WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme

Climate Change Adaptation – Swallowing Our Own Medicine ?!?

 2013-01-07:   The Dawn of a New Year …

Colour image of a Japanese Print: 'Sunrise on New Year's Day at Susaki', dating from the mid-1830's, by the artist Hiroshige. Click to enlarge.

Colour image of a Japanese Print: ‘Sunrise on New Year’s Day at Susaki’, dating from the mid-1830’s, by the artist Hiroshige. Click to enlarge.

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High Noon for a Festering Planetary Issue … Our Little Planet …

Based on ‘real’ measurements around the world during 2011, the state of Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) in the Atmosphere is steadily becoming worse … and, following the latest shindig in Doha (UNFCCC – COP 18), the prospect of an effective global agreement on Climate Change Mitigation entering into legal force, anytime soon, is even more remote than ever !

UN WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.8 – 19 November 2012

Colour image of Figure 1, from the U.N. World Meteorological Organization's Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.8 (2012-11-19), showing ... Atmospheric Radiative Forcing, relative to 1750, of Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (LLGHG's), and the 2011 Update of the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI). Click to enlarge.

Colour image of Figure 1, from the U.N. World Meteorological Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.8 (2012-11-19), showing … Atmospheric Radiative Forcing, relative to 1750, of Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (LLGHG’s), and the 2011 Update of the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI). Click to enlarge.

WMO GHG Bulletin No.8 – Executive Summary:

The latest analysis of observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme shows that the globally averaged mole fractions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2011, with CO2 at 390.9±0.1 parts per million, CH4 at 1813±2 parts per billion, and N2O at 324.2±0.1 parts per billion.  These values constitute 140%, 259% and 120% of pre-industrial (before 1750) levels, respectively.  The atmospheric increase of CO2 from 2010 to 2011 is similar to the average growth rate over the past 10 years.  However, for N2O the increase from 2010 to 2011 is greater than both the one observed from 2009 to 2010 and the average growth rate over the past 10 years.  Atmospheric CH4 continued to increase at a similar rate as observed over the last 3 years.  The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows that from 1990 to 2011 radiative forcing by Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (LLGHG’s) increased by 30%, with CO2 accounting for about 80% of this increase.

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Climate Change Adaptation

Encompasses urgent and immediate actions at local, national, regional and international levels … to reduce the vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of the Human Environment, including ecological and social systems, institutions and economic sectors … to present and future adverse effects of climate change, including variability and extremes, and the impacts of response measure implementation … in order to minimize the local threats to life, human health, livelihoods, food security, assets, amenities, ecosystems and sustainable development.

Climate Change Adaptation is also the most important driving force for Sustainable Human & Social Development.

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A few weeks ago, The World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, based in Washington D.C.) … an Institution which is not at all shy about dishing out harsh medicine to the Developing World … published a report on Climate Change Adaptation in the Middle East and North Africa/ Arab Region.

What I immediately wondered was … how would we, in the Developed World, like a taste of this same medicine … our own medicine … and would we swallow ?!?

The European Commission has still not produced an E.U. Climate Change Adaptation Strategy or Plan.

In Ireland … our National Climate Change Strategy (2007-2012) has just lapsed, with no replacement in sight … and, confirming a lack of both political leadership and institutional capacity … any mention of the word ‘Adaptation’ creates either panic or apathy … depending on the individual, and his/her responsibilities.

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So … as appropriate, just substitute your own country wherever there is a reference to ‘Arab Region’ or ‘Arab Countries’ in the text below … and see how you feel …

World Bank (IBRD) Report 73482 – 1 December 2012

World Bank Report 73482 (2012): 'Adaptation to a Changing Climate in Arab Countries - A Case for Adaptation Governance & Leadership in Building Climate Resilience'.

