’ that report temperature and salinity. (Brown 2019). In 2020, Antarctica observed a 200-year anniversary. Polar regions are among the most important places for climate change, due to a process termed polar amplification. The Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959, offers some protections, but the ban on mining of Antarctic minerals expires in 2048. If or when the Antarctic Treaty is revised, what provisions should be upheld, changed, or added?

Argo Program. NOAA. https://globalocean,noaa.gov/Research/Argo-Program

Brown, Fiona “What we learnt from spending winter under the Antarctic sea ice.” 15 May 2019. CSIROscope. https://blog.csiro.au/

Fountain, Henry and Jeremy White. “Rising from the Antarctic, a Climate Alarm.” 14 December 2021. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/12/13/climate/antartic-climate-change.html?referringSource=articleShare

Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS). “Geoengineering The Southern Ocean? A Transdisciplinary Assessment.” University of Tasmania, Australia. https://www.imas.utas.edu.au/home/home-features/arc-laureate-fellowship-geoengineering-the-southern-ocean-a-transdisciplinary-assessment

Jason satellite program mission. NOAA. https://sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/jason-1/summary

Ramirez, Rachel. “Scientists warn a critical ice shelf in Antarctica could shatter within five years.” 14 December 2021. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/14/world/antarctic-thwaites-glacier-climate-warming/index.html

Silvano, Alesandro et al., “Seasonability of warm water intrusions onto the continental shelf near the Totten Glacier.” 3 May 2019. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans/Volume 124, issue 6, pages 4272-4289. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JC014634 and https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2018JC014634

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

 

December 7, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Sugar High

“United Boeing 767-300ER taking off from London Healthrow” by photographer and aerospace engineer Adrian Pingstone, 2007. Public Domain wikimedia commons.

Air transport, first achieved in December 1903, reached an important milestone in December  2021. United Airlines flew a commercial jet with a full complement of guest passengers entirely on renewable, non-fossil, fuel derived from sugar and corn. The flight Chicago ORD to Washington DCA flight carried 100 passengers using 100% sustainable fuel (SAF). The achievement followed United’s 2019 Flight for the Planet demonstrating biofuel blend energy, zero cabin waste, and carbon offsetting. The 2021 United success also announced new partners in the Eco-Skies-Alliance, and a pledge to purchase non-petroleum feedstocks to deliver the same performance of petroleum-based jet fuel but with a much smaller environmental effect.

“Sugarcane” by photographer Biswarup Ganguly, 2010. GNU Free/CC3.0 wikimedia.

Sugarcane ethanol is produced by fermenting sugarcane juice and molasses. Brazil and the USA are among the world areas engaged in biofuel production from sugar and corn, with scientific innovations on fermentative processes. There are concerns about land use for biofuel, and deforestation, but SAF remains an important element in new energy options. Brazil is a leader in sugar-based fuel, while U.S. expertise is mainly in corn. (Kang and Lee 2015). The U.S. biofuel industry has created 68,000 jobs, produced 17 billion gallons of sustainable fuel, and saved 544 million metric tons of Co2 from entering the atmosphere. (Minos 2021)

“Refueling a plane in Athens.” by photographer Jebulon. Wikimedia CC1.0 Public Domain.

While biofuels are arguably not as clean and green as electric or solar flight (achieved by small commuter planes such as eGenius), sustainable fuel is a practical step because it works with existing flight infrastructure like aircraft engines, refueling equipment, maintenance, and airport design.”SAF can be 100% compatible with our current aviation fleet and infrastructure,” observed Dave Kettner of Virent, among the partners who flew on the historic occasion, joined by World Energy biofuel producer and distributor, Boeing, CFM International, and U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office. Electric vehicles may be the answer for automobiles, buses, and trucks: the U.S. Federal Highway System and other major roads of the world will be rebuilt with charging stations and lanes for autonomous vehicles. The Canadian Pacific Railway or Japan’s Shinkansen can be adapted for maglev, electric, or hyperloop trains. But maritime shipping and aviation are not as easily converted from fossil fuels. Air transport has just taken an important step toward a more sustainable future.

Kang, Aram and Taek Sooon Lee. “Converting sugars to biofuels: ethanol and beyond.” 27 October 2015. Bioengineering. doi: 10.3390/bioengineering2040184.

