Climate Change
May 27, 2020

Drivers Prepared to Take A Walk in Post Pandemic Great Britain

Everyone has been enjoying bluer skies, better views, great sunsets and better air quality with the reduction of vehicular and air traffic during the Covid crisis. ,Mount Everest is visible from the city of Kathmandu for the first time this century, even though it is 240 kilometers away.

In short, air quality has vastly improved in cities during the time of quarantine. BBC News reports that vehicle drivers are also willing to change their behaviour to maintain cleaner air and to be more environmentally prudent.

In Britain the lack of vehicular traffic resulted in a  17%  reduction in carbon dioxide emissions  recorded in  early April. Surface emissions from industry and brake dust were reduced by 43 percent.

In a survey of 20,000 drivers conducted by the British Automobile Association, fifty percent said they were willing to walk more, and forty percent intended to use their car less frequently. Remarkably 80 percent of those drivers surveyed said they would “take some action to reduce their impact on air quality”.

Just as in the national  Canadian survey  conducted by  Mario Canseco,  many Britons expect to continue working from home. While 73 percent  of Canadians expect to continue to  work from home, 25 percent of Britons driving said they would work more often from home, while twenty percent said they would be cycling more.

Edmund King, president of the British Automobile Association stated

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The Public Sector Digest is co-presenting this webinar with the international landscape design firm Arcadis.

Climate change can pose considerable physical and economic risks to local governments. To reduce the impacts of climate change, organizations must seek ways to adapt to the changing climate as well as mitigate their contribution to climate change. PSD has partnered with Arcadis for this webinar to define the importance of integrating climate change adaptation and mitigation. Low carbon resilience (LCR) is an approach that focuses on integrating adaptation and mitigation strategies by reducing vulnerabilities to climate change impacts and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Experts from PSD and Arcadis will share how local governments can build LCR while maintaining regulatory compliance, financial efficiency, and expected levels of service.

Moderator | Tyler Sutton, General Manager of Research & Marketing, PSD

Panelists

Erin Orr, Research & Policy Analyst, PSD
Nichole Chan, Sustainability & ESG Lead, Arcadis

Live webinar – Thursday May 21,2020 | 11:00 to 11:30 Pacific Time

You can register by clicking this link.

Images: Medium & Huff Post

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PT: As predicted, the rationale for more driving (and priorizing road space for it) is underway – this one from our own Bob on whether to keep the Beach flow way:

 

Bob: This Bloomberg article suggests that the last thing we should be doing is removing road space:

…..The auto industry is already seeing a couple of positive signs in this regard. In the first two weeks of April. Cars.com’s unique visitors bounced back from late-March doldrums. According to a recent survey by the vehicle-shopping website, 20% of people searching for a car said they don’t own one and had been using public transit or ride hailing. They might buy a set of wheels to be safer from a pandemic that could linger well into the year, Cars.com Chief Executive Officer Alex Vetter said.

“Covid has pushed more people who don’t own a car to consider purchasing one,” Vetter said by phone. “The primary reason given was to avoid public transit and because of a lack of trust in ride sharing.”…

PT: Maybe if we try we can beat our previous record for carbon emissions.

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A totally confident prediction: those opposed to increasing density (any multi-family development), using road space for bikeways and greenways (Granville Bridge changes will be a target), reducing priority for cars (expect another fight over viaduct removal) and priorizing transit (why build SkyTrain extensions) now have a sure-fire argument: density whether in buildings or transit is how disease spreads.

Sprawl is safer.  Cars are safer.  Single-family homes are safer. Anyway, new development, especially the remaining need for workplaces, will be in lower density suburbs if not actually in our homes, but certainly not in concentrated urban centres.

So the last half-century when Vancouver led in designing and building livable high-density, mixed-use, less-car-dependent and more sustainable communities was just a diversion.

Fight the virus by returning to the Sixties!

This is an important debate, not just an argument, especially when governments will be under fiscal stress.  Budget slashing is a great time to reverse the hard-fought progress of what the last three generations of designers, developers, planners and aligned political leaders have achieved in building more livable and higher-density cities, with a priority on transit and active transportation, especially when considering the consequences of climate change.  One need only watch how easily the Trump administration is reversing that progress.

To begin with, let’s first call bullshit on the notion that the Covid virus is less controllable in highrise high-density environments than suburban ones.  Just ask: which cities have been the most successful so far at not only bending the curve but keeping it from escalating in the first place?

These ones:

Taipei:

 

Hong Kong:

 

Seoul:

 

Singapore:

 

Notice anything in common?

 

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Gord Price will be in Australia for the next month.  Follow his coverage here and on Instagram (gordonpriceyvr).

More evidence from the Sydney Morning Herald on how deeply unserious some decision-makers can be, even after declaring a climate emergency and living through a national trauma that validates the urgency.  It is the gap between lack of action and the desire for strategic change that makes this story extraordinary.

