SEWAGE WATER ANYONE? HOW TO DEAL WITH EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE PAGE8-9
METRO WORLD NEWS Tuesday, November 27, 2012
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Digging down the CO2
Experimental solution buries problem of carbon emissions. PAGE 6
Sheriff of the Oceans Enric Sala, pony-tailed Spaniard with a PhD in marine ecology, is on a mission to save world’s oceans. PAGE 4
First green horror movie Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson tackles the gruesome side of climate change. PAGE 11
Say goodbye to our feathered friends PAGE 7
HOMO CLIMATUS It’s happening. Our planet is getting warmer and it’s causing more and more climate disasters. Is there a way to live with climate change? PAGE S 2-3
www.metroworldnews.com Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Forested areas become drier and hotter. Heat extremes and drought also increase the probability of fires.
Earth’s atmosphere is warmer, moister, and more active. Storms are becoming more extreme and cause greater damage
Between 1951 and 1989 extreme heat anomalies affected less than 0.2% of the planet, while from 2006 to 2011 between 4% and 13% of the world experienced unusual heat.
DIRECTOR GENERAL WWF INTERNATIONAL @JIMLEAPE
hot very hot extremely hot
60% 40% 20% 0%
7 out of 10 most economically damaging wildfires in the last 30 years have happened since 2003
NO DATA AVALIABLE
DEATHS PER YEAR from air pollution, hunger and disease as a result of climate change and carbon-intensive economies
billion $ loss per year 2010
(Roughly the entire (Roughly the British economy) Canadian economy)
billion $ loss per year
TEMPERATURE IN °C
IT’S TIME FOR REAL LEADERS
DEATHS PER YEAR
million US dollars gain
SOURCE: NASA'S GODDARD INSTITUTE; HUMANITARIAN ORGANISATION DARA; GLOBAL DROUGHT MONITOR
COST OF CLIMATE CHANGE'S IMPACT ON PLANET
20 billion $ loss per year
DEATHS PER YEAR
8 out of 10 most economically damaging storms in the last 30 years have happened since 2004
5 of 10 most economically damaging floods in the last 30 years have happened in the last 10 years.
6 out of 10 most widespread droughts in the last 30 years have occurred since 2000.
IT’S GETTING EXTREME Welcome
IT’S GETTING EXTREME
FLOODS Heavy rainfall is on the rise. Also spring comes earlier and releases more water from mountains.
DROUGHT Planet’s temperatures reach new highs – droughts become more common and severe.
In other words, Rotterdam residents will soon be able to live in a floating neighborhood. Planning for even more floods, the Dutch city has also built a playground which can be converted to water storage. And, because levees have to be built higher as water levels rise, Rotterdam is building levees which double as shops. “Rotterdam is vulnerable to climate change,” concedes Oudkerk Pool. “But we want to use climate change to reinvent our city and make it more attractive.” Indeed, insists Aggarwala, climate change, with the exception of the ice-melt, isn’t scary: “But we have to mentally accept that it’s happening. And the good news is that when it comes to climate change, it’s better to live in a city than in the countryside. You’re more likely to have access to healthcare and information. And it’s easier to evacuate a city.”
Recent years have seen some of the most devastating weather disasters in our planet's history. Eight of the 10 most damaging climate disasters since 1900 have occurred since 2004, costing the world economies a staggering $320 billion. And the financial cost of climate disasters looks set to double from now until 2030.
Superstorm Sandy that hit New York in October cost 199 lives. /GETTY
These heat maps show places on our planet where the surface temperature is either warmer (yellows, reds), cooler (blues), or the same as (white) the climatological average. Colors speak for themselves: our polar regions are heating up at an incredible rate.
Climate change, that means rising sea levels, right? Indeed, it does – but that’s the change that’s the farthest away. “Other effects are more immediate. For example, as temperatures rise, subway systems will get hotter and many people will faint,” explains Rohit Aggarwala, Special Advisor to the Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. “Cities will have to provide cool water to their subway passengers.” Though most of us associate the effects of climate change with natural disasters in developing countries, it’s already affecting the industrialized world as well. “This year has shown that the environment in the industrialized world is different than it used to be,” notes Eliza-
beth Hadly, a professor of biology at Stanford University. “Lots of things are changing: habitats are going extinct, and so are species. Previous changes have happened over a much longer period of time. And it will impact our way of life.” Just as birds are already migrating further north to get food as temperatures rise, so will humans. That will put enormous pressure on countries’ borders and may lead to fundamental changes in immigration policies. But on the city level, smaller changes will go a long way. “Tropical diseases will spread as temperatures rise even in colder countries,” notes Aggarwala. “So cities may have to require residents to install window screens. And because floods are becoming more frequent, cities may require that electrical switches in people’s homes be moved from the basement to the top floor. And what about floods in subway systems? We’ll have to build waterproof signal systems.” Some cities have already devised ways to store climate change-induced floodwater, while others are preparing to raise their streets and houses. Rotterdam, situated below sea level, is at the forefront. “We’ve installed underground storage for floodwater in a public parking garage,” explains city planner Chantal Oudkerk Pool. “We also have a floating pavilion, which we plan to expand to a floating community.”
Earth. When Hurricane Sandy hit the US East Coast, even most strident global warming deniers were forced to rethink their position. And consider this: 90% of the world’s cities situated near a coast. Half of them are already experiencing climate change. How will our lives change as the climate changes?