Adaptation to a Changing Climate in Arab Countries – A Case for Adaptation Governance & Leadership in Building Climate Resilience

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Selected Extracts from World Bank MENA Report’s OVERVIEW:

Climate change is happening now in the Arab Countries.  The year 2010 was the warmest since the late 1800’s, when this data began to be collected, with 19 countries setting new national temperature highs.  Five of these were Arab Countries, including Kuwait, which set a record high of 52.6 °C in 2010, only to be followed by 53.5 °C in 2011.  Extreme climate events are widely reported in local media, and a 2009 Arab Region Survey showed that over 90% of the people sampled agree that climate change is occurring and is largely due to human activities; 84% believe it is a serious challenge for their countries; and respondents were evenly split on whether their governments were acting appropriately to address climate change issues.  The sample came mostly from the better-educated population, but it shows that there is a firm base and desire for action regarding climate change across the Arab Region.

Colour image showing a Map of the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) / Arab Region. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing a Map of the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) / Arab Region. Click to enlarge.

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Arab Countries can take action to reduce their vulnerability to climate change.  For example, this report proposes an Adaptation Pyramid Framework that assists stakeholders in Arab Countries in integrating climate risks and opportunities into development activities.  It is based on an adaptive management approach, but it also highlights the importance of leadership, without which adaptation efforts are unlikely to achieve the necessary commitment to be successful.  The Framework begins by assessing climate risks and opportunities and identifying options within the context of other development planning.  The next step is to identify and prioritize adaptation options within the context of national, regional, and local priorities.  Finally, adaptation responses will be implemented and outcomes monitored over time.  It is important to take into account the long-term consequences of these decisions, because short-term responses may not be efficient or could lead to maladaptive outcomes.  Other important measures for Arab Region policy makers to implement are discussed below …

Colour image showing the World Bank's Climate Change Adaptation Pyramid - a Framework for Action on Adaptation - which assists stakeholders in integrating climate risks and opportunities into development activities. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the World Bank’s Climate Change Adaptation Pyramid – a Framework for Action on Adaptation – which assists stakeholders in integrating climate risks and opportunities into development activities. Click to enlarge.

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  1. Facilitate the development of publicly accessible and reliable information related to climate change.  Access to quality weather and climate data is essential for policy-making.  Without reliable data on temperature and precipitation levels, it is difficult to assess the current climate and make reliable weather forecasts and climate predictions.  For example, information on river flows, groundwater levels, and water quality and salinity is critical for assessing current and future water availability.  However, climate stations across most of the Arab Region are very limited compared to most other parts of the world and what data exists is often not digitized or publicly available.  Conflict in parts of the region disrupts both the collection and sharing of data.  Information on food production and the main food supply chains (such as changes in agricultural yields and production for important crops, forage, and livestock) needs to be linked with weather and water data to better monitor and understand the effects of a changing climate.  In addition, socio-economic data (including household and census data) and other economic data related to the labour market and production should be collected and made available. 
  2. Build climate resilience through social protection and other measures.  Resilience is determined by factors such as an individual’s age, gender, and health status, or a household’s asset base and degree of integration with the market economy.  Underinvestment in social safety nets – public services such as water supply and wastewater treatment, and housing and infrastructure – make people more vulnerable to a changing climate.  Further, there should be measures in place to ensure equitable access to health care and a quality education.  Such social protection measures include insurance schemes, pensions, access to credit, cash transfer programs, relocation programs, and other forms of social assistance.  These investments and instruments facilitate economic and social inclusion, which creates co-benefits between adaptation and development goals. 
  3. Develop a supportive policy and institutional framework for adaptation.  Basic conditions for effective development, such as the rule of law, transparency and accountability, participatory decision-making structures, and reliable public service delivery that meets international quality standards are conducive to effective development and adaptation action.  In addition, climate change adaptation requires new or revised climate-smart policies and structures at all levels.

Sound adaptation planning, strong governmental/non-governmental co-operation, and plentiful financial resources are all important for building resilience to climate change.  Developing national adaptation strategies are important for prioritizing adaptation activities that respond to urgent and immediate needs, and for setting forth guiding principals in the effort to cope with climate change.  National governments have a key role in developing these strategies and as a result play an important role in promoting collaboration and co-operation.  This co-operation should include the government, civil society, the private sector, and international institutions.  Within governments, inter-ministerial co-ordination is especially critical, because adaptation responses often require activities involving multiple ministries and sectors.  Finally, to do any of the activities above it is important to secure the necessary financial resources.  There are many sources for adaptation funding, but first the Arab Countries will need to build their capacity to analyze their financial needs and generate and manage these resources.

