The Future of the World and Cities in It

Urban futures: anticipating a world of cities (6 page pdf, Geci Karuri-Sebina, Karel-Herman Haegeman and Apiwat Ratanawaraha, Foresight, Sep. 10, 2016)

Today we review an introduction to a series of papers on cities from a foresight point of view. It begins with a prediction that the city has evolved from the city-state in Ancient Greece to city-worlds in the next 100 years. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, compared to 54% today. While cities can improve economic prosperity, reducing poverty and becoming more inclusive socially, there are also downside risks of unemployment and poverty, as well as tensions based on religion, race and values – in addition to the major health threats that resulting congestion and emissions from downtown traffic where city government has not taken steps to alleviate. While cities are good at generating problems they also have a problem solving capability. The paper ends on an optimistic note: “In a world that increasingly appears ungovernable, cities – not states – are the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built”- something that those who try to come to grips with climate change and urban air pollution need to acknowledge and take count of in reducing carbon emissions and adapting to the challenge.

Indoor and Built Environment

Indoor and Built Environment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Can the Paris Agreement on Climate Change Work?

The Paris Agreement and the New Logic of International Climate Politics (28 page pdf, Robert Falkner, International Affairs, Aug.31, 2016)

Today we review an analysis of the international negotiations from the top-down 1996 Kyoto Accord that today applies only to 15% of global carbon emissions, to the 2009 Copenhagen Accord that failed to reach consensus on a global emission reduction goal but managed to provide an umbrella for all participating countries for future negotiations. To the bottom-up Paris Agreement in 2015, signed by 195 nations, combines domestic politics with international commitments through a “naming and shaming” approach, voluntary national commitments,  rachet-up reviews every five years and, perhaps most importantly, definition of a long term goal to reach “net-zero” emissions or “emission neutrality” between 2050 and 2100. As these voluntary commitments would result in a global warming of 2.7 C above pre-industrial levels, further reductions beyond the pledges are needed. The author cautions that “the Paris Agreement cannot be expected to ‘fix’ the climate problem; it can only provide a supportive framework within which states and other actors can achieve the required emissions cuts.”

Carbon emissions from various global regions d...

Carbon emissions from various global regions during the period 1800–2000 AD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Are Cities Prepared for Climate Change Impacts?

Nederlands: Cartoon about climate change

Nederlands: Cartoon about climate change (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Assessing climate change vulnerability in urban America: stakeholder-driven approaches (Abstract, Sabrina McCormick, Climatic Change, Aug. 31, 2016)

Also discussed here: Study assesses climate change vulnerability in urban America: Most city planners have yet to prepare for climate-related risks and the consequences. (ScienceDaily, Aug. 31, 2016)

And here: Politicization of climate change hinders adaptation in cities — report (Brittany Patterson, E&E reporter, ClimateWire, Nov. 18, 2015

Today we review an assessment of how well 6 cities in the USA (Portland; Boston; Los Angeles; Tucson, Ariz.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Tampa, Fla.)are addressing their vulnerability to climate change. The order of preparedness is the in the same order as given with Portland at the forefront and Tampa bringing up the rear. The biggest obstacle was the lack of acknowledgment of climate change as an issue- something seen as well in Canada, in such cities as its capital city, Ottawa. The overlooked vulnerabilities includes hardening infrastructure against the increased frequency and intensity of such hazards as flooding and electrical storms and safeguarding some parts of the population, particularly older people, to such health hazards as smog events and heat waves.

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How Does a Low Carbon Future for Canada compare with Europe, the USA and Australia?

What low carbon futures might look like… (Ralph Torrie, Aug. 27, 2016)
Also discussed here: Low Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios (55 page pdf, Ralph D. Torrie, Tyler Bryant, Dale Marshall, Mitchell Beer, Blake Anderson, Ryan Kadowaki, and Johanne Whitmore, Technical Report, Trottier Energy Futures Project, Jan. 2013)

Today we review a report that compares low carbon future scenarios from 8 countries: 3 carbon resource rich (USA, Canada, Australia) and 5 European countries (Sweden Germany, France, Finland, UK). The common goal of the scenario was to lower carbon emissions by 80% from 1990 levels. Each country has its own approaches to the challenge from differing start points and so the scenarios differ as well although some similarities were noted including: decarbnization of the electricity supply, increased efficiency of fuels, a large supply of biofuels and electricity‘s share of the total energy  consumption grows over time.  Sweden has by far the lowest energy intensity because almost all of its electricity comes from nuclear, hydro and biomass- so that future reductions in carbon emissions comes from increased energy efficiency. Canada like Sweden  also generates energy from non-carbon sources but has larger inputs ofnon-renewable energy sources (natural gas, coal, oil) in its energy pie and so has further to go to reach 80% less carbon emissions. Over 50% reductions in carbon emissions in Canada and the USA is in transportation where the growth of electric vehicles is key.