EXTREME EARTH: WILDER DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE
IT’S NOT A WARNING, IT’S GLOBAL WARMING!
TEXT: MWN; GRAPHIC: MIA KORAB
This year, the world has been buffeted by weather extremes. Arctic sea ice reached record lows, droughts blistered the world’s grain-producing areas, and wheat, corn and soybean prices hit historic peaks. People suffered. This at a time when science is telling us that CO2 emissions are at their highest ever. Individually, we can play our part to make a difference by reducing our carbon footprint. But what we really need is global leadership and countries, not just people, making a difference. Governments will meet in Doha at the end of November 26 for another round of climate talks. What is important about Doha is that what is agreed there will become the foundation of a new global agreement on climate change by 2015. Leaders should ensure that this foundation is indeed a solid one. We can’t afford to lose our way now. The opportunity for change and real leadership is there if the world’s leaders are willing to take it. If we want to get off a catastrophic climate track and on track for a better, cleaner future, we need decisive, committed global leadership now. Doha must lay the basis for a fair, ambitious and binding agreement by 2015. There’s no longer any time for leaders to dither.
www.metroworldnews.com Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Picture-perfect coral, but has an expiry date
EXPLORER ENRIC SALA Call him the Sheriff of the Oceans. Enric Sala, a pony-tailed Spaniard with a PhD in marine ecology, spends his time exploring the world’s oceans – and documenting the harm we humans are doing to them. It’s an urgent mission: if we don’t act to stop climate change, by 2050 most of the oceans’ fish will be dead. Sala, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, just returned from a diving expedition off the coast of Gabon.
“FISH WILL BE GONE BEFORE YOU DIE” When you dive, do you think about the beauty of the ocean or the damage humans have done to it? I grew up watching the documentaries by Jacques Cousteau that showed the oceans’ amazing richness on TV. But when I started diving off the coasts of Spain, I saw nothing. Then, when I dived for the first time in a marine reserve, where fishing is prohibited, I saw an amazing abundance of marine life. I was 18 then, and I realized, “Wow, the entire sea must have been like this!” I’ve gone to many places that have been degraded, and it’s depressing. You see how much we’ve taken from oceans. But still I have a sense of hope. I know that in marine reserves life can return spectacularly. Coral reefs are in danger due to climate change. Is there any hope they’ll survive? Yes, coral reefs have been hit in many ways: by ocean acidification, overfishing and indirectly by climate change. We’ll have coral reefs in the future, but they’ll be very rare and very, very different and much less productive than today. They’ll have much less corals and much less diversity
than now. Today the coral reefs are like forests; in the future they’ll be like a collection of bushes. Do you see any hope for the coral reefs, or do we have to watch helplessly as they go from forests to scraggly bushes? I’m not very optimistic, but we can try to preserve as much as possible. In the past 10 years we’ve been working on pristine reefs off remote islands. These reefs are more resilient to global warming than reefs where there’s pollution and fishing. We’re able to create large marine reserves that could be similarly resilient. That will help us buffer some of the impact of global warming. What’s the biggest threat to ocean ecosystems: overfishing or climate change? We have several factors: overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution, climate change and invasive species. Overfishing came first and had the strongest impact, then came pollution, then invasive species and finally global warming. Now they’re all active at the same time, but global warming will be
“We’ll have coral reefs in the future, but they’ll be very rare and very different. Today coral reefs are like forests; in the future they’ll be more like bushes.” Enric Sala, Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic
Sheriff of the Oceans on his patrol. /ZAFER KIZILKAYA
the overwhelming threat in the future, simply because the climate is still getting warmer. But the overfishing is a huge problem. People treat oceans like a checking account where you can just keep withdrawing money but nobody makes a deposit. We have to treat the oceans as a savings account, where you have a principal
that you set aside. Then, when life comes back, as it has in the marine reserves, it will benefit everyone. Can marine reserves save our oceans, or are they essentially a Band-Aid plaster? Right now they’re the best and most cost-effective way we have of buying time. While we
try to mitigate climate change and greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, the best thing we can do is to remove all ocean disturbances by humans. So, marine reserves are more like insurance than a Band-Aid. So do we need to significantly expand the marine reserves to make difference when it comes to climate change? Absolutely! Right now only 1% of the world’s oceans are protected areas, and only a fraction of that one percent are reserves with no fishing. Scientific studies suggest that at least 20% of the oceans need to be protected to make a difference. So we have a long way to go. Are there any countries that are playing a positive role in creating and maintaining marine reserves? Yes, the United States, Australia and New Zealand have many, many large reserves that work well. But most countries that have marine reserves only have small ones, and there are also many countries with no reserves at all. The median size of a marine reserve right now is only five square kilometers.
ENRIC SALA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Climate change report
Global warming destroys our reefs
There’s a famous doomsday clock that shows how close we’re to nuclear disaster. How close are we to the doomsday of oceans? For some species we’re already beyond the tipping point. For most sharks, for example, it’s too late to bring them back. In the past 100 years we’ve killed more than 90% of them. Because of the ongoing climate change, it’s difficult to predict when an ocean doomsday will occur, but will happen in this century. The first step is when the large fish are gone. Then the coral reefs will degrade and die. At some point the microbes take over. If things continue the way they’re today, by 2050, most of the fishes of the world will be gone. Is there a particular diving expedition area that stands out in your mind? Yes, Line Islands. They belong to the Republic of Kiribati in the South Pacific. It’s the most pristine archipelago in the Pacific. It’s like a time machine, like going back 500 years.
