Since 6,500 years, the earth has never been so hot, and human society has never faced such a dramatic increase in temperature. At noon on July 19, 2022, the thermometer at Heathrow Airport in the London area pointed to 40.2°C, significantly breaking the record for the highest temperature three years ago.
In fact, not only the UK, but from Europe to North America, the entire northern hemisphere has been hit by unusually high temperatures this summer. According to media reports, high temperature combined with drought has sparked wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans, killing hundreds; in the United States, the high temperature has strained power supplies and even melted high-voltage cables; in places such as Vancouver, Canada, the high temperature has made some car windows warm to burst.
At present, extreme weather is no longer an “extreme” event. Since last year, heavy rains and floods in Western Europe and East Asia, and forest fires in Siberia and the eastern Mediterranean coast are just rehearsals for the future. Scientists warn that extreme weather is not only a natural disaster, but is largely a man-made disaster. Whether each extreme weather in the future will continue to be extremely deadly and destructive is in the hands of mankind.
17th Century: Extreme Weather Was God’s Will
Since ancient times, the world has been “fighting” with extreme weather, extreme cold, high temperature, heavy rain, floods… As early as the Song Dynasty, China had records about typhoons. Song “Taiping Yulan”: “It is also fearful to speak. It is often used in June and July.” The ancients used the word “fear” to understand typhoons, indicating that typhoons have great destructive power. Once there is a typhoon, it will cause many The town is almost dead.
In ancient times, the ancients had relatively primitive means of dealing with extreme weather, such as predicting extreme weather by observing certain sensitive characteristics and abnormal behaviors of animals. According to feng shui theory, “Hidden Wind and Gather Qi” has become an important principle for building site selection, that is, there is a high mountain backing in the north, a hill in the southwest for wind protection, and a river in the east. The ancients also accumulated a wealth of windproof experience in building site selection.
In the world, many ancient civilizations have had magnificent water conservancy projects to deal with floods. Founded in the Warring States Period, Dujiangyan has a history of more than 2,000 years. It is a large-scale ecological water conservancy project constructed according to the situation of the flood law of the Minjiang River and the topography of the hanging river in the Chengdu Plain. It is a great miracle in the history of water conservancy projects and a bright pearl of the world’s water conservancy projects.
Regardless of how it is dealt with, the impacts of extreme climate change are widespread, directly affecting ecosystems as well as agriculture and food production.
Taking Europe in the 17th century as an example, it experienced a transition from the Middle Ages to modern times, and countries generally experienced crises such as declining agricultural production, economic recession, frequent famines, outbreaks of plagues, and social unrest.
Some scholars pointed out that the occurrence of the crisis in the 17th century was not only explained from the perspectives of politics, economy and culture, but also related to the changes in the Little Ice Age from 1303 to 1860. This was an unusually cold and rainy period, with declining solar activity, few sunspots, and cold winters, and France experienced frequent extreme weather events during this period. Taking the winter of 1708-1709 as an example, there were a total of 7 cold waves.
Germany is no exception, especially in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, when the average temperature in Germany was about 1°C lower than usual. For example, from 1600 to 1601, the temperature in winter in Germany was 5.5°C lower than usual; The soldier wrote in his diary in August 1640: “It was so cold at this time that we almost froze to death in our quarters.”
At that time, the concept of “natural disaster” had not yet appeared, and the German response was relatively primitive, including the religious way of blaming disasters on divine providence and finding scapegoats. Because people generally blame bad effects such as crop failures, soaring prices, and epidemics on witches’ evil actions, and demand government intervention. At that time, France was experiencing a revival of Catholicism, and the church and believers also believed that the extreme weather was a divine act, and that people would be sent to hell.
To this end, the church holds various prayer services to prevent or respond to climate disasters. In 1664, Father Bouy suggested the practice of exorcism to drive away the coming storm. In May 1709, it rained for several months in Bordeaux, and farmers, worried about the harvest, organized public prayers and even held parades of large prayer ceremonies in the hope of good weather and divine favor.
Although French government officials have taken some measures to remedy the food shortage caused by extreme weather, they have not yet formed a secular, direct and systematic way to deal with climate disasters. It was not until after the mid-17th century that the germs of modern ideas and measures to deal with climate disasters appeared.
In the 18th century, benefiting from economic development and the spirit of enlightenment, modern meteorology was born, and the concept of natural disasters appeared. Professionals began to play a role in disaster relief. In some places, when a climate disaster strikes, town officials turn to technicians or scientists to test the strength of bridge piers, see if river ice is clogged, and assess whether bridge foundations can withstand the impact of floodwaters.
The Royal Society of Medicine of France, established in 1774, established a climate observation network at the national level. The government also initially formed procedures for prevention, warning and rescue of climate disasters, building dams, storing water sources, renovating the country, and disbursing relief funds after disasters. However, due to the severe financial crisis at the end of the old system and the fetters of intricate local interests, these measures were not effectively implemented across the country, but they did not prevent the continuation and development of its ideas and measures to manage climate disasters in the 19th century.