By nature, adaptation to climate change is a dynamic process, and so is the governance of adaptation.  Political change, including those changes originating from the Arab Spring, can provide an opportunity to increase civil society participation in adaptation governance and a move toward a more inclusive approach to addressing climate change issues and building climate resilience.

This report is about climate change, its impacts on people, the systems upon which we depend, and how we might adapt to climate change.  It highlights a number of issues and areas that are being affected by climate change.  One important message of this report is that climate change should be taken into account in all activities – however, this report cannot provide solutions or options for all issues.  For example, the transboundary water issues are already being addressed by international task forces; this report can deal only with how climate change might affect their decisions.  Anticipation of climate change can be the stimulus for improving interventions and accelerating action, which has been seen in countries such as Australia, where water laws and management were extensively changed in response to a prolonged drought and the anticipation of further climate change issues.

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Post-9/11 & Post-Mumbai Fire Engineering – What Future ?

Previous Posts in This Series …

2011-10-25:  NIST’s Recommendations on the 9-11 WTC Building Collapses … GROUP 1. Increased Structural Integrity – Recommendations 1, 2 & 3 (out of 30)

2011-11-18:  NIST WTC Recommendations 4-7 > Structural Fire EnduranceGROUP 2.  Enhanced Fire Endurance of Structures – Recommendations 4, 5, 6 & 7

2011-11-24:  NIST WTC Recommendations 8-11 > New Design of StructuresGROUP 3.  New Methods for Fire Resisting Design of Structures – Recommendations 8, 9, 10 & 11

2011-11-25:  NIST WTC Recommendations 12-15 > Improved Active ProtectionGROUP 4.  Improved Active Fire Protection – Recommendations 12, 13, 14 & 15

2011-11-30:  NIST Recommendations 16-20 > Improved People EvacuationGROUP 5.  Improved Building Evacuation – Recommendations 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20

2011-12-04:  NIST WTC Recommendations 21-24 > Improved FirefightingGROUP 6.  Improved Emergency Response – Recommendations 21, 22, 23 & 24

2011-12-07:  NIST WTC Recommendations 25-28 > Improved PracticesGROUP 7.  Improved Procedures and Practices – Recommendations 25, 26, 27 & 28

2011-12-08:  NIST WTC Recommendations 29-30 > Improved Fire EducationGROUP 8.  Education and Training – Recommendations 29 & 30 (out of 30)

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Colour image showing 'The Cloud' Residential Tower Project, in Seoul (South Korea) ... which will be completed in 2015. Design by MVRDV Architects, The Netherlands. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing 'The Cloud' Residential Tower Project, in Seoul (South Korea) ... which will be completed in 2015. Design by MVRDV Architects, The Netherlands. Click to enlarge.

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2011-12-15:  You know what is coming soon … so Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to One and All !!

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  1.     There were 2 Important Reasons for undertaking this Series of Posts …

(a)       The General Public, and particularly Client Organizations, should be facilitated in directly accessing the core content of the 2005 NIST WTC Recommendations.  Up to now, many people have found this to be a daunting task.  More importantly, I also wanted to clearly show that implementation of the Recommendations is still proceeding far too slowly … and that today, many significant aspects of these Recommendations remain unimplemented.  Furthermore, in the case of some recent key national standards, e.g. British Standard BS 9999, which was published in 2008 … the NIST Recommendations were entirely ignored.

As a golden rule … National Building Codes/Regulations and National Standards … cannot, should not, and must not … be applied without informed thought and many questions, on the part of a building designer !

(b)       With the benefit of hindsight, and our practical experience in FireOx International … I also wanted to add a necessary 2011 Technical Commentary to the NIST Recommendations … highlighting some of the radical implications, and some of the limitations, of these Recommendations … in the hope of initiating a much-needed and long overdue international discussion on the subject.

Colour photograph showing the Taipei 101 Tower, in Taiwan ... which was completed in 2004. Designed by C.Y. Lee & Partners Architects/Planners, Taiwan. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Taipei 101 Tower, in Taiwan ... which was completed in 2004. Designed by C.Y. Lee & Partners Architects/Planners, Taiwan. Click to enlarge.

