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Global Context

RESTORE THE BALANCE IN THE WATER BALANCE: “The approach to urban design – where water is held in place to be called-upon when needed – is known as the ‘sponge city’, and it is rapidly growing in popularity,” wrote Laurie Winkless, author of ‘Science and the City: The Mechanics Behind the Metropolis’, in an article for Forbes Magazine (July 2021)


A sponge city is a new urban construction model for flood management, strengthening ecological infrastructure and drainage systems, proposed by Chinese researchers in 2014. “Extreme weather, a changing climate, and impervious streets and roads have combined to create an urban disaster. All of this has seen cities begin to re-imagine their relationship with water. Rather than just designing systems that allow the water to drain away slowly and stably, they want to harvest and reuse it,” stated Laurie Winkless.

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DEALING WITH UNCERTAINTY AND MANAGING RISK: “A key feature of climate change is that it doesn’t pose one single risk. Rather, it presents multiple, interacting risks that can compound and cascade. Importantly, responses to climate change can also affect risk,” wrote University of Capetown researchers Nicholas Simpson and Christopher Trisos in an article published by The Conversation (August 2021)


“In our highly connected world, climate risks and our responses to them can be transmitted from one system or sector to another, creating new risks and making existing ones more or less severe. In many cases risks cannot be understood without considering these interactions. Recent evidence indicates how some of the most severe climate change impacts, such as those from deadly heat or sudden ecosystem collapse, are strongly influenced by interactions across sectors and regions,” stated Nicholas Simpson.

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A CHANGING CLIMATE AFFECTS ALL OF US: “Over the past eight years, climate scientists have improved the methods they use to measure different aspects of climate and to project what might happen in the future. They’ve also been monitoring the changes that have developed right before our eyes,” stated Dr. Alex Crawford, a climatologist at the University of Manitoba (August 2021)


On August 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release its most comprehensive report on the science of climate change since 2013. “The report will provide policy-makers with the best possible information regarding the physical science of climate change, which is essential for long-term planning in many sectors, from infrastructure to energy to social welfare,” stated Alex Crawford. In his article, he identifies five things to look for in the new report.

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MOTHER NATURE IS TICKED OFF: “Fires. Floods. Mudslides. Rivers and reservoirs drying up. Record heat. Rising shorelines. Glacial melting. The Earth is in peril,” stated Michele Norris, Washington Post columnist (July 2021)


“Mother Nature has had it with her brood. If you can’t see that, you haven’t been paying attention. The defining struggle of our time, and our future, will be the tension between Mother Nature and human nature. So, more of us need to think differently about who and what we are dealing with here. That seems to have finally begun. In a season of catastrophic, deadly and too-common extreme weather events, there are signs that even people who were hesitant to embrace the science behind climate change are waking up to the threat,” stated Michele Norris.

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‘HISTORIC, DANGEROUS, PROLONGED AND UNPRECEDENTED’ HEAT WAVE SWELLS OVER PACIFIC NORTHWEST AND BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Perhaps the most intense heatwave for our region since the late 19th century – or at least close to it – is beginning to take shape,” reported the United States National Weather Service in the early morning on Saturday, June 26, 2021


As of 2015, we clearly crossed an invisible threshold into a different hydrometeorological regime in Western North America. Changes in the global hydrologic cycle have huge implications for every region of the world. “It’s unprecedented,” said Armel Castellan, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, when he described the “dome of heat” that descended on British Columbia in June 2021. “It’s never happened this early in the season. Temperatures are breaking all-time highs in south coast locations in June.”

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CLIMATE ADAPTATION / USE PLAIN LANGUAGE: “A lot of fantastic studies are misinterpreted outside of scientific circles because the language, style and meaning of science writing is very different to non-specialists,” stated Charles Axelsson, PhD candidate, University of Venice


“I have re-evaluated how I discuss my own research. I was taking some of the terminology for granted as it is repeated in the literature time and time again but words like ‘stormwater’, ‘rainwater’ and ‘drainage’ can have such powerful unconscious effects on how you interpret the discussions and they can mean different things to different stakeholders in the system. These terminology choices ultimately have a large effect in science communication and the message you intend to convey,” stated Charles Axelsson.

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AN UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCE OF A CHANGING CLIMATE: “The influence of plants has been overlooked before. This study highlights the vegetation impacts on Arctic warming under an elevated CO2 world,” said study co-author Jin-Soo Kim, a scientist at the University of Edinburgh


The Arctic is one of the fastest-warming places on the planet —and scientists still aren’t completely sure why. This is an emerging area of research, with the exact magnitude of the effects still unclear. As a result, the effect is not well-represented —if at all —in most climate models. “There’s a chance that some model projections could be underestimating future climate change, particularly in the Arctic. More research may clarify whether that’s actually the case and exactly how much plants are contributing to the warming that’s happening all over the globe,” stated Jin-Soo Kim.

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PREPARE FOR TOMORROW: “Stopping the spread of coronavirus is paramount, but climate action must also continue. And we can draw many lessons and opportunities from the current health crisis when tackling planetary warming,” stated Dr. Natasha Chassagne, University of Tasmania


“In many ways, what we’re seeing now is a rapid and unplanned version of economic ‘degrowth’ – the transition some academics and activists have for decades said is necessary to address climate change, and leave a habitable planet for future generations. Degrowth is a proposed slowing of growth in sectors that damage the environment, such as fossil fuel industries, until the economy operates within Earth’s limits,” stated Dr. Natasha Chassagne.

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SINKING LAND AND RISING SEAS: Architects and planners from the Netherlands are advising coastal cities worldwide on how to live with water


‘For the Dutch, consulting with cities about their response to relative sea-level rise has become a growth industry. They’re the Silicon Valley of water management, a laboratory testing strategies that have evolved over the centuries. No wonder. Water has been both a daily threat and a national identity for a country about the size of Maryland. More than half the nation’s 17 million people live on land below sea level,” wrote Jim Morrison. “Rising seas threaten 10 percent of the world’s urban population so there’s never-ending demand.”

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AMAZON FIRES ARE CAUSING GLACIERS TO MELT EVEN FASTER: “Currently, the climate models used to predict the future melting of glaciers in the Andes do not incorporate black carbon; this is likely causing the rate of glacial melt to be underestimated in many current assessments,” wrote Matthew Harris, PhD Researcher, Keele University Ice Lab


“Despite being invisible to the naked eye, black carbon particles affect the ability of the snow to reflect incoming sunlight, a phenomenon known as “albedo”. Similar to how a dark-coloured car will heat up more quickly in direct sunlight when compared with a light-coloured one, glaciers covered by black carbon particles will absorb more heat, and thus melt faster,” stated Matthew Harris. “With communities reliant on glaciers for water, work examining complex forces like black carbon is needed more now than ever before.”

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