Currently viewing the tag: "Global Warming"

Here is an interesting proposal?! As commuters expend energy through fuel consumption the energy released by the automobiles will then be harnessed by turbines. The poetics of no energy ever being created, but simply transferred, is satisfyingly embraced in this concept. Not to mention the benefit of a constant visual mantra of the global warming crisis being ever present while driving.

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Given the urgent action that must be taken to fight climate change, it is important to be searching for ways to cut our harmful emissions. One particularly simple, yet important area that has not received much attention thus far is work hours. Is it possible that we could curb our emissions significantly just by working a few less hours per week?
According to a study led by Harvard economics professor Mark Weisbrot, it’s very possible. The study, conducted for the Center of Economic and Policy Research and titled Are Shorter Work Hours Good for the Environment?, claims that if Americans adopted European standards for work hours, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2000 would have been 7% lower than its actual 1990 emissions. This assumes U.S. workers would average 35 hours of work per week, as is typical throughout much of Europe.

Not only would this help the world’s worst global warming offender curb its emissions, it would provide workers with the equivalent of seven weeks of additional time off per year. This is time that could be spent with families, friends, relaxing, or even getting more sleep. Sound unrealistic? A survey issued by the Center for the New American Dream found that half of all Americans with full-time jobs would prefer to work a four-day week at 80% of their current pay.

Perhaps even scarier, though, is if the inverse were to occur. According to the study, if Europe was to move in a new direction and adopt the American standard of work hours, it could consume 25-30% more energy per year. However, this isn’t just a US vs. Europe issue. As the economies of developing countries grow, they will almost certainly move in a direction to adopt either the American or European standards for work hours. If these countries were to choose the American standard, they would likely consume between 15% and 30% more energy than if they had adopted the European standard. What’s the significance? All the extra carbon emissions could result in a devastating 1-2 degrees Celsius of additional warming.

Considering that we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-90% this century, changing the American standard of work hours deserves some serious consideration. Perhaps at a minimum, we should be given a choice of whether we want to to take an “hour cut” or not, as is argued by the Preservation Institute.

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Photo Source: Miami Herald via Green Peace, AP File 2006

Our global warming crisis continues to become more foreboding. Today the Herald reported findings from a recent study that predicts serious local climate change in South Florida’s future. According to the study, which is one of the first to predict local climate change stemming from global warming, by 2100 South Florida will likely have a novel climate that is warmer, drier, and unlike any other on Earth. Among the findings:

  • Mean temperatures in South Florida could rise by 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer/wet season (+ 3 ½ degrees in the winter/dry season)
  • High temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90’s can be expected during the summer/wet season
  • Much drier conditions: 3 ½ fewer inches of rainfall during the wet season (Note: Drier does not mean less humid)
  • Even if worldwide action reduces greenhouse gas emissions, 4-20 percent of the world’s land could experience novel climates
These findings have grave implications for South Florida. As I noted above, a “drier” climate does not mean a less humid climate. High temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s coupled with high humidity would make it feel like 110-120 degrees based on heat indexes. Also to consider, the 5-7 degree rise is in mean temperature, which is the average temperature over a 24-hour period. For the last 30 years, Miami’s mean temperature has averaged about 83 degrees during the peak of the summer/wet season. If the predictions are true, then our average daily temperatures could be as high as 90 degrees! Imagine stifling days with highs of 95 and lows of 85. Factor in humidity, and even our nights would feel as warm as 100 degrees!

All of this does not even consider the potentially catastrophic effects of rising sea levels, increased frequency of major hurricanes, drought, and the decimation of the Everglades. It is now critical that we begin making major changes in the way we live and the way our cities function. Given the implications of climate change in South Florida, you would think that our region would be on the leading edge of sustainable urban planning. Sadly, as we all know, this is not currently the case. Yes, Mayor Diaz should be complemented for his green building proposal, Miami 21, and the Miami Streetcar initiative, but this barely scratches the surface of sustainability. We need a progressive, regional effort to significantly reduce our dependence on the automobile, boost alternative transportation modes, and design sustainable, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods. We cannot wait any longer to act.

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