” Architecture is the language of a culture.”

” A living building is the information space where life can be found.  Life exists within the space.  The information of space is then the information of life.  Space is the body of the building.  The building is therefore the space, the information, and the life.”

C.Y. Lee & Partners Architects/Planners, Taiwan

[ This is a local dialect of familiar Architectural Language.  However, the new multi-aspect language of Sustainable Design is fast evolving.  In order to perform as an effective and creative member of a Trans-Disciplinary Design & Construction Team … can Fire Engineers quickly learn to communicate on these wavelengths ??   Evidence to date suggests not ! ]

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  2.     ‘Climate Change’ & ‘Energy Stability’ – Relentless Driving Forces for Sustainable Design !

Not only is Sustainable Fire Engineering inevitable … it must be !   And not at some distant point in the future … but now … yesterday !!   There is such a build-up of pressure on Spatial Planners and Building Designers to respond quickly, creatively, intuitively and appropriately to the relentless driving forces of Climate Change (including climate change mitigation, adaptation, and severe weather resilience) and Energy Stability (including energy efficiency and conservation) … that there is no other option for the International Fire Science and Engineering Community but to adapt.  Adapt and evolve … or become irrelevant !!

And one more interesting thought to digest … ‘Green’ is not the answer.  ‘Green’ looks at only one aspect of Sustainable Human & Social Development … the Environment.  This is a blinkered, short-sighted, simplistic and ill-conceived approach to realizing the complex goal of a Safe and Sustainable Built Environment.  ‘Green’ is ‘Sustainability’ for innocent children !!

Colour image showing the Shanghai Tower Project, in China ... which will be completed in 2014. Design by Gensler Architects & Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Shanghai Tower Project, in China ... which will be completed in 2014. Design by Gensler Architects & Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

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  (a)      Organization for Economic Co-Operation & Development (OECD) – 2012’s Environmental Outlook to 2050

Extract from Pre-Release Climate Change Chapter, November 2011 …

Climate change presents a global systemic risk to society.  It threatens the basic elements of life for all people: access to water, food production, health, use of land, and physical and natural capital.  Inadequate attention to climate change could have significant social consequences for human wellbeing, hamper economic growth and heighten the risk of abrupt and large-scale changes to our climatic and ecological systems.  The significant economic damage could equate to a permanent loss in average per capita world consumption of more than 14% (Stern, 2006).  Some poor countries would be likely to suffer particularly severely.  This chapter demonstrates how avoiding these economic, social and environmental costs will require effective policies to shift economies onto low-carbon and climate-resilient growth paths.’

  (b)      U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.7, November 2011

Executive Summary …

The latest analysis of observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme shows that the globally averaged mixing ratios of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2010, with CO2 at 389.0 parts per million (ppm), CH4 at 1808 parts per billion (ppb) and N2O at 323.2 ppb.  These values are greater than those in pre-industrial times (before 1750) by 39%, 158% and 20%, respectively.  Atmospheric increases of CO2 and N2O from 2009 to 2010 are consistent with recent years, but they are higher than both those observed from 2008 to 2009 and those averaged over the past 10 years.  Atmospheric CH4 continues to increase, consistent with the past three years.  The U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows that from 1990 to 2010 radiative forcing by long-lived Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) increased by 29%, with CO2 accounting for nearly 80% of this increase.  Radiative forcing of N2O exceeded that of CFC-12, making N2O the third most important long-lived Greenhouse Gas.

  (c)      International Energy Agency (IEA) – World Energy Outlook, November 2011

Extract from Executive Summary …

There are few signs that the urgently needed change in direction in global energy trends is underway.  Although the recovery in the world economy since 2009 has been uneven, and future economic prospects remain uncertain, global primary energy demand rebounded by a remarkable 5% in 2010, pushing CO2 emissions to a new high.  Subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption of fossil fuels jumped to over $400 billion.  The number of people without access to electricity remained unacceptably high at 1.3 Billion, around 20% of the world’s population.  Despite the priority in many countries to increase energy efficiency, global energy intensity worsened for the second straight year.  Against this unpromising background, events such as those at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and the turmoil in parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have cast doubts on the reliability of energy supply, while concerns about sovereign financial integrity have shifted the focus of government attention away from energy policy and limited their means of policy intervention, boding ill for agreed global climate change objectives.’

