We are now into week seven of “Climate Change – Challenges and Solutions” and this week we examined the possibilities and options for mitigation and adaptation. On the mitigation front, having seen the pitfalls of geoengineering solutions looming large on the horizon we turned our attention to the built environment, which is responsible for a high percentage of our emissions and also to renewable energy which can give us a good start in reducing them.
I have some background in this area so I was aware of the huge strides that have been made in the design of energy efficient buildings, but of course most of the housing stock and many commercial buildings pre-date sustainable design. Much of our housing is built close to the ocean and only a few metres above sea level, will it survive repeated major flooding as sea level rise and storm surges impact on the coast? Will it be able to deal with the rising temperatures that are anticipated?
We looked at the impact of heat islands in built up environments and the increased number of deaths that are related to heat waves. This course is being run out of the UK so the question of wild fire was not even considered but flooding was certainly discussed.
We were asked to review the built environment in our own locality. This small house, still under construction, will be adequately insulated, it faces due North (correct orientation for the southern hemisphere) and has deep eaves. This will allow winter sunlight into the house and being small in size it will be easy to heat in winter. It has one large west facing window which could be a problem in summer but an external blind will take care of that. The eaves will shade the glass in summer and there is cross ventilation to assist in cooling. I think there will be a degree of climate resilience built into the house.
This architect designed house is an example of a house built before climate change became an issue. It faces almost due west to take advantage of the views over the lake but because it has a very wide covered deck it wouldn’t have too much of a problem until fairly late in the day and it would be easy to drop canvas blinds along the deck. Being built on a slope it has some rooms under the living area which will remain cooler and give some resilience as the climate warms.
I think that where site conditions have been properly considered during the design stage the old housing stock will have a level of resilience but probably much of the developer led housing that has been built in the last twenty or so years will be pretty much a write off eventually.
And to give an idea of the location a map because I simply couldn’t cope with the suggested geo tags. The star is the existing house and the teardrop is the site of the new build that is underway.
The second half of the week was devoted to renewable energy. It is clear that this is the “get out of gaol (almost) free” card. The UK has about 11% renewable energy at the moment and are looking to reach 30% by 2020. There are some active anti wind organisations and they are also going to build a new nuclear power station. They seem to think that nuclear is cheap (ha ha!) and renewables are expensive which is crazy.
Denmark on the other hand has 30% renewable energy now and is expecting to have 50% by 2020 and 100% renewables by 2035. Go Denmark! I think it has been made quite clear that one of the biggest obstacles to dealing with climate change is the entrenched opposition from fossil fuel protagonists. We can’t afford to let them win. It is also interesting to note that the gulf states are putting in solar power in order that they can get the most out of the last of their oil reserves by selling them to people like us who refuse to recognise the reality we are facing.
Next week we are looking ahead to the medium and longer term effects of climate change. I approach it with some trepidation.