Of course, it should be pointed out that the traditional way of explaining and responding to the causes of disasters did not completely disappear, and still coexisted with the rational way. Take Germany as an example. At that time, it was unable to take more complete and effective measures like Britain and France, which had powerful monarchy at the same time, but to a certain extent, the impact of natural disasters was mitigated. In addition, ordinary people are also trying to cope with the cold weather through lifestyle changes.
In buildings, for example, the prevalence of glass windows helps save energy; feather beds and cushions keep people through cold nights; and wood floors keep warm. For clothing, people turned to heavier fabrics, with stiff oversized black hats, plate-sized white ruffles, voluminous black coats, heavy boots and gloves.
Modern: Planning measures are pushed in parallel
With the promotion of the Industrial Revolution, Western capitalist countries ushered in rapid development. Hundreds of thousands of chimneys and steam engines released a lot of soot and sulfur dioxide. However, under the prosperity, air pollution, exploitation and oppression, poverty, etc. followed .
In January 1930, the Maas Valley smog event occurred in Belgium, which was the earliest air pollution tragedy on record in the 20th century. The photochemical smog event occurred in Los Angeles in the early 1940s, and the damage continued for decades. In modern times, since the 1980s, climate change has gradually become a comprehensive issue covering global governance, diplomacy, environmental protection, economic development and other fields. Human beings are becoming more and more alert and aware of the importance of the community of life on earth and the urgency of addressing climate change.
In recent years, the heat wave climate change brought about by global warming is particularly evident. Experts have suggested naming or grading heatwaves so that they can spread at the mass level, but it’s hard to do it alone. How to reduce its impact on people’s production and life and improve “thermal adaptability” in an all-round way has become a new and major issue that urgently needs to be faced in the current urban public management.
On August 4, 2022, Baghdad, Iraq, experienced a high temperature heat wave, with the temperature soaring above 50°C, and people jumped into the river to play in the water to cool off.
As early as 2003, suffering from the heat wave, the United Kingdom compiled the “England High Temperature Plan” to carry out disaster emergency response work at the national level. By 2015, after practice and editing, a complete system that takes into account the special planning for high temperature emergency response and the overall urban climate adaptation planning has been formed.
Cities in many countries have prepared city-level climate adaptation action plans. Extreme heat is one of the four major goals that climate adaptation strategies need to address in the Chicago Climate Action Plan issued in 2008. In 2013, “A Stronger and More Resilient New York” promulgated by New York City proposed that the issue of extreme heat disasters should focus on ensuring the health and safety of vulnerable groups.
Toronto, Canada has also started working on a high temperature health warning system since 1999. In 2000, a high temperature emergency committee was established to be responsible for the drafting, supervision and improvement of the annual high temperature weather response plan.
In addition, measures such as minimizing man-made heat emissions and cooling the road surface through material technology have also achieved immediate results. Japan has developed a new type of building material that can reduce the temperature of asphalt pavements. Experiments show that under the sunlight in summer, the temperature of general asphalt pavements can reach 60 °C, while the temperature of the pavement paved with this special paving material is about 45 °C.
Planting more trees and building shady street corridors will help more people get out of their homes safely in the long run. However, tree growth takes time. Therefore, in the long-term and short-term planning of the entire city, more considerations need to be set aside for resisting heat waves. In Germany, 80% of the roofs have extensive greening. In order to increase the enthusiasm of residents to green roofs, they will receive a government subsidy of 10 to 20 euros per square meter of green space.
The development of information technology and the in-depth mining of big data are also gradually applied to extreme weather management. For example, the Paris city government has launched a mobile application that allows people to check where to go to escape the summer heat in Paris through their mobile phones. In addition to specifying the location of the nearest heat escape center and predicting the local temperature, it provides warnings on how different levels of high temperature will affect the consumption of the product. efficacy of drugs.
Regarding the future of climate change, whether it will turn the tide in decades or cross the climate tipping point, the key lies in these few years.
On December 12, 2015, at the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference, the climate change agreement signed by 178 parties around the world was negotiated. The Paris Agreement, covering mitigation, adaptation and financing of climate change, was signed on April 22, 2016 at the United Nations Building in New York, USA, and officially implemented on November 4, 2016.
On the night of November 13, 2021, the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change concluded in Glasgow, UK, one day after an “extra time”. The General Assembly reached a package of resolutions on the implementation rules of the Paris Agreement, starting a new journey for the international community to fully implement the Paris Agreement.
Decent living and emission reduction can go hand in hand
As climate ‘collapse’ occurs, more people may be affected by extreme weather. So for the money needed to deal with extreme weather, Guterres has frequently called for half of the climate money that rich countries provide to poor countries to help them adapt to the climate crisis. The reality, though, is that, right now, the vast majority of these funds are used to help middle-income countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and efforts to adapt to climate change are hard to come by.
Guterres called for a plan on how to achieve this at the next UN climate summit (COP27) in Egypt in November.
Prior to this, on February 28 and April 4 this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth assessment report, which profoundly revealed the relationship between climate, ecosystems and biodiversity and human society. interdependence.
WG2 pointed out that how to provide a climate-resilient and equitable transition path for countries and regions