It makes sense that President Obama considers his contributions to ease climate change his greatest legacy. The potentially catastrophic effects on our planet’s ecosystems, and especially on the Greenland and Antarctic icecaps—a rise in sea levels measured not in inches but in tens of feet—might well be the biggest challenge to face mankind. Consider the… Read more »
It makes sense that President Obama considers his contributions to ease climate change his greatest legacy. The potentially catastrophic effects on our planet’s ecosystems, and especially on the Greenland and Antarctic icecaps—a rise in sea levels measured not in inches but in tens of feet—might well be the biggest challenge to face mankind.
Consider the stress that wartime refugees are currently placing on European countries; now imagine the social and economic chaos that will occur if tens of millions are displaced around the world’s littoral cities, where first, second, and third world coastal cities could find themselves submerged, along with all the infrastructure that supports those cities! How many of you have NOT worked in a large sea-level city?
How can a landscape architect reduce CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), CH4 (Methane) and other even more potent greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere? There are three basic things to do: Learn, Advocate, and Act Professionally. (The following list of ideas is only intended to prime the pump for discussion, research, refinement, expansion, and implementation.)
LEARN: Becoming deeply knowledgeable about how climate change will affect your career for better and for worse; figuring out where you can find good information, and engaging in critical dialog about climate change because this is an emerging science and there will be competing theories and competing solutions and you will called upon by your clients and your communities to have answers.
1. What is YOUR OWN personal carbon footprint?
i. What tools are available to determine your footprint?
ii. What are the elements in your lifestyle that produce the most CO2?
iii. What are the steps you can take to most reduce your production of CO2?
2. What is the direct carbon footprint of your office and of your professional activities (travel, etc.)?
i. How can your office reduce their production of CO2.
3. What is the carbon footprint of your city, and how does it measure up against other cities in the US, and against other cities worldwide?
4. What/who are the largest global producers of CO2?
i. Where is the low-hanging fruit to go after first?
ii. What are the tools that could reduce this production of CO2?
5. Who are the largest producers of CO2 in your state, and in your community?
i. What are the tools that could reduce their production of CO2?
ADVOCATE: Take a position and advocate for that position. Heads of State need to make hard decisions, and need the support of large numbers of informed and educated citizens. Here are things that governments might need to do:
1. Introduce a graduated Carbon Tax to discourage production of CO2 and Methane; tax starts low but increases significantly over time to give carbon producers time (short) to adjust
2. Keep all fossil fuels in the ground (no new mining or drilling)
i. No new Federal leases
ii. No renewal of existing Federal leases
iii. Elimination of direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels
3. Support and Develop Non-Carbon Energy Sources
i. Conservation (the least cost solution)
ii. Nuclear: Improved Fission
- Fail-safe designs
- Vitrified wastes
- Concentrated, large scale
- Distributed, small scale
- High altitude
- Locations that avoid or minimize:
- Environmental impacts
- Social impacts
- Open loop deep systems
- Closed loop deep systems
- Shallow heat pump systems
- Deep ocean
4. Support and Develop large-scale energy storage methods:
i. Pumped water
ii. Compressed air
iii. Molten salt
5. Rebuild the national electric grid to support far more power and to connect clean energy producers to energy consumers.
i. Redundant circuit capacity
ii. Solid state switching
iii. High voltage direct current transmission
iv. High temperature superconducting trunk lines
6. Develop Carbon-Free transportation options:
i. Cars and Trucks:
- Electric power
- Hydrogen power
iii. Air Traffic
iv. Merchant Marine:
- Reduction or cessation of large scale deforestation:
i. Modify siliculture practices to maximize carbon sequestration
- Modification of agricultural practices:
i. To minimize CO2 and methane production
ii. To maximize CO2 sequestration
ACT PROFESSIONALLY: What are the things landscape architects can do within the realm of their normal professional scope of work and responsibilities?
1. Planning for communities that produce less CO2:
i. Efficient communications
ii. Efficient transportation
iii. Efficient buildings
iv. Efficient logistics
2. Design of large-scale, clean energy-producing landscapes:
i. Solar farms
ii. Wind farms
iii. Energy storage environments
3. Design of small-scale, distributed energy-producing environments:
4. Design of CO2 absorbing landscapes
i. Urban forest canopies
ii. Deep soil carbon
5. Specification of CO2 sequestering materials
i. Heavy timber
ii. Bio-char soil amendments
iii. Carbon adsorbing building and site materials
While there are increasing numbers of people working on solutions to climate change worldwide, far too many people are still completely indifferent or even actively resisting creating solutions to the most severe effects of climate change. Will you, as a landscape architect, be part of the solution, starting today?
Kevin Shanley, now based in Oregon, is former CEO of SWA. Image is courtesy of Andrea Della Adriano via Flickr Creative Commons.