ELISABETH BRAW @elisabethbraw
This pristine reef near Malden Island in the South Pacific paints a pretty picture but in a not-toodistant future it could be a complete wreck. Around 70 percent of corals are expected to suffer from long-term degradation by 2030, even if tough emission cuts are put in place, a new report says. MWN
“The window of opportunity to preserve the majority of coral reefs, part of the world’s natural heritage, is small.” Dr. Malte Meinshausen, researcher at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and co-author of the report, published in the journal Nature Climate Change in September
Caribbean coral in crisis
Temperature limit to preserve corals Predictions suggest that carbon dioxide emissions will push the world’s average temperature up 2 degrees Celsius by the middle of the century. But this report’s researchers recommend in order to protect half of reefs, temperature rise must be under 1.5 degrees. Warmer temperatures can spark mass coral bleaching, which weakens the reef’s composition. MWN
per cent of the Caribbean reef area shows live coral cover, research by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in September points to the critical state of one of the world’s most beautiful and fecund ecosystems. The decline of the reefs has been very fast: in the 1970s, more than 50% showed live coral cover.
Things heat up at the Kingman Reef in the South Pacific: temperatures there have climbed from average 26.5 degrees Celsius (1900) to 28.3 degrees (2012). /ENRIC SALA
www.metroworldnews.com Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Our enormous CO2 emissions have caused climate change, and things are getting worse. But new technology could literally bury the problem – by pumping the carbon dioxide into basaltic rocks, where it slowly becomes part of the rock. Each city could have its own CO2-pumping plant. But it’s expensive, and consumes huge amounts of energy. ELISABETH BRAW Metro World News
Carbon is captured. Filters in factories and power plants
How is CO2 captured?
Reykyavik Energy, like most power companies, has a CO2 filter. Energy generation accounts for 25% of carbon emissions. But capturing carbon from transport is much harder.
Transported to storage. Safe but costly
Carbon is sent to storage site through pipelines. Reykyavik Energy chooses C02-and-water mix.
Pumped into rock. Faster version of age-old natural process
Carbon can also be mixed with water, which simplifies pumping but requires more energy due to the larger volume. Rock naturally absorbs carbon dioxide, but the process is one million times too slow for current CO2 emissions.
CO2 turns into rock. The process takes an estimated 10 years
But the drilling method is still in an experimental stage. And with the world now emitting over 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, drilling will only be able to dispose of a fraction of the emissions.
2 How to put CO2 on the rocks ... Just by burying it Outside Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital, a machine is mixing what looks like sparkling water. But the liquid is not for consumption. It will promptly be pumped into the ground, where it will turn into minerals. The pilot project could the answer to the world’s CO2 problem. “We dissolve CO2 into water and then inject into basaltic rock,” explains Dr. Juerg Matter, a geochemist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York and an adviser to the Reykjavik project. “If you inject CO2 into basaltic rock there’s a chemical reaction. The CO2 mineralizes and will never seep out.” Until now, companies have
tried to dispose of CO2 by injecting it into porous CO2 like limestone, but there’s always a risk that the gas will seep out again. Instead Reykjavik Energy, which runs the Reykjavik pilot project, now pumps its CO2-and-water mix into basaltic rock on the outskirts of the city. “We project that the CO2 solution will look like rock in 10 years,” says Edda Sif Aradottir, Reykjavik Energy’s project manager. “We’ve carried out tests to see if the carbon injections contaminate the water, but there have been no signs of leakage. I’m surprised no other companies are doing this, because it’s much safer than other methods of CO2
disposal.” But that may soon change. “There’s enough basaltic rock in the ground to store our CO2,” explains Professor Martin Blunt, Director of the Carbon Capture and Storage Network, Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College, London. “Basaltic rock absorbing CO2 is a natural process that occurs anyway.” The problem? “The natural process is one million times too slow, considering the amount of emissions we produce,” says Blunt. “Pumping CO2 into the rocks is faster, but it requires a lot of energy. And capturing our carbon emissions is hard.” Dr. Peter McGrail, a geo-
“CO2 storage not solution” STEPHANIE TUNMORE
CO2 analyst, Greenpeace
Injecting CO2 into rocks: is it the perfect solution? No. One reason is timing. Scientists estimate that we can
scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, leads a team planning to inject CO2 into basaltic rock 1,000 meter deep into the Columbia Plateau. Unlike Reykyavik Energy, McGrail’s team will only inject CO2. This year McGrail and his team will pump up to 1,000 tons of the compound into the ground, but the average American produces 50 tons per year. “There’s no business model right now that could make this work on a large scale,” he says. But Juerg Matter remains optimistic. “Nature is showing us how to store CO2. We just have to speed up the process.” Carbon footprint
have carbon dioxide injection up and running on a large scale in the second half of this century. But in order to stop Earth from warming, we need to dramatically cut CO2 within the next 20 years. CO2 injection is also very expensive, and the compound can lead to water acidification. And there are liability issues. Who’s responsible if anything goes wrong in the CO2 storage? And the storage sites will have
to be monitored for decades. What is the best solution? Renewable energy and cutting emissions. CO2 storage can be used for emergencies, but suggesting it’s a general solution takes attention away from the need to limit carbon emissions. The industry loves the idea of injecting CO2 into rock because it allows them to carry on as usual.