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What is Needed to Limit Global Climate Warming to 1.5C Using a Scenario Approach?

A Better Life with a Healthy Planet – Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions, A New Lens Scenarios Supplement (96 page pdf, Shell, May 2016)

Today we review a supplement to the Shell scenarios published in 2013 that examined steps toward a net zero energy future. The Shell scenario team became famous for their contributions to determining post-apartheid options for South Africa after 1990. It is a scoping document, starting with an estimate of the energy needs of the world in 2100 “for a better life”, based on a 50% population increase and a lowering of energy demand per person from as much as 300 gigajoules in USA/Canada to 100 GJ per person, as a world average – which amounts to a doubling of the global energy needs.

To accomplish this by 2050 and meet the Paris goal of limiting warming to 1.5 C, would require net zero emissions by that year and that, in turn, would require some form of negative carbon reduction, using technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) which would mean lowering its current high cost to around $30 per tonne by 2030- equivalent to wind power costs. Carbon pricing is seen as an absolute necessity to bring solar energy up to 40% of energy needs by 2060. It also requires 80% of passenger cars converted to electricity by 2030 and, in terms of land use, reducing drastically the amount of agricultural land used for feeding animals from the current 80%. For developing countries, investment in infrastructure and adapting to a solar society would allow them to leap-frog to net zero emissions as well.


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Pathways for Carbon Free Energy for the World

100% Clean and Renewable Wind, Water, and Sunlight (WWS) All-Sector Energy Roadmaps for 139 Countries of the World (62 page pdf, Mark Z. Jacobson, Mark A. Delucchi, Zack A.F. Bauer, Savannah C. Goodman, William E. Chapman, Mary A. Cameron, Alphabetical: Cedric Bozonnat, Liat Chobadi, Jenny R. Erwin, Simone N. Fobi, Owen K. Goldstrom, Sophie H. Harrison, Ted M. Kwasnik, Jonathan Lo, Jingyi Liu, Chun J. Yi, Sean B. Morris, Kevin R. Moy, Patrick L. O’Neill, Stephanie Redfern, Robin Schucker, Mike A. Sontag, Jingfan Wang, Eric Weiner, Alex S. Yachanin, Stanford University, Apr. 24, 2016)

Also discussed here: Clean Energy Could Fuel Most Countries by 2050, Study Shows (Zahra Hirji, InsideClimate News, Niv. 27, 2015)

Today we review a draft report prepared for the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris that provides an analysis of the ways that renewable energy source could be applied in 139 countries to replace the carbon sources currently used. Currently, only 3.8% of the power capacity is installed to reach 100% clean energy worldwide. In Canada, as an example, a power load of 412.1 gigawatts  is required by 2050 under a business as usual scenario . Under a clean energy scenario, however, the country would need only 240.2 gigawatts of power. Most of the energy would come from onshore and offshore wind (58%), utility-scale and rooftop solar (21%), hydropower (16.5 %) and a mix of other sources, including geothermal (2%) and wave energy. The avoided health costs would be $107.6B per year which represents 4% of GDP or 9,598 air pollution deaths avoided every year. The estimated total electricity, health and climate cost savings of this transition would amount to about $8,887 per Canadian per year (in 2013 dollars).


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What is the Impact of Air Pollution on the World- Present and Future?

The Economic Consequences of Outdoor Air Pollution (20 page pdf, OECD, Jun. 9. 2016)

Also discussed here: Air pollution to cause 6-9 million premature deaths and cost 1% GDP by 2060 (OECD Press Release, , Jun. 9. 2016)

Today we review a report from the OECD which estimates the impact of air pollution in terms of economic costs and on health costs and premature lives lost. Global costs are expected to rise from $21B in 2015 to $176B in 2060 (in constant 2010 dollars). The number of lost sick days which affects productivity is expected to rise from 1.2 B to 3.7 B in 2060. The number of premature deaths due to outdoor air pollution is expected to rise from 3 million in 2015 to 6-9 million in 2060. Policies to address this include incentives aimed at technology to reduce vehicle emissions, the implementation of improved air quality standards and introduction of emission/congestion/road pricing. The highest per capita costs are found in China, followed by Korea, Eastern Europe and the Caspian region and this is also where premature deaths per capita are highest.

oecd impacts

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