The world’s largest coal port wants to transition away from coal – but because of government policy, can’t do it.

 

The world’s largest coal port State deal blocking world’s largest coal port from fossil fuel exit

The head of the world’s largest coal port says it must transition away from the fossil fuel and diversify Newcastle’s economy before it’s too late, but controversial NSW government policy is stopping it.

As the government worked to improve its climate policy following a summer of drought and bushfires, Port of Newcastle chief executive Craig Carmody said $2 billion of private investment was waiting for the green light to develop a container terminal and move the Hunter away from coal.

However, a once-secret facet of the Baird government’s 2013-14 port privatisation deal – which would force Newcastle to compensate its competitors if it transported more than 30,000 containers a year – could keep the local economy tethered to coal for decades.

Mr Carmody said the port had about 15 years to transition away from the resource, which makes up more than 95 per cent of its exports. He added that a changing climate and struggling regional sector compounded the situation.

 

Here’s the kicker:

“It doesn’t really matter what governments in Australia want to believe, the money we need to do what we need to do have already made their decisions,” Mr Carmody told the Herald.

“There is a reason why businesses, particularly in the energy space in Australia, are saying, ‘Well, if the government won’t provide a policy direction, then we’re going to go off and do it ourselves’.”

 

 

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Gord Price will be in Australia for the next month, Instagramming and podcasting his way across the country.  Follow his coverage here and on Instagram (gordonpriceyvr), as well as PriceTalks podcast when interviews are occasionally posted.

 

I’ve been following the news through the Sydney Morning Herald prior to the trip, and thought this was a particularly revealing item:

A conservative activist group – which bills itself as the right-wing version of GetUp – will target primary school children with a series of new resources designed to counter the “climate alarmist narrative” it says is being pushed in classrooms and the media.

Advance Australia’s national director Liz Storer said the resource packs being developed will be sent to schools, parents and grandparents, and could be used in the classroom or at home. The resources will say human-induced climate change “isn’t true” and “there’s a lot more to the story”.

It’s not so much that this initiative is new or unexpected.  The ‘counter-narrative’ strategy has been remarkably effective at seeding sufficient doubt to establish ‘both-sides-ism’ in media coverage and, importantly, delay any unequivocal action by government to address climate change.  Like the Harper Strategy described below, it doesn’t require outright denial, and hence doesn’t seem overly wingnut to those looking for the ‘moderate’ response to the issue.  Including those who decide what should be taught in schools.

Hence the response to this proposal by Advance Australia is what makes the story important:

But the New South Wales and Victorian governments have already indicated the materials in question would very likely be banned in public schools as they “would not be deemed objective”. …

The NSW Department of Education said Advance Australia’s resources would not be allowed in the state’s public schools because they would fall foul of the government’s policies and guidelines.

“This includes the Controversial Issues in Schools policy which says that schools are neutral places for rational discourse and objective study, and discussions should not advance the interest of any particular group,” a department spokesman said.

“Under the Controversial Issues in Schools policy these materials from Advance Australia would not be deemed objective and therefore not permitted to be used in NSW public schools.”

Likewise, the politicians in government feel comfortable in outright rejection:

Victoria’s Labor Education Minister James Merlino said he believed most principals in his state “will put this rubbish where it belongs – in the bin”.

“This organisation is a front for a group of ill-informed climate change deniers,” he said. “Our schools should not be used as a tool for a group like this to peddle their political agenda.”

A Labor minister of course.  But my guess is that the Liberals and even the Nationals will not run to Advance’s cause, much less say they would put their material in the schools.

And here’s why: doubt and denial can be planted and nourished when climate change is not catastrophic and unfolds slowly.  When catastrophic events do occur – fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes – and go beyond one-off extremes of weather, when the frequency of them becomes a pattern, and the pattern is consistent with prediction, denialists become irrelevant.  They have nothing to say in response to the reality of an existential threat – because that reality wasn’t supposed to happen.

The public and decision-makers then turn to those who have something to say about reality, and look to those who have a strategy of response.

That is where Australia is now, I believe.  And Ill be looking to see how it is playing out in real time with those engaged in “the reality that doesn’t go away.”

 

 

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When Prime Minister Harper visited the Arctic on one of his several trips – once for 16 days – the words “climate change” never passed his lips.  In the Arctic – where the manifestations of climate change are more evident and fast-changing than most places on the planet.

That was a very deliberate strategy: ‘Never deny climate change, just don’t recognize it as a priority.  Sign on to policies and protocols so long as the deadlines are decades hence.  And send a message: Government will not do anything disruptive, particularly with respect to the economy, especially the resource industries, like carbon taxes or game-changing regulations.’

That message was targeted to other leaders and decision-makers, public and private, as well as his own base.  In short: ‘I don’t believe climate change is a priority worthy of immediate or drastic action.  So you don’t have to either.’