YEARLY CO2 RATE PER CAPITA IN US
YEARLY CO2 RATE PER CAPITA IN CHINA
Bye bye, birdies. We’re gonna miss you so. Why’d you have to go? Birds. They are now quite literally the canaries in our global mineshaft. Climate change is already affecting them – and it is an indicator of what will happen to us.
result of climate change, the timing of spring migration for Arctic breeding songbirds may no longer jive with when their food supply is being served up. “They migrate northward based mainly on changes in day length,” explains Natalie Boelman, a research professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University who is conducting research on songbirds and climate change. “As spring time starts earlier now, plants start growing earlier, and it may be that insects are emerging and becoming abundant earlier. As a result, by the time that Arctic breeding songbirds have chicks to feed, most of the insects they planned on feeding the nestlings may be gone.”
Ah, beautiful Sunday morning: the sun shining, birds singing. Hang on: the birds may not be singing. In fact, they may not be there. “Global warming has already changed birds’ lives,” says Ted Cheskey, Manager of Bird Conservation at Nature Canada. As springtime in the Arctic comes earlier and earlier as a
Due to global warming Canada geese must re-schedule her winter holiday plans. / CHRIS SUTTON
Nature’s increasingly confusing weather patterns are no longer predictable, and this is changing birds’ egg-laying dates in places where spring temperatures are increasingly warmer. “Due to climate change it could be that we won’t see some of the birds we’re used to in our backyards,” notes Boelman. With fewer, or no birds, to catch insects, insect populations will burgeon, with mosquitoes pestering humans, moth larvae eating tree leaves, and bugs ruining crops. Without songbirds, fewer plants will be pollinated. In Canada, 95% of the birds that eat flying insects have disappeared in the past 40 years. The remaining 5% have to work extremely hard, but even finding a mate presents a challenge.
There’s some good news, though: “The species that live among humans are more adaptable than other bird species,” says Cheskey. “Some are even benefitting from global warming. In Southern Canada we have warmer winters than 50 years ago, so ducks and geese don’t have to leave anymore.” In fact, Northern Europeans may see more bird species in their backyards. And, some songbirds living in colder climates find their habitats increasing in size as temperature rise is causing landscapes surrounding their current habitat to become more favorable for foraging and breeding. As a result, several songbirds are able to migrate farther northward than they have in the past. But to adapt to climate
change, we will have to help birds. Hundreds of thousands are already doing so, trekking around nature to document birds and their habits. “Because climate change is affecting birds, citizen researchers are more needed, and more people are becoming interested in observing the birds,” notes Susan Keeton, Project Officer at Britain’s Exploring Your Environment (EYE). “Join your local citizen scientist group,” advises Cheskey. “You’re doing science and the birds a great service by watching the birds in your area. It’s a fun activity, too, and it connects you to the big world out there.”
ELISABETH BRAW @elisabethbraw
CLIMATE CHANGE SINGS SWANSONG FOR OUR BIRDS Climate change has disrupted birds’ migratory paths, feeding nests and breeding grounds. We travel the globe to see the plight of some of our feathered friends.
GRAPHIC: MIA KORAB TEXT: ANTHONY JOHNSTON; MWN
BIRDS ACROSS EUROPE IN TERMINAL DECLINE
E CAPECAILLI TH E
90% 90 per cent drop in sooty shearwater population in the California Current off North America’s west coast through to the mid-1990s.
1,000 per cent decline in capercaillie numbers in the UK (from 10,000 birds in the 1970s to 1,000 birds in the late 1990s).
THE EMPEROR PENGUIN
Melting sea ice means reduced production of krill (a shrimp-like animal penguins eat), which in turn feeds on plankton, tiny organisms that grow on underside of ice.
LY IED F CATCHE EP
72 per cent projected decline in duck numbers in USA by 2060. Experts predict this drop due to CO2 doubling and a 2.5 degree Celsius rise.
Warming sea temperatures means: Sea ice melts (penguins' habitat is destroyed)
decline in Emperor penguins on Terre Adélie, Antarctica since the 1970s due to retreating ice and increasing snowfall in response to climate warming.
OTY SHEARW SO A R TE
This year's report by Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme shows a steep drop in bird numbers between 1980 and 2009.
ERIAN CRANE SIB
90 per cent decline of nine pied flycatcher populations in Holland from 1987 to 2003.
70 per cent drop in the bird's habitat due to global warming.
Penguin population will further decline 2012: 2100:
3,000 2,000 1960
82% 69% 67%
SOURCES: EMPEROR PENGUINS & CLIMATE CHANGE (NATURE, 2001), 'BIRD SPECIES AND CLIMATE CHANGE' REPORT (2012), WWF, PECBMS
How climate change affects birds
Temperature rising. Carbon dioxide emissions will push the world’s average temperature up 2 degrees Celsius by 2052, and 2.8 degrees by 2080.
Flora and fauna come alive too early. As a result, spring and summer are occurring earlier: this disrupts the biological clocks of species and changes in them do not correspond with their usual activities of reproduction and habitation.
