What is the difference between climate change and global warming?
"Global warming" refers to the long-term warming of the planet. Global temperature shows a well-documented surge since the early 20th century and most notably since the late 1970s. Worldwide, since 1880 the average surface temperature has risen about 1 °C (approximately 2 °F), relative to the mid-20th-century baseline (of 1951-1980). This is on top of about an additional 0.15 °C of warming from between 1750 and 1880.
"Climate change" encompasses global warming but refers to the broader range of changes that are happening to our planet. These include rising sea levels; shrinking mountain glaciers; accelerating ice melt in Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic; and shifts in flower/plant blooming times. These are all consequences of warming, which is caused mainly by people burning fossil fuels and putting out heat-trapping gases into the air. The terms "global warming" and "climate change" are sometimes used interchangeably, but strictly they refer to slightly different things.
Why is it the defining issue of our time?
Another outcome of climate change and global warming is food scarcity and deserts. According to the 1996 World Food Summit, "Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life." However, the World Food Program explains, “climate change affects all dimensions of food security and nutrition,” limiting food availability, access, utilization and stability due to extreme weather events and long-term and gradual climate risks.
Climate change also diminishes our wildlife, contributing to the creation of sixth mass extinction, writes Nadi landscape architect Kristen Struthers. According to the World Wildlife Fund of Canada (WWF) published the Living Planet Report Canada in 2017, illustrating that between 1970 and 2014, almost half of the species they monitored have declined. Moreover, the index showed that out of 903 monitored species, 451 had "an average decline of 83 per cent" (Miller) with mammals falling 43 per cent, grassland birds falling 69 per cent, reptiles and amphibians falling 34 per cent and fish falling 20 per cent.
What can we do to combat rising temperatures?
We can make substantial changes to our life to reduce our carbon footprint: we can move away from sod and incorporate more native plantings in our front lawns, we can eat less meat, we can compost and reduce our plastic intake, and we can bike, walk or take public transit instead of driving.
However, the best tool in our arsenal is our wallet. The Carbon Majors Report found that just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.
The report also suggests that to address climate change must come from a transformation in these companies, meaning that putting the onus on individuals will do very little to combat our warming climate.
We can use our wallet to hold large companies accountable for their role in greenhouse gas emissions. According to the report, a fifth of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions is backed by public investment. Therefore, we can remove our investments out of fossil fuels and into clean energy, diminishing these companies influence on policies and regulations that contribute to global warming.
How can we address climate change in the design world?
Designers can address climate change through various methods such as restorative design, ecological and historical conservation, resilient and sustainable technologies, adaptive reuse, green infrastructure and land reclamation.
At Nadi, we have real experience with adaptive reuse (our headquarters in Winnipeg was previously an abandoned heritage building) and land reclamation.
Adaptive reuse refers to the process of reusing an existing building for a purpose other than which it was originally built or designed for, initially. As we move towards a more sustainable future, adaptive reuse of industrial heritage buildings is one of the most critical tasks the building sector faces today.
While the cultural significance of restoring or adapting historic buildings is essential, the environmental impact of adaptive reuse is also crucial to the preservation of our planet and its history. Constructing a new building can cause much environmental damage. Buildings need water and energy at every single stage of new construction—this is very hard on the planet. For example, in the case of energy, it's we conventionally obtain it from non-renewable sources, causing higher carbon emissions.
Adaptive reuse only requires a fraction of these resources, not to mention a fraction of materials needed to recycle the building. It's a sustainable solution that is not only better for the environment but connects us to the past. Win-win.
Meanwhile, one way we can restore the land from the impacts of oil and gas development and landfills is through land reclamation. It involves returning the landscape that was disturbed and affected by natural resource development projects back to the desired state, or one that re-establishes the ecosystem and habitat that was once there.
Projects such as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Park and Brady Landfill are two examples of our work in landfill reclamation. For the former, we turned a decommissioned landfill into a viable recreational public space. Shaheed Bhagat Singh Park includes native prairie grasses and trees with over 25 acres of land dedicated to sustainable native plantings. Over the course of the project, we also monitored, minimized and mitigated methane emissions to ensure that the creation of this park remained sustainable, low-maintenance, high-value and naturalized.
