Saturday, May 12, 2007

NASA Predicts the Climate

The IPCC notched up the urgence months ago when they released their climate change report that predicted sharp increases in temperatures across the United States. This recent report on NASA's findings blew me away.
According to CBC, NASA climate models predict we can expect average summer temperatures in the eastern United States to rise by as much as 20 degrees Farhenheit by the year 2080. Their models take into account urban heat islands of city centers such as Atlanta and Chicago, where they say average summer temperatures could rise to as high as 106 degrees. Imagine having a day that hot, and then picture tha day lasting for several weeks, with temperatures rising above even that on the hottest of days. Makes the countryside seem much more appealing, doesn't it?
The IPCC predicted summer temperature increases, but not this severe. The main difference: NASA used weather patterns and rainfall amounts to more accurately predict the future, unlike the IPCC, which used an average rainfall amount for the entire country rather than region by region.
With temperatures rising like this, changes will have to be made to create more liveable cities. The urban heat island is a well documented phenomenon, where the thermal mass of concrete, buildings and other hard surfaces collect heat by day and continue to radiate throughout the night, allowing temperatures to continue rising day by day. As this happens, more energy must be produced to power the fans and air-conditioners people need to make cities liveable. As a result of more power use, the utilities are pushed to the limits of their output capabilites, and more plants must be built. More people get in thier cars and drive to the country to escape the heat. As a result, there is more carbon released into the air which in turn adds to the global warming problem all over again. It's a nasty cycle.
But there are ways to prevent this trend. Chicago is no stranger to high temperatures. It was a series of heat waves in 1995 that killed 700 people which lead Chicago's Mayor Daly to say enough is enough. His goal is to prevent another tragedy like this from ever happening again, and he plans to make his city the greenest in the country.
As part of an effort to cool the city, strict requirements for greenroofs, energy efficient buildings and urban landscaping have forced even the most powerful businesses such as Walmart to comply. There are great financial incentives, fund matching programs, and tax breaks for those who choose to go green.
As a result: Chicago's city hall has a large green roof, but Walmart now has the largest greenroof in the entire country. Decaying neighborhoods where buildings once crumbled are now being redeveloped with incentives from the city. Green collar jobs are on the rise, creating new employment opportunities. The city is experiencing a renaissence.
If Chicago can do it, so can the rest of the country.

for the CBC article on NASA's report
check out Chicago's Department of the Environment for the latest in green

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