Insects, birds’ food source, die off earlier. Because they are born earlier, insects die off sooner – and this is a problem with bug-eating birds. Natalie Boelman, a researcher on songbirds and climate change at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Canada, explains to Metro: “As spring time
starts earlier now, plants start growing earlier, and it may be that insects are emerging and becoming abundant earlier. As a result, by the time that Arctic breeding songbirds have chicks to feed, most of the insects they planned on feeding the nestlings may be gone.”
Bird numbers depleted. As a result of nature’s imbalance, without their food source birds die. In Canada alone, 95% of all flyinginsect-eating birds have disappeared in the past 40 years.
Insect infestations can ruin crops. With fewer, or no birds, to catch insects, insect populations will burgeon, with mosquitoes pestering humans, moth larvae eating tree leaves, and bugs ruining crops. MWN
Bird lovers’ call to action: Saving a chimney will save a chimney swift Chimney swifts used to build their nests in tall trees. Then, when industrialization brought more chimneys, they moved their nests there. “But now their chimneys are disappearing, too,” notes Ted Cheskey. Bird lovers have a new mission: saving chimneys – and thus the chimney swifts. Birdwatchers investigate old chimneys, and if chimney swifts dwell there, they lobby to leave the chimney untouched. “If you hear bird sounds in your own chimney, consider yourself lucky: chimney swifts, an endangered species, have se-
“If you hear a bird in your chimney, consider yourself lucky: endangered chimney swifts have selected it to raise their babies.” Ted Cheskey, Ecologist at Nature Canada
lected it to raise their babies,” says Cheskey. They’ll leave before the fall. Make sure you don’t use your fireplace while they’re in the chimney – you’ll kill them. MWN
“Birds can’t fix climate change” ESA LEHIKOINEN
Lecturer of Ecology, University of Turku, Finland
How will birds be affected as climate change worsens? Fast climate change is a turbulent phenomenon that birds have great difficulty coping with. It’s almost certain that many species and local populations will meet bottleneck periods if the climate change worsens. But
there will be winners, too, at least from a local point of view. For example, there are predictions that bird species diversity will increase in Northern Europe while the opposite will happen further south. What can we do to help the birds? We have to find efficient means of reducing human sources of climate warming, and we need to find efficient ways to mitigate climate change effects. These acts will help birds as well. Unless we do this, the birds’ loss of habitat could become a big problem in many countries. ELISABETH BRAW
www.metroworldnews.com Tuesday, November 27, 2012
CITIES START ADAPTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Due to climate change, many Cities soon could disappear under the rising level of seawater: among them are Kristianstad, a small Swedish town, and Singapore, the Asian city state. Metro looks at their creative approaches to climate change adaptation. ELISABETH BRAW Metro World News
Kristianstad, Sweden, is tackling the rising water levels by surrounding the city with embankments that double as bike paths and promenades.
Kristianstad. One Swedish city is already tackling the reality we’ll all face as climate change continues: rising water levels.
Kristianstad, a charming Swedish town of 36,000, features a new promenade along the city canal. Some residents read books on the park benches, while others ride by on their bikes. There’s even modern art to enhance the experience. Welcome to climate change adaptation. “The floodings have become more frequent in the past 10 years, and the old embankments are no longer good enough,” explains Hans-Åke Ström, the city’s chief engineer. “We have to plan for more than twice as much water as in the past.” As the climate changes, sea levels will rise, and cities around the world will face the same situation as Kristianstad. “Climate change adaptation has to be built into the strategy the way it is in Kristianstad,” explains
Kristianstad’s museum on stilts, surrounded by water. /ELISABETH BRAW
Åse Johannessen, a research fellow at the Stockholm Environmental Institute. “As water levels rise, it will be more and more difficult to make the water flow away, so cities have to decide whether they want to live with water, or shut it out. But shutting the water out is very risky. It’s better to adapt and live with water, to avoid creating vulnerable systems that can lead to disasters when the barriers break.” Though they look like part of the topography, Kristianstad’s embankments now surround the city’s residential areas. Indeed, city officials
make a virtue of necessity by disguising the embankments as promenades or bike trails, even using garbage in the dam construction. “We’re building embankments that will protect us for the next 100 years,” explains Michael Dahlman, the engineer in charge of forecasting the city’s floodings. “Without new embankments the entire city will be flooded. We’ll survive for another 100 years even if the most pessimistic predictions come true. If things get even worse, well, then almost every city in the world will have a problem.” By the year 2100, water
levels around Kristianstad will rise by 1.6 meters – if the world sticks to its CO2 reduction commitments. There’s no doubt that Kristianstad will be flooded. Dahlman’s team has designated the city park as a gigantic water-storage area, and the hospital has moved sensitive equipment from the ground floor. But the barrier strategy is not without controversy. “People start to feel strange behind embankments, and it’s also perilous to build a fragile system behind an embankment,” notes Johannessen. “Other cities may choose to live with the water instead if keeping it out.” Such solutions would include houses on stilts. Kristianstad already has such a building, a new museum that encourages visitors to embrace their increasingly water-filled lives. “We now call ourselves the Water Kingdom,” explains Kristianstad’s information officer, Eva Mårtensson. “We use water to attract tourists, with companies offering things like mosquito safaris, and our university has started specializing in water security. Climate change is here to stay, so we have to turn it into something positive.” Farming
“We must adapt” PROF. WILLIAM SOLECKI
CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities, Hunter College
What’s the greatest change we’ll see in cities? Increased floodings, and floodings further inland. In the developed world most cities near the coast have infrastructure designed to
protect low-lying areas from floodings, but flood maps have to be updated, and cities inland need protection. And the infrastructure? It’s in locations that are accessible but not in the way of residents; highways are often located in wetlands, and airports are built in lowlying locations. For practical reasons sewage and water plants are located by the water’s edge. A city like Miami faces the challenge that it’s
located at sea level. No city will say, “We should cease to exist”. Look at Venice. How can cities protect themselves? Property owners are already starting to adapt their building to rising sea levels. For example, the machines in buildings are usually located in the basement. They can’t withstand seawater, so owners have to insulate their basements or move the machines to a higher floor.