Regarding Brady Resource Landfill, we created a landscape plan, addressing the desire for habitat creation with diversity planting, a buffer to address surrounding neighbourhood concerns regarding odour, landfill litter control (windblown materials), sounds and unsightly views. The plan would also include a landscape strategy to address immediate concerns of the impacts of the landfill on newly developing neighbourhoods and a 100+ year landscape master plan to be phased in as the city decommissions landfill sites.
What does Nadi bring to the conversation?
At Nadi, we are mindful of climate change and how it affects our planet. It's crucial for us to encourage conversation and dialogue that addresses our warming planet.
Over the past year, we have made a conscious effort to write compelling content that reflects our mission statement, design for a better world, but also encourage people to think globally about the issues that affect us. Our articles provide essential information in transforming how we address climate change in the design world—from small, incremental changes to large-scale ones.
Climate change article spotlights:
From Atlanta: how to determine the real effects of climate change?
Nadi principal and founder Emeka Nnadi cites climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology Judith Curry's piece Consequences of Climate Change for Atlanta that you can apply any of these strategies to your community:
- Assessing your water resources, including future needs and engineering and policies required for sustainable water supply.
- Improving your community's stormwater management and sewer system, which will not only diminish the damage from floods but will also support overall water management and help control mosquito-borne diseases.
- Protecting trees will be imperative because, beyond the direct economic value of forests, trees are one of the fundamental elements of a livable climate. Trees moderate temperatures and retain moisture in soils, removing carbon dioxide from the air.
- Enhancing the public transportation system, which will reduce your city or town's carbon footprint. The reduced emissions from an improved public transportation system will have a dramatic impact on air quality and traffic congestion.
- Implementing energy conservation and efficiency strategies as the up-front investment will reduce our carbon footprint, the emission reductions will have a substantial beneficial effect on our air and water quality. As well, it will provide payback within a few years concerning substantially reduced energy costs.
Landscape architect Indy Mitra finds that Manitoba Hydro Place is a great example of designers and builders using the latest technology and innovation to address climate change in the infrastructure. Located in Downtown Winnipeg, the 22-story office tower is Manitoba Hydro's head office and the first large office in Canada to receive LEED Platinum certification, which the building and design industry recognize as the mark of excellence for green and sustainable buildings.
According to iiSBE Canada, Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, along with Architecture 49, and Prairie Architects, designed the Manitoba Hydro Place tower as "a unique climate responsive building that adapts to Winnipeg's extreme weather conditions that range from -40C in the winter to +40C in the summer". Furthermore, the building has a reportedly 75 per cent reduction in energy use and is intended to have passive design features that include "south facing winter gardens, natural daylighting, solar chimney and geothermal heating and cooling, and a biodynamic façade" controlled by a computer system that is programmed to maximize the performance of the active systems.
How to transcend urban resilience to make our cities safer
Urban designer and complete communities practice lead Malvin Soh, writes, "As urban planning and design professions, we have the social obligation to instil urban resilience in cities and promote such awareness and information within our community." He cites ResilientCity.org to explain how "a Resilient City is one that has developed capacities to help absorb future shocks and stresses to its social, economic, and technical systems and infrastructures to be still able to maintain essentially the same functions, structures, systems, and identity." Also, most design principles for resilient cities are generally consistent with those of Complete Communities (i.e. designed to reduce economic and environmental costs while enhancing community livability). These principles include the following:
- Dense mixed-use neighbourhoods to allow for energy-efficient functioning between social, cultural and business activities, thus increasing the resilience of these neighbourhoods: LIVING.
Improvedeconomic health and elimination of all wasteful and harmful bi-products to allow for the preservation and prosperity of communities: WORKING.
- High walkability and sustainable public transit systems and reduced car-oriented urban patterns to allow for stronger independence from fossil fuels: MOVING.
- Positive placemaking approaches such as vibrant public realm or heritage preservation to allow for an improved city-life and keen sense of identity: THRIVING.
Click on the title links to read more from each article!