Lewandowski, Jan. “Building the Evidence on Corn Ethanol’s Greenhouse Gas Profile.” 29 July 2021. U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2019/04/02/building-evidence-corn-ethanols-greenhouse-gas-profile

McCue, Dan “United Airlines makes history flying the most eco-friendly commercial flight of its kind.” 11 June 2019. Renewable Energy Magazine. https://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/biofuels/united-airlines-makes-history-flying-the-most-20190611

Minos, Scott. “United Airlines first passenger flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel is officially off the ground!” 1 December 2021. U.S. Department of Energy. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/united-airlines-first-passenger-flight-using-100-sustainable-aviation-fuel

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. “Inventing a flying machine.” https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/wright-brothers-online/fly/1903/

United Airlines. “United to become first in aviation history to fly aircraft full of passengers using 100$ sustainable fuel.” 1 December 2021. United Airlines News Release. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-to-become-first-in-aviation-history-to-fly-aircraft-full-of-passengers-using-100-sustainable-fuel-301435009.html

World Energy. https://www.worldenergy.net

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

November 9, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Rebuilding Back Better

“Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge” by Eric Vance, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2011. Image: Public Domain, Wikimedia.

Transportation infrastructure is one of the paths to a better future. From electric vehicle charging stations, to bridge repair or replacement, American roads will soon experience the biggest rebuilding project since the US Federal Highway System of 1956. Here’s a summary of what to expect over the next five years (Lobosco and Luhby, 2021):

Roads – $110 billion for road repair and upgrades. It is estimated that 173, 000 miles of US roads are in bad condition;

Trains -$66 billion for passenger and freight trail, modernizing the Northeast corridor, and upgrading intercity rail to high-speed capability, with additional funds of $12 billion;

Broadband – $65 billion to improve reach and signal strength of Internet;

Bridges – $40 billion to repair or replace the 45,000 bridges in poor shape;

Public Transit – $39 billion to modernize and upgrade subways and buses;

Airports – $25 billion to repair aging airports and upgrade to low-carbon tech;

Marine Ports – $17 billion for improving marine ports, a major part of the supply chain;

Safety – $11 billion for better protection for cyclists and pedestrians;

Buses and Ferries – $7.5 billion for zero or low-emission ferries and school bus transport;

Electric Vehicles – $7.5 billion for a national network of electric charging stations;

Communities – $1 billion to reconnect neighborhoods divided by highways. This was one of the goals of the Central Artery Project in Boston.

In addition to the transport upgrades, the American Infrastructure Bill will begin rebuilding the electric grid ($65 billion) and correct water infrastructure problems from Flint to Benton Harbor and beyond, replacing lead service lines and old pipes. Finally, uncapped gas wells and abandoned mines will be remedied with a $21 billion fund. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (HR 3684) passed on 6 November 2021, as nations gather in Glasgow to address response to climate change at COP26. It is now time to rebuild the world.

Lobosco, Katie and Tami Luhby. “Here’s what’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.” 5 November 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/28/politics/infrastructure-bill-explained/index.html

United States Congress. “H.R. 3684: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr3684/text

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November 4, 2021
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ENERGY: Ending and Reversing Deforestation

“Amazon rainforest in the Urubu River, near Silves, Amazonas State, Brazil” by Andre Deak, 2008. Image: wikimedia

Trees help combat climate warming, absorbing emissions of carbon dioxide. In many areas of the world, deforestation – cutting and clearing trees to use land for other purposes – depletes forests that absorb the warming gas. This week, world leaders meeting in Glasgow for COP26 pledged $19 billion to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. Among the signatories was notably Brazil, where Itaipú supplies hydroelectric energy but also stresses forest land. Brazil’s Amazon forest has suffered significant deforestation in the recent decades. Canada, China, Russia, nations of the EU, the UK, and the US also signed the declaration, with over 85% of world forests represented.

“Map of ecoregions of Central Africa.” Encyclopedia of Earth, 2016. Image: wikimedia commons.

Importantly, 30 global financial organizations also agreed to end investment in activities tied to cutting forests. Companies including multinational insurance giants Aviva and Axa signed on. A fund to protect the world’s second largest rainforest, in the Congo Basin, completed the pact.