Better beef Until recently, the floodprone farmland outside Kristianstad was considered useless because it produced lean meat. Now lean meat is all the rage. “The river often overflows,” explains local farmer Ulf Börjesson. “The water in the river brings nutrients, so it’s good for me as my cows graze on those fields.”
“Chance for cities” MATTHIAS RUTH
Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University, Boston; co-editor in chief, Urban Climate
Singapore is considered a leader in climate change adaptation. Why? It has elevated climate change adaptation to the national level. Singapore now has a Climate Change Secretariat that reports directly to the Prime Minister. No other country has that. They’ve also looked seriously at transportation, dramatically raising the cost of driving. As a result, people use public transport. They’re addressing species diversity and installing green walls and roofs. And they’re the global leader when it comes to water reuse with their NEWater.
Want this tasty sewage water? Singapore’s pioneering NEWater system recycles sewage water for drinking use. / SALLY TOH
Singapore’s futuristic climate change adaptation
Singapore. Located on the coastline. Hot, humid and densely populated. Singapore is tackling climate change head-on.
“We try to collect every drop of water that falls from the sky and every drop of water you use,” declares George Madhavan, Director of the 3P Network Department at PUB, Singapore’s national water agency. Singapore now collects nearly all the water its
residents use and recycles it. It does so because of climate change. “We had to build water resilience,” explains Madhavan. “Now our water supply isn’t dependent on the weather, but on technology.” The system, called NEWater, takes water from the sewage system. On top of the sewage treatment facilities the PUB has built water factories, where the water is filtered and irradiated. Singapore isn’t alone
in recycling water, but no country has taken water recycling to these lengths. “Cleaning the water rather than relying on nature to do it is a good thing,” notes David Santillo, a water researcher at Greenpeace. But, he cautions, NEWater is no silver bullet: “We have to limit our water consumption as well. And cleaning greywater requires a lot of energy, which in turn contributes to climate change.”
Today NEWater accounts for 30% of Singapore’s water supply; by 2050, the figure will rise to 50%. While recycled water is mainly used in factories it’s also potable. PUB regularly hands out NEWater bottles at public events. Because most of its minerals have been removed, NEWater tastes flatter than regular water. “But it’s unlikely that using filtered water like this will impact on a person’s micronutrient status,” says Sara Stanner, a
nutritionist with the Nutrition Society in Britain. “The mineral content in tap water is generally low. One cup of tap water provides less than 1% of our recommended daily intake of calcium and magnesium.” When a drought hits, PUB says NEWater will be able to keep the country’s water supply going. And, notes Madhavan, NEWater is always handy: “Because lacks minerals it’s very good with whisky. It doesn’t spoil the taste.”
What can other cities and countries learn from Singapore? Cities have a double climate change issue to tackle: their own climate change, which includes urban heat islands, and the global climate change that affects us all. Singapore has developed a safe, hospitable and social system in which they can become really efficient. Other cities need to become as efficient in how they use their space. And there’s lots to learn from NEWater. At first Singaporeans had some apprehension about drinking used water, but that’s changing. Do cities have an advantage over rural areas in climate change adaptation? Yes. They’re disproportionately exposed to climate change, but they’re also the social, financial and cultural capitals. If you can figure out a solution for such a city you can easily translate it to rural areas.
Green islands Due to the heat island effect, the annual mean air temperature of a city with one million people or more can be 1–3°C warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can rise to 22°F (12°C). “And climate change will exacerbate the urban heat island problems,” says Prof. Wong Nyuk Hien, an urban climate expert at the National University of Singapore. “Land is sparse here, and because of urbanization temperatures keep rising, which is a problem for public health and comfort.” Urban planners could place air-conditioners around the city, but that would use large amounts of energy. Now Singapore is instead focusing on a new solution, green islands. “You can make the city cooler by planting small green areas,” explains Prof. Wong. “Green walls and roofgardens absorb heat, too. The government is doing a lot to promote these concepts among Singapore residents.” Man-made islands
New man’s land Too many people want to live in Singapore. As a result, the country builds islands off its shore. “But by the end of this century, sea levels are expected to rise by 24-65 centimeters,” says Dr. Pavel Tkalich, Head of Singapore’s Physical Oceanography Research Laboratory. “One of the effects is that the islands will have to be taller. From now on, building companies have to add half a meter.”
