Just ran across a 2007 paper that the authors claim “produces the first large-scale estimates of the US health related welfare costs due to climate change.” The authors are the economists Olivier Deschenes from UC Santa Barbara and Michael Greenstone from MIT. (Greenstone is the former chief economist with the Council of Economic Advisors in the first year of the Obama administration.) The study looks at the costs of an individual’s adaptation to climate change – things like taking medication to offset air pollution or increasing air conditioner usage to cope with high temperatures. This finding stood out:
Individuals are likely to respond to higher temperatures by increasing air conditioning usage; the analysis suggests that climate change will lead to
increases in annual residential energy consumption of up to 32% by the end of the century.
When petroleum costs began to rise and supply was threatened by the Iraq War, research into alternative energy was suddenly thrust into high gear after a few decades of relative inactivity. Just in the last 10 years, 70s era research was rediscovered and used to further our current interests in alternative energy. It’s time for landscape planners and landscape architects to re-engage with our equivalent research – the 70s era “design with climate” research that was conducted as a response to the energy crisis of that time. Among the climate adaptation needs it could serve is residential energy consumption.
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2010, 2005, 2007, 2009, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2004, 2001. What do these years have in common? They are the top 10 hottest years (in descending order), according to NASA, since records began in 1870. 2010 and 2005 are tied for being the hottest years (combined land and ocean surface temperatures). So what was going on in 2008? I guess it’s the data point that “proves” nothing is going on?
What can physical planners and designers do to help people, especially city-dwellers, adjust to a future of deadly heat waves? Designers already have the knowledge and skills to create comfortable outdoor spaces, but can heat-mitigating designs be ramped up to a scale necessary to save lives? How would we do this? What more do we need to know? All new research begins with a review of what we already know, and I have an initial summary of research literature for this topic. If this interests you, click here to read more. The diagram below (click on the image for a better view) is referenced in the link. And if you experienced a snowmageddon or snowpocalypse last winter, you might summon up that memory now as an escape from the high temps of July and August.
Framework for reducing urban vulnerability to extreme heat (Wilhelmi and Hayden 2010)
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If you have followed active living research over the past few years, you are very familiar with maps that track the incidence of obesity in this country. Today, Kevin Drum of Mother Jones calls this “the map of the day”. It looks very familiar, but the message is still appalling. These are rural Southern and Midwestern counties, for the most part, where obesity rates are high. As stated in the Population Health Metrics article, decline of life expectancy in a developed nation is rare.
Population Health Metrics journal, Kulkarni et al. 2011
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