Monday, 9 July 2012

Adaptation, sustainability and cost.

With floods in the UK, Southern Russia and elsewhere, heatwaves in the USA and drought in several other countries, its probably fair to say that extremes of weather seem to be getting more common!

Firstly, our thoughts are with those who have been affected, either through loss of life or other impacts.

This exemplifies why adaptation and resilience are so important and also why they are diverse topics ranging from public health through civil engineering to emergency management. If, as data seem to suggest, these are a consequence of anthropogenic CO2, then climate change dictates that these events are probably going to become more frequent and more extreme.

This being the case, adaptation is going to become an issue across a broad range of range of daily activities, I have highlighted a couple of issues below, where the sustainable solution needs to be considered:
  • Take the example of a heatwave, it is becoming much more common for people to have air conditioning in the home, more so in places where this hasn't been the norm. This uses considerable power, so you may wish to consider if the provision of community centres (large buildings/complexes or malls for instance), as asecond home for these periods, in the absence of a largely renewable energy supply. Office buildings should also seek to either generate their own energy for heating/cooling or again develop new complexes that use low carbon design and technology.
  • You might also wish to consider the resilience issue, the case at present being that many of our services and utilities are located in vulnerable areas (low lying, socially deprived), mostly because of proximity to water (i.e. power stations) or due to land prices. The cost of retroactive resilience measures is not insignificant, but may become unavoidable.
What all this is leading up to, is at which point is it most effective to intervene? Because different states deploy their resources via many different models of administration, it is only possible to deal with this as a generality.

I would suggest that planning is everything here, it is the critical point in the process for development and assessment of facts and data. A transparent and evidence based planning system should ensure that sustainability is a key element of any development. The system has to have rules, respect and sanction strong enough to go against the market, as this will be a key element of adaptation and adopting a longer term approach. This in turn will drive change in the market and provide a degree of certainty for investment, thus planning can be a driver for disruptive innovation.

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