www.metroworldnews.com Tuesday, November 27, 2012
This planned park in Rotterdam can be used for water storage... /DE URBANISTEN
...and during sunshine it looks like any other park./DE URBANISTEN
A plaza, also planned in Rotterdam, has underground water storage. /DE URBANISTEN
Reinventing water Innovation. Climate change affects water, too. Scientists and cities are developing innovative ways of keeping our taps filled with healthy H2O. First terrible floods, then no water at all: climate change is wreaking havoc on our water supply. That will change the way we get drinking water. “Pollution increases with climate change, which makes the water dirtier,” notes Dr. Mats Eriksson, Director for Water and Climate Change Adaptation at the Stockholm International Water Institute. “And floodwater gets contaminated because it pulls all kinds of things along. That, too, will contaminate our water supply.” Our drinking water will also be affected as rising sea levels intrude into aquifers and blend with potable water, while soil erosion caused by climate change will cause water pipes to crack. And, with floodwater polluting the water supply, we may all get sicker. “We’ll still have enough water,” insists Glenn Daigger, Chief Technology Officer at the International Water Association. “The big issue is whether the utilities will be properly funded so that they can improve water management.”
How to avoid Waterworld becoming true
Climate change causes more floods and a broader range of temperatures. High rain and temperatures leads to dirtier water. The higher temperatures cause increased microbial growth in the water. Traditional water treatment methods like chlorine are not enough.
Populations that rely on surface water for potable use are especially susceptible to chemical and microbial pollution of the source water.
That’s not an abstract concern: even short-term water shortages decrease a country’s GDP by an estimated 2-3%. Some cities are already tackling the problem. Singapore recently introduced a system that captures water from many different sources, including sewage, and recycles it for private homes and industrial use. “In Holland the mentality has always been to build taller, stronger dikes,” explains Andrew Segrave at the KWR Watercycle Research Institute in the Netherlands. “But now the authorities have realized there will be so much water that it won’t work. Instead they’ll store floodwater in public areas like parking garages and city parks.”
Wastewater treatment plants also will need to be equipped to handle more extreme flows.
Disinfecting excess wastewater flows with chlorine will not be adequate and could potentially worsen health risks. Ultraviolet radiation disinfection of drinking water is an alternative. Unlike chlorine, UV induces changes to the genetic information stored in the cell.
Other potential solutions include distributed, decentralized water networks of interconnected nodes.
But as climate change increases, cities in the developed world will have to turn to more futuristic technologies. “As temperatures rise, so does microbal activity,” says Kartik Chandran, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering at Columbia University in New York. “As a result, organic matter like algae spreads in the water, so we’ll need quick sensors to detect it. And when this organic matter interacts with the chlorine that’s used to purify water it may become carcinogenic.” Faced with such dangers, many major cities are already moving away from chlorine; instead they use ultraviolet radiation to purify their water. That
Rotterdam’s floating pavilion, built for rising water levels. /DE URBANISTEN
method stands to become more common in the future. And researchers are developing even more advanced – and expensive – solutions to purify our increasingly hard-to-clean water. Cities, in turn, are trying to find innovative ways to capture floodwater that can be used during drought spells. “Change can’t just happen in the water plants,” notes Chandran. “City buildings could be used as buffer spaces for storage. And we’ll have to follow weather reports more closely than ever before in order to take action.”
ELISABETH BRAW @elisabethbraw
11 Climate change in Hollywood
Julia Roberts as Erin.
The money behind Green Cinema
BARRY LEVINSON Oscar winner Barry Levinson, the director of “Rain Man”, has made the “Paranormal Activity” of environmental movies. Get ready to be scared by “The Bay.”
THE FIRST ECO-HORROR MOVIE On July 4, 2009, tiny monsters popped out of the Chesapeake Bay near Washington D.C. and horrifically killed innocent people, leaving them battered, bloodied and infected. True story? No, but new movie “The Bay” pretends to be one, filmed in found footage style à la “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity.” Hidden inside is an environmental message: our waters are toxic. Oscarwinner Barry Levinson created the film, leading us to ask: A found footage movie seems a strange choice for an Oscar winner. What made you want to do it? Well, I would not have thought to do a movie like this. It was an evolution. I was approached by the people in Maryland to do a documentary about the Chesapeake Bay because it’s 40 percent dead. I looked into it, I found out that PBS had done a documentary that was terrific,
Where to find it? “The Bay” is on iTunes www.thebay-movie.com
it adds the credibility.
“I’ll never swim in the bay again”: movie still of an infested patient. / LIONSGATE
but ultimately nobody really responded or cared or thought that we ought to do something about this largest estuary in the US that’s 40 percent dead, filled with a toxic soup. Then a couple of weeks later I thought, maybe what you need to do is if you took all the facts and you pulled it into a storytelling and you create characters, maybe
the facts will become more frightening to us. Is that the movie equivalent of sneaking medication into someone’s dessert? The information becomes vital to the storytelling. It becomes one and the same, it’s connective that way. And so, I think it adds to the experience because
What are some of the conditions in the movie that come from those facts? Well, take the drinking water. We know the filtration systems in the United States are basically D-rated. That’s what they say, it met the standards. It’s substandard, but it met the standards. We know our water quality is a D-minus. And we go, “Well that’s good enough.” What about the monsters in the film? They’re really isopods, they do exist. They’re not in the Chesapeake Bay at this point in time, but they’re in the Atlantic, right there. In fact, in the scene
where the oceanographer holds one up to the camera and says, “This is sea lice”, that’s not a CGI shot. That’s a fish that has sea lice on it in South Carolina where we were filming. We’ve got a lot of stuff that’s got a reality base to it that I think makes it even scarier. Are there any efforts now to correct the situation in the Chesapeake Bay? They say there are efforts to fix it. You could correct the damage if you put a real effort forward. Now they’re doing some work, so I won’t say they’re not doing anything. But they’re not doing what you have to do. You’ve got to be in an emergency mode. And I mean it’s all doable. You can correct it. It’s just, “Do you have the will to want to do it or not?”