Colour image showing the One World Trade Center Project, in New York City (USA) ... which will be completed in 2013. Design by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Architects/Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the One World Trade Center Project, in New York City (USA) ... which will be completed in 2013. Design by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Architects/Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

[ Not just in the case of Tall, Super-Tall and Mega-Tall Buildings … but the many, many Other Building Types in the Built Environment … are Building Designers implementing the 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations … without waiting for Building and Fire Codes/Regulations and Standards to be properly revised and updated ??   Evidence to date suggests not ! ]

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  3.     Separate Dilemmas for Client Organizations and Building Designers …

As discussed earlier in this Series … the Fire Safety Objectives of Building and Fire Codes/Regulations are limited to:

  • The protection of building users/occupants ;   and
  • The protection of property … BUT only insofar as that is relevant to the protection of the users/occupants ;

… because the function of Building and Fire Codes is to protect Society.  Well, that is supposed to be true !   Unfortunately, not all Codes/Regulations are adequate or up-to-date … as we have been observing here in these posts.

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Just taking the Taipei 101 Tower as an example, I have very recently sent out three genuine, bona fide e-mail messages from our practice …

2011-12-08

Toshiba Elevator & Building Systems Corporation (TELC), Japan.

To Whom It May Concern …

Knowing that your organization was involved in the Taipei 101 Project … we have been examining your WebSite very carefully.  However, some important information was missing from there.

For our International Work … we would like to receive technical information on the Use of Elevators for Fire Evacuation in Buildings … which we understand is actually happening in the Taipei Tower, since it was completed in 2004.

The Universal Design approach must also be integrated into any New Elevators.

Can you help us ?

C.J. Walsh

[2012-01-10 … No reply yet !]

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2011-12-12

Mr. Thomas Z. Scarangello P.E. – Chairman & CEO, Thornton Tomasetti Structural Engineers, New York.

Dear Thomas,

Knowing that your organization was involved in the structural design of the Taipei 101 Tower, which was completed in 2004 … and in the on-going design of many other iconic tall, super-tall and mega-tall buildings around the world … we have been examining your Company Brochures and WebSite very carefully.  However, some essential information is missing.

As you are certainly aware … implementation of the 2005 & 2008 National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Recommendations on the Collapse of WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7, in New York, on 11 September 2001 … is still proceeding at a snail’s pace, i.e. very slowly.  Today, many significant aspects of NIST’s Recommendations remain unimplemented.

For our International Work … we would like to understand how you have responded directly to the NIST Recommendations … and incorporated the necessary additional modifications into your current structural fire engineering designs.

Many thanks for your kind attention.  In anticipation of your prompt and detailed response …

C.J. Walsh

[2012-01-10 … No reply yet !]

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2011-12-14

Mr. C.Y. Lee & Mr. C.P. Wang, Principal Architects – C.Y. Lee & Partners Architects/Planners, Taiwan.

Dear Sirs,

Knowing that your architectural practice designed the Taipei 101 Tower, which was completed in 2004 … and, later, was also involved in the design of other tall and super-tall buildings in Taiwan and China … we have been examining your Company WebSite very carefully.  However, some essential information is missing.

As you are probably aware … implementation of the 2005 & 2008 U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Recommendations on the Collapse of WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7, in New York City, on 11 September 2001 … is still proceeding at a snail’s pace, i.e. very slowly.  Today, many significant aspects of NIST’s Recommendations remain unimplemented.

For our International Work … we would like to understand how you have responded directly to the NIST Recommendations … and incorporated the necessary additional modifications into your current architectural designs.

Many thanks for your kind attention.  In anticipation of your prompt and detailed response …

C.J. Walsh

[2012-01-10 … No reply yet !]

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So … how many Clients, or Client Organizations, are aware that to properly protect their interests … even, a significant part of their interests … it is vitally necessary that Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives be developed which will have a much wider scope ?   The answer is … not many !