Stopping and reversing deforestation may be one of the great successes of COP26. Image: COP26 Logo, United Nations. Wikimedia

Some observers noted that a similar pledge, the “New York Declaration on Forests” of 2014, promised hope but ended in disappointment. Some key countries like Brazil, China, and Russia were not signatories of that earlier pact. Brazil holds the planet’s biggest rainforest, and Russia has more than 20% of the world’s trees. Optimists noted that the difference between 2014’s declaration and 2021’s “Global Forest Financing Pledge: Financing the protection, restoration, and sustainable management of forests” is indicated in the title: the key commitment of financing a better future.

Aviva. www.aviva.com

Axa. https://www.axa.com

Rannard, Georgina and Francesca Gillett. “COP26: World leaders promise to end deforestation by 2030.” 2 November 2021. BBC.com. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59088498

United Nations. UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 in partnership with Italy. “The Global Forest Finance Pledge.” 2 November 2021. https://ukcop26.org/the-global-forest-finance-pledge/

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

October 25, 2021
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WATER, ENERGY, CITIES: Earthshot Prize

One of the winners of the inaugural Earthshot Prize, The Bahamas, for a program of coral reef restoration. “Coral Reef” by Photographer Jerry Reid, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013. Public Domain. Wikimedia.

October is a time of prizes. Earlier this month, Nobel Prize winners received momentous telephone calls. Now, inaugural winners of the Earthshot Prize received recognition for innovative solutions to the world’s climate crisis. Named after the “Moonshot” launched by President John F. Kennedy to land people on the moon within a decade, the Earthshot campaign will run from 2021 to 2030. Initiated by Prince William, Sir David Attenborough, and The Royal Foundation, the timeframe was described by Prince William as “A decade doesn’t seem long, but humankind has an outstanding record of being able to solve the unsolvable. Many of the answers are already out there,  but we need everyone – from all parts of society – to raise their ambition and unite in repairing our planet.” ((Ryan and Foster 2021)

Image: Earthshot Prize.org

Bahamas: Growing coral on land and then replant in damaged coral reefs;

Costa Rica: Paying residents to protect and restore rainforests, reversing deforestation;

“Costa Rica forest,” by Nakashi, 2007. Wikimedia.

India: Takachar attaches to tractors, reducing emissions by 98%, turning waste into new products. The enterprise started at MIT and creates biochar and other products.

Italy: city of Milan as a food hub to share restaurant and supermarket food with the needy;

Milan, Italy won as a Food Hub City. “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan,” 2017 by C. Messier. Image: wikimedia commons.

Thailand/Italy/Germany: AEM Electrolyser turns water into carbon-free hydrogen.

Earthshot’s five goals for 2030. “Greetings from the Year 2030” by Riesenspatz. Public Domain, wikimedia.

Earthshot’s five goals by 2030: Protect and Restore Nature, Clean our Air, Revive our Oceans, Build a Waste-Free World, and Fix our Climate. In honor of the Earthshot Prize, Buckingham Palace turned green. The Earthshot prize announcement precedes another event designed to bring green to the UK, and the world. COP26 will soon convene in Glasgow, Scotland to decide the future of climate, energy, and Earth.

AEM Electrolyser. https://www.enapter.com/

Attenborough, Sir David and Prince William of Cambridge, “Announcing the Earthshot Prize.” VIDEO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFbwTRMwBAc

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk and Zoë Quinn. “ENERGY: The Physics of Climate Change.” Building the World Blog, University of Massachusetts Boston. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2021/10/05/energy-physics-of-climate-change/

Earthshot Prize. https://earthshotprize.org/

Ryan, Hannah and Max Foster, “Winners of Prince Williams Earthshot environmental prize announced.” 18 October 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/16/uk/prince-william-earthshot-prize-intl-gbr/index.html

Takachar. https://www.takachar.com/

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

October 5, 2021
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ENERGY: Physics of Climate Change

“Nobel Prize Medal.” Photographer, Jonathunder. Wikimedia commons.

Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi “demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation,” stated the Nobel Prize Committee, when awarding the Nobel Prize for Physics 2021. Half of the prize went to Parisi for discovery of the “interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atoms to planetary scales,” while Manabe and Hasselmann split the other half. Manabe created one of the first climate models that revealed how carbon emissions warmed the planet, while Hasselmann showed that Manabe’s computer simulations could accurately predict the trends of climate change, even while weekly weather fluctuations were still variable. Parisi won for studies of the results produced when metals like iron or copper are mixed, revealing patterns. Parisi commented, when winning the Nobel Prize, that perhaps the Nobel Committee wanted to send the world a message about climate change: “I think it’s urgent. It’s clear that for the future generations we have to act now in a very fast way.” (Brumfiel 2021). Stefan Rahmstorg, climate modeler, stated “Physics-based climate models made it possible to predict the amount and pace of global warming, including some of the consequences like rising seas, increased extreme rainfall events and stronger hurricanes, decades before they could be observed.” (Keyton and Borenstein, 2021)

“Global warming” NASA 2016. Image: public domain, nasa.gov.

Recent weather proves the scientists right: in 2021, 36% of Americans, and many more worldwide, suffered severe effects of climate change through drought and fires, storms and floods. In a few weeks, the world will convene in Glasgow, Scotland for COP26, sequel to the Paris Agreement (COP21). Now it is time for action. What do you think are the highest priorities for climate?

Brumfiel, Geoff. “The Nobel Prize in physics honors work on climate change and complex systems.” 5 October 2021, NPR.org. https://www.npr.org/2021/10/05/1043278925/nobel-prize-physics-climate-change-winner

Hasselmann, Klaus. “Interview with Klaus Hasselmann” 2009. Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Climate Change. VIDEO https://youtu.be/uSfmKx2ylSc

Keyton, David and Seth Borenstein. “Physics Nobel rewards work on complex systems, like climate.” 5 October 2021. AP.com

Nobel Prize. https://www.nobelprize.org

Manabe, Syukuro and Richard T. Wetherald. “On the Distribution of Climate Change Resulting from an Increase in CO2 Content of the Atmosphere.” January 1980, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, Volume 37, pages 99 – 118.

Manabe, Syukuro. “Why this is happening” Interview upon receiving Nobel Prize in Physics 2021.” AUDIO. Telephone call interview with Manabe explaining the work. https://youtu.be/yt246IKVhr4

Parisi, Giorgio. “Statement on receiving Nobel Prize.” 5 October 2021. AUDIO interview. https://youtu.be/GE-qX8mwvuA

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 24, 2021
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WATER: Vertical Migration

“Every night, the largest biological migration takes place.” Image animation: “Diel Vertical Migration” by NASA, 2018. Public Domain.

Did you know the largest biological migration on Earth takes place – every night? It is called Diel Vertical Migration (DVM). This week, as the United Nations 76th General Assembly convened, leaders of over 100 nations attended in person. Speakers included presidents and policy-makers who addressed 12 commitments. But this year, there was additional representation: Nature. The message is one of growing awareness of the Rights of Nature. From the 1962 General Assembly Resolution 1803 (XVII) on “Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources” and the 1982 “World Charter for Nature” to the recognition of personhood rights of the Whanganui River of New Zealand in 2017, the rights of nature will grow in importance during climate change.

“Components of the Biological Pump” by Ducklow, Hugh W. et al., 2015. Image: wikimedia commons.

DVM acts as a biological pump, renewing oceans and lakes, in ways essential to the marine environment. Organisms move up to the top at night, and return to the bottom by day. Crustaceans commute; so do trout. In the process, conversion of C02, and inorganic nutrients, transfer zones. This cleansing and renewing system is one of the treasures of the marine cycle. By bringing attention to vertical migration, the United Nations may set the stage for COP 26 in Glasgow, November 2021, where environmental issues will be decided. Displayed on the night-cloaked facade of the United Nations iconic building, the film “Vertical Migration” brought awareness to the largest migration our world knows, and the importance of marine life in a sustainable, balanced future. View “Vertical Migration.”

Cavan, E.L., et al., “The importance of Antarctic krill in biogeochemical cycles.” 18 October 2019. Nature Communications 10, article number 4742 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12668-7.

Ducklow, Hugh W., et al., “Components of the Biological Pump.” https:tos.org/oceanography/article/upper-ocean-carbon-export-and-the-biological-pump.

Hill, M.N. Physical Oceanography. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

United Nations. “Policy Brief.” September 2021. http://sdg.iisd.org/commentary/policy-briefs/what-well-be-listening-for-at-unga-76/

United Nations. “Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources.” General Assembly Resolution 1803 (XVII) https://legal.un.org/avl/pdf/ha/ga_1803_ph_e.pdf

United Nations. “World Charter for Nature.” 1982. UN Document A/37/L.4, and ADD.2. https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/39295?LN=EN

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 16, 2021
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ENERGY: Jobs of the Future

Jobs of the Future will focus on renewable energy. Image: “Energy on the Grid,” by photographer Kenueone, 2016. Public Domain CC0 1.0. Original image: https://pixabay.com/electricity-sun-wind-1330214.