Hollywood is filled with activists behind a good cause, especially the environment. But the history of ‘Green Cinema’ has had a spotty track record. It often works best when the environmental message is inherent to the story, especially if the movie is based on actual events, like “Erin Brockovich” or last year’s “Big Miracle”, about one Alaska town’s efforts to free a family of whales. And a fictional movie can take its cues from real life, as in Richard Linklater’s “Fast Food Nation”, about the horrors of MickeyD’s. Hollywood triumphs when it mixes a eco message into mainstream entertainment, like James Cameron’s “Avatar” (biggest movie ever), disaster flick “The Day After Tomorrow” (a smash) or Pixar’s adorable “Wall-E” (made $520 million worldwide). This year, director Barry Levinson tries using a gore-filled horror movie “The Bay.” Made for a small sum, it’ll probably make back its money. There’s often no substitute for the truth, and ecothemed documentaries are a long and proud tradition: famous ones include Al Gore’s Oscar-winning “An Inconvenient Truth” and Brazilian movie on making art from Earth’s largest landfill “Waste Land”. Meanwhile, Gus Van Sant’s “Promised Land” on controversial hydraulic drilling (“fracking”) is out next month and in time for Oscar consideration. But will it be a hit or a flop? NED EHRBAR Quote
Hollywood is really at its best when it mixes a green message into an otherwise mainstream piece of entertainment, like James Cameron’s massive “Avatar” (the biggest movie ever).
Metro World News
Green Heroes and Zeroes Hero
The Brazilian model was named the Best Green International Celebrity at last year’s Green Awards, and since 2009 is UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador.
The US actress-activist has been arrested while on protest for eco groups. A vegan and the driver of a biodiesel car, Hannah records video blogs on sustainability.
Green on screen (as Hulk in “The Avengers”), green in life, the US actor stopped by Metro’s New York office for Earth Day last year to guestedit the newspaper.
Airmiles addict diva is famous for an overindulgence of her private jet. She’s even been known to fly a personal trainer into New York just for a workout.
His passion for aviation leaves a hefty carbon footprint. One group estimated that the actor’s hobby generates an average of 800 tons of carbon emissions a year.
The US country music star warrants a mention for no other reason than releasing the song “Red Solo Cup”, which celebrates the popular plastic drinking vessel. NED EHRBAR
www.metroworldnews.com Tuesday, November 27, 2012
From fashion to farming, we take a look at the latest eco-friendly gear and gadgetry.
1 Solar-powered Internet School Samsung has started this high-tech education initiative in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan, with the goal of reaching 2.5 million students across Africa by 2015. Access to electricity is sometimes an issue for
Solar Powered Tractor A tractor that doesn’t run on gasoline and doesn’t pollute the atmosphere can especially be useful in communities where high fuel costs can interfere with food production. The Community Farm of Ann Arbor, in Michigan, USA, is working on converting gasoline-powered
5 Metro World News
students in these areas. Being able to use devices that are only reliant on the sun and that can be synced over many networks for collaborative learning not only shrinks costs but also lowers the barrier to getting a good education.
tractors to ones that run on solar electricity. Ideally, they want to be able to provide all the energy for their operation themselves, and they hope to teach others how to be less reliant on fossil fuels by coming up with new devices and techniques. As of June 2012, they used their tractor for the third season and have had no electrical issues.
new green technologies Recycled Jeans Who said you have to look like a hippie to be environmentally conscious? The Levi’s brand is offering a new denim line, Waste<Less, that will include a minimum of 20 percent post-consumer recycled content. But it’s not just recycled fabrics that they’re using: each pair of jeans will contain on average eight half-a-liter plastic bottles. Other recycled items that will be used include PET plastic, or polyethylene terephthalate materials, so your brown beer bottles, green soda bottles, clear water bottles and black food trays will make it into your pants.
Virus-powered energy Get an STD and save the world? Not exactly. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California have created viruses that, when combined with an electrode and tapped, can provide
4 Kid’s Playhouse
Start your children’s green lifestyle early with a playhouse made completely without materials manufactured with fossil fuels. The Kidshouse was created in the Science Center at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and is made from natural materials, including compressed
enough energy to power a liquid-crystal display. (Don’t worry: these harmless viruses won’t make you sick.) The viruses convert motion into electrical charges, and hopefully one day will be able to power your phone just by harnessing the constant movement that you make.
straw (the paneling), vegetables (waterproof roofing) and potato peel (electric sockets). Posters inside the house teach children about the origin of fossil fuels and about fuel alternatives. And the best part? When your kid has become too old for the house, you can take the thing apart and send it to the compost heap.