How many Architects, Structural Engineers, and Fire Engineers fully explain this to their Clients or Client Organizations ?

And how many Clients/Client Organizations either know that they should ask, or have the balls to ask … their Architect, Structural Engineer and Fire Engineer for this explanation … and furthermore, in the case of any High-Rise Building, Iconic Building, or Building having an Important Function or an Innovative Design … ask the same individuals for some solid reassurance that they have responded directly to the 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations … and incorporated the necessary additional modifications into your current designs … whatever current Building and Fire Codes/Regulations do or do not say ??   A big dilemma !

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A common and very risky dilemma for Building Designers, however, arises in the situation where the Project Developer, i.e. the Client/Client Organization … is the same as the Construction Organization.  The Project Design & Construction Team – as a whole – now has very little power or authority if a conflict arises over technical aspects of the design … or over construction costs.  An even bigger dilemma !!

Colour image showing the Kingdom Tower Project, in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) ... which will be completed in 2018. Design by Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture, USA. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Kingdom Tower Project, in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) ... which will be completed in 2018. Design by Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture, USA. Click to enlarge.

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  4.     The Next Series of Posts – 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations

In the new year of 2012 … I will examine the later NIST Recommendations which were a response to the Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse of World Trade Center Building No.7.

Colour image showing the Signature Tower Project, in Jakarta (Indonesia) ... which will be completed in 2016. Design by Smallwood Reynolds Stewart Stewart Architects & Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Signature Tower Project, in Jakarta (Indonesia) ... which will be completed in 2016. Design by Smallwood Reynolds Stewart Stewart Architects & Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

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  5.     Please … Your Comments, Views & Opinions ?!?

The future of  Conventional Fire Engineering ended on the morning of Tuesday, 11 September 2001, in New York City … an engineering discipline constrained by a long heritage deeply embedded in, and manacled to, an outdated and inflexible prescriptive approach to Codes/Regulations and Standards … an approach which is irrational, ignores the ‘real’ needs of the ‘real’ people who use and/or occupy ‘real’ buildings … and, quite frankly, no longer makes any scientific sense !!

On the other hand … having confronted the harsh realities of 9/11 and the Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks, and digested the 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC RecommendationsSustainable Fire Engineering … having a robust empirical basis, being ‘person-centred’, and positively promoting creativity … offers the International Fire Science and Engineering Community a confident journey forward into the future … on many diverse routes !

This IS the only appropriate response to the exciting architectural innovations and fire safety challenges of today’s Built Environment.

BUT … what do you think ?

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2010 UNFCCC Climate Summit in Cancún – Smell The Coffee !

The hype is less this year … and I bet that not too many politicians will be appearing in front of the cameras at the end of this 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Summit … which is being held in Cancún, Mexico … from Monday, 29 November until Friday, 10 December 2010.

If you want to follow what’s happening closely … go to the Official UNFCCC WebSite … and check out the Daily Conference Programme, here, at this address … http://unfccc.int/conference_programme/items/5769.php

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Let us not forget that the result of last year’s debacle … the 2009 Copenhagen Accord … was an unofficial, political agreement between a small number of Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and Heads of Delegation – Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) and the USA – who attended the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, which concluded on Saturday, 19th December 2009.  Since then, many countries have made voluntary submissions, i.e. they are not legally binding, to Appendices I and II of the Copenhagen Accord.

An initial overview of the submissions made by Developed Countries, however, revealed the following about the voluntary emissions targets being undertaken …

  • they are highly conditional on the performance of other countries ;
  • they are disappointing, being well below what is required to cap the planetary temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius ;   and
  • there is no consistent emission base year … varying from 1990 and 1992, up to 2000 and 2005.

This is very far from being a signal of serious intent from Developed Countries … and is not … in any way, shape or manner … an acceptance of historical responsibilities.  It would be reasonable, therefore, to surmise that the process of achieving a global, legally binding, consensus agreement on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets will be long and difficult.  The Climate Change Mitigation Agenda is, to put it mildly, fraught with problems … and has an unclear future in the short term.