Born after 1996? Or 1981? You are 70% more likely to rate climate change as the top priority for your future (Pew Research Center 2021). Universities are responding, integrating climate and environmental studies into the curriculum. University of Massachusetts Boston founded the School for the Environment, as well as the Sustainable Solutions Lab and Stone Living Lab. MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI) founded in 2014 involves design, engineering, humanities, policy, science, social science, and technology. Harvard’s Center for the Environment (HUCE) offers research, policy, science, climate leaders program, and special events like “Literature for a Changing Planet.” University of Southern California inaugurated “Sustainability Across the Curriculum” weaving the environment into majors of  20,000 undergraduates.

“Shift Change at Clinton Engineering Works, Oak Ridge, TN, August 1945,” by Ed Westcott, US Army photographer. Public Domain. Over 82,000 people were employed. Energy jobs will dominate the future.

Upon graduation, a new generation will find the jobs of the future. Throughout history, great undertakings, like the Manhattan Project, Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric, attracted those seeking careers in new energy. Now, a similar surge in energy employment means you can do well by doing good: average pay for climate scientists is $73,230; environmental lawyers earn median salary of $122,960. Not all jobs require traditional degrees: urban farmers earn $71,160. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics/Guardian 2021).

“New Crops: Chicago Urban Farm,” by Linda N. Creative Commons CC 2.0. Wikimedia.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the transition to a global net zero energy system will see renewables like solar and wind power dominate, while bioenergy and carbon capture will develop innovative approaches. There are 400 milestones to guide development, with total annual energy investment of $5 trillion by 2030.

Education + Jobs = Health of the Planet. Graphic by Nevit Dilmen, 2011. Image: creative comons, public domain.

Climate change will cause an era of innovation more comprehensive than we have seen in the history of the world. Every field will be impacted; every field will see innovation. Rachel Larrivee, 23, Boston-based environmental consultant, says it well: “I’m in the first generation who knows the extent to which climate change poses an existential threat to life on Earth, and also the last generation who may be able to do anything about it.” (Lashbrook, 2021.)

International Energy Agency (IEA). “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector.” Report May 2021. https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050

Lashbrook, Angela. “‘No point in anything else:’ Gen Z members flock to climate careers. Colleges offer support as young people aim to devote their lives to battling the crisis.” 6 September 2021. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/06/gen-z-climate-chnage-careers-jobs

Pew Research Center, by Alec Tyson, Brian Kennedy, Cary Funk. “Gen Z, Millennials Stand Out for Climate Change Activism, Social Media Engagement With Issue.” May 2021. https://www.pewresearch.org/science/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2021/05/PS_2021.05.26_climate-and-generations_REPORT.pdf

Thanks to Yujin Asai of dotmeta.com for sharing this research.

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 9, 2021
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WATER: Foreseeing the Future

New Orleans in 1803. Image: “Under My Wings Everything Prospers” by J. L. Bouqueto de Woiseri. 1 January 1803. Public Domain. Image: wikimedia commons.

Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana, in August 2021, bringing severe wind and water. New Orleans was watching. After Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, the city built a flood-prevention system of gates, levees, pumps, and walls. Sixteen years later, almost to the day, Ida tested Katrina’s resilient infrastructure. The city emerged relatively unscathed( Hughes, 2021). But just 60 miles away, storm surge toppled the Lafourche Parish levee. Overwhelmed by floods, damaged sanitation and sewage systems threatened public health. The discrepancy between a prepared city and an unprotected town foretells the future of coastal communities in climate change.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused damage that resulted in the building of a storm protection system, tested by Hurricane Ida in 2021. Image: “Hurricane Katrina, 28 August, 2005” from NOAA. Public Domain.

It’s not just flooding. Even though New Orleans avoided Katrina’s flooding in Ida, there were other dire effects. Like power outages. Hundreds of thousands of people remained without electricity a week after the storm. Refrigerators were off, so were air-conditioners: in the 90 degree (F) heat, the situation was dangerous. Those who could escaped to nearby places with electricity for an “evacuation vacation.” Many were not so fortunate.