The strategy assumes two conditions: (1) The public believes you’re doing enough to take climate change seriously (but not crazily).  That you are still taking care of us.  And (2) Nature does nothing too disruptive.

It worked for Harper.  Unfortunately, it’s not working for the Prime Minister of Australia and his coalition party.

Nature did not hold up its end of the bargain.  And so the public isn’t either.

 

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For the next month, I’ll be in Australia, returning to the island continent for the 11th time, and to the four cities in which I have spoken over the last two decades – Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

In the past I’ve talked mainly about Vancouver, particularly about urban design and how we accommodate growth.  (Our Commonwealth cousins love exchanging views and advice on our similar cities.)

But this time, I’m there to ask the people I meet one particular question: How is Australia changing now that climate change is your new reality?  How are Australians changing?

I’m not the only outsider to be asking questions like that.

 From Damien Cave, the Australian bureau chief for the New York Times:

“We have seen …the unfolding wings of climate change,” said Lynette Wallworth, an Australian filmmaker … in Davos, Switzerland, last month.

Like the fires, it’s a metaphor that lingers. What many of us have witnessed this fire season does feel alive, like a monstrous gathering force threatening to devour what we hold most dear on a continent that will grow only hotter, drier and more flammable as global temperatures rise. …

In interviews all over the fire zone since September, it’s been clear that Australians are reconsidering far more than energy and emissions. They are stumbling toward new ways of living: Housing, holiday travel, work, leisure, food and water are all being reconsidered. …

Climate change threatens heavy pillars of Australian identity: a life lived outdoors, an international role where the country “punches above its weight,” and an emphasis on egalitarianism that, according to some historians, is rooted in Australia’s settlement by convicts. …

Since the fires started, tens of millions of acres have been incinerated in areas that are deeply connected to the national psyche. If you’re American, imagine Cape Cod, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Sierra Nevadas and California’s Pacific Coast, all rolled into one — and burned.

It’s “a place of childhood vacations and dreams,” as one of Australia’s great novelists, Thomas Keneally, recently wrote.

Tourists in Lake Conjola, a popular vacation destination, took refuge on a beach on New Year’s Eve.

Mike Cannon-Brookes, Australia’s most famous tech billionaire, called it part of a broader awakening.

Mr. Cannon-Brookes said Australia could seize the moment and become a leader in climate innovation. Ms. Wallworth, the filmmaker, echoed that sentiment: What if the country’s leaders did not run from the problem of climate change, but instead harnessed the country’s desire to act?

“If only our leaders would call on us and say, ‘Look, this is a turning point moment for us; the natural world in Australia, that’s our cathedral, and it’s burning — our land and the animals we love are being killed,’” she said. …

Near a bus stop, I met Bob Gallagher, 71, a retired state employee with thick white hair. He felt strongly that the criticism of Mr. Morrison for not doing enough about climate change was unfair.

“The first thing the government needs to do is run the economy,” Mr. Gallagher said. “I just don’t understand what these climate change people want.”

I asked him to imagine a version of Ms. Wallworth’s dream — an Australia with a prime minister who shouted to the world: “What we all love, this unique country, is being destroyed by inaction. We’ll punch above our weight, but we can’t do it alone. We need your help.”

Mr. Gallagher listened without interrupting. “I hadn’t thought of that,” he said. “I could support that.”

Full article here.

 

For the next month, I’ll be Instagramming my way across Aus (pricetags) and sending interviews back to be posted on PriceTalks and the blog.

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Ian Robertson found one solution in Paris.  From Euroactiv:

In Paris, as in many European cities, the number of cars is declining, which is leaving a vast amount of underground car parks empty. With its start-up project called “La Caverne”, Cycloponics is reclaiming these urban territories and using them as a way of growing plenty of organic vegetables. …

At Porte de la Chapelle in Paris, the two have set up a 3,500 m2 urban farm located underground, in a former car park. …  Gertz and Champagnat responded to call for tenders from Paris, whose empty car parks were squatted by consumers and crack dealers. It’s been more than two years now since ‘organic has replaced crack’, and about fifteen jobs have been created. …

 

 

Small packets of water-soluble, sterilised and packaged straw are hung from floor to ceiling, and the mushrooms grow through tiny holes. Everything is calculated to ensure their optimal growth. The air is saturated with moisture, the endives grow in the dark, and the mushrooms get a few LED lights.

But the car park has definite advantages over the limestone cavities usually used to grow mushrooms, as there is a permanent and precise control of the weather, as well as better thermal stability. …  Farming in car parks also makes it possible to better resist the climate crisis. Parasites and other insects, for instance, are rather rare in the subsoil, even if endive tubers and straw bought outside can also be vectors of diseases, such as sclerotinia, which destroyed part of this year’s endive harvest. …

“In Paris, as in many European capitals, people no longer have cars, there are too many parking lots, especially in the poorest districts. But we also visited unused car parks on the Champs-Elysée. It would be possible to do something about it!” according to the entrepreneurs.

Full article here.

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