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HOWEVER … Back In The ‘Real’ World … GHG Emissions Continue To Rise !

On 24 November 2010 … the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published its Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.6: ‘The State of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Based on Global Observations through 2009′.

The WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme coordinates systematic observations and analysis of atmospheric composition, including Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and other trace species.  Measurement data are reported by participating countries and archived and distributed by the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (WDCGG) at the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Even here … it is clearly stated that there are still uncertainties …

2009 Global Observations of Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) in the Atmosphere

24 November 2010

UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.6

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (3.37 Mb)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The latest analysis of observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch Programme shows that the globally averaged mixing ratios of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2009, with CO2 at 386.8 parts per million, CH4 at 1803 ppb and N2O at 322.5 ppb.  These values are greater than those in pre-industrial times (before 1750) by 38%, 158% and 19%, respectively.

Atmospheric growth rates of CO2 and N2O in 2009 are consistent with recent years, but are lower than in 2008.

After nearly a decade of no growth, Atmospheric CH4 has increased during the past three years.  The reasons for renewed growth of Atmospheric Methane are not fully understood, but emissions from natural sources (from northern latitudes and the tropics) are considered potential causes.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows that from 1990 to 2009, radiative forcing by all long-lived greenhouse gases increased by 27.5%, with CO2 accounting for nearly 80% of this increase.

The combined radiative forcing by Halocarbons is nearly double that of N2O.

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Help with the Technical Terms of Climate Change ?

Give it a lash !   Try out the Encyclopaedia of Earth WebSite … an electronic reference about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society.  The Encyclopaedia is a free, fully searchable collection of articles written by scholars, professionals, educators, and experts who collaborate and review each other’s work.  The articles are written in non-technical language and are useful to students, educators, scholars, professionals, as well as to the general public.

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To Mitigate or Adapt ? – Prioritizing a Strategy for the Built Environment

We are already experiencing the adverse impacts of Climate Change !   And even if sufficient and appropriate Climate Mitigation Measures were succeeding … which they patently are not … the timelag between their implementation and any resulting beneficial environmental impacts is too great … half a century, at least … and full of uncertainty.

BUT … since the minimum period for a Sustainable Building in Use is 100 Years, and nothing less than a Recurrence Interval of 100 years should now be used in design calculations for events such as severe storms and flooding, or deluge rainfalls, etc … anyone involved in the design, construction, management or operation of the Built Environment must think ‘long-term’ … today !

In Dublin … buildings which are 250 or 350 years old still look remarkably good, and are well capable of fulfilling an important function within the social and economic environments of the city.  ‘Politically’ and ‘technically’, therefore, it would be more appropriate for the Built Environment if we were concerned with the Long-Term Climate Change Adaptation Agenda … rather than a problematic, Short-Term Mitigation Agenda.

In terms of a building … is there really a clear difference between measures undertaken for the purpose of mitigation and those undertaken for adaptation ?   For example, measures to incrementally improve energy efficiency and conserve energy, in accordance with short-term legally binding targets, will serve to mitigate CO2 Emissions … but the same measures will also serve to adapt the building to rapidly dwindling supplies of climate-damaging fossil fuels.

The long-term perspective exerts pressure for more radical, but necessary, actions in the short-term.

BUT … should we not already be undertaking these sorts of measures as part of the Mainstream Sustainability Agenda … in order to improve built environment resilience, prolong life cycles … and achieve social wellbeing for all ?

Generally … Climate Change Adaptation encompasses urgent and immediate short, near and long-term actions at local, national, regional and international levels to reduce the vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of the Human Environment, including ecological and social systems, institutions and economic sectors … to present and future adverse effects of climate change and the impacts of response measure implementation … in order to minimize the local threats to life, human health, livelihoods, food security, assets, amenities, ecosystems and sustainable development.

More specifically … Built Environment Climate Change Adaptation means reliably implementing policies, practices, projects and institutional reforms in the Built Environment … with the aim of reducing the adverse impacts and/or realizing the benefits directly/indirectly associated with climate change, including variability and extremes … in a manner which is compatible with Sustainable Human and Social Development.

Wake Up And Smell The Coffee … It’s Time To Get Serious !!!!

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