“Hurricane Ida at Landfall in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, 29 August 2021. Image: weather.gov. Public Domain.

Coastal communities face an uncertain yet certain future. By 2040, providing storm-surge systems like sea walls for American cities with populations greater than 25,000 is estimated to cost $42 billion – that would include New Orleans. But what about Lafourche Parish? Protecting smaller communities and towns would raise the cost to $400 billion. (Flavelle 2021). Protecting against flooding is only part of the problem, however: wind damage to above-ground electrical poles, wires, and transformers is cause for alarm. During Hurricane Ida, 902,000 customers lost power when 22,000 power poles; 26,000 spans of wire, and 5,261 transformers were damaged or lost – more than Katrina, Zeta, and Delta combined (Hauck 2021).

“Map illustrating areas of the Netherlands below sea level.” By Jan Arkestejin. Pubic Domain Image: wikimedia.

Even with abundant funding, infrastructure takes time to build. Storms, however, will not stop. While rebuilding more resilient storm barrier and electrical systems, communities may look to the Protective Dikes and Land Reclamation practices of The Netherlands as a case example of immediate resilient response. The Dike Army (Dycken Waren), composed of residents responding together in times of need, was part of the system. As Louisiana, and other areas significantly damaged by Hurricane Ida, consider how to rebuild, it may be time to call to arms a new kind of Dike Army, perhaps a regional Civilian Climate Conservation Corps (4C), to serve and protect coastal communities and habitats: both terrestrial and marine. Disaster response would be in addition to the goals of the Civilian Climate Corps proposal of the US in January 2021. The 4C’s motto is up for a vote: some want “For Sea” and some like “Foresee.” What’s your vote?

“CCC” pillow from CCC museum in Michigan, USA. Image: public domain.

Flavelle, Christopher. “With More Storms and Rising Seas, Which U.S. Cities Should Be Saved First?” 19 June 2019. The New York Times.

Hauck, Grace. “Week after Hurricane Ida’s landfall, hundreds of thousands still without power.” 5 September 2021. USA TODAY. https://wwwusatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/09/05/hurricane-ida-louisiana-residents-without-power-families-homeless/5740682001/

White House, Biden-Harris. “Civilian Climate Corps.” 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

August 20, 2021
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SPACE: Keeping an Eye on Climate Change

“Animation showing changes in Iris,” by Sagyxil, 6 February 2010. GNU open license. Image: wikimedia.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed our worst fears: the world may be losing the battle of climate. Some effects of global warming are permanent and irreversible, like sea-level rise. When the Greenland ice sheet melts, it will not refreeze. There are other effects that may ultimately reverse, but will take centuries to do so: oceanic acidification and deoxygenation, melting of permafrost, air pollution.

“Earth seen from Space,” by DLR: German Aerospace Center, 23 July 2012. Image: wikimedia.

It’s not all totally bad news: there may still be a window. The question is how to use our limited remaining time most wisely? According to Peter Huybers, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard: “There are notable opportunities to increase our rate of learning about the climate system by developing a constellation of satellites to monitor the flow of energy in and out of the Earth system. Another constellation of satellites could monitor greenhouse gas fluxes for purposes of better holding nations accountable for their emissions.” (Huybers and Mulcahy, 2021)

“Earth’s seasons, seen by satellite.” NASA.gov.

When Sputnik launched in 1957 and COMSAT followed in 1962 , we developed capability to see Earth as a whole, dynamic system.  Science fiction always depicted space as a place to explore, maybe to inhabit, perhaps even an exit strategy from a failing Earth. But space may turn out to be the place from which T.S. Eliot’s words might come true in a new way:

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

T. S. Eliot

Eliot, T. S. “Little Gidding,” from Four Quartets. Originally published in 1943.

Huybers, Peter and Christopher Mayer. “The Near-Term Impacts of Climate Change on Investors.” Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, Columbia University Business School. VIDEO: https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/video/videos/near-term-impacts-climate-change-investors-peter-huybers-and-christopher-mayer

Mulcahy, Ryan. “Climate scientist on UN report: Just as bad as we expected.” Interview with Peter Huybers. 12 August 2021. The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/08/climate-scientist-on-un-report-just-as-bad-as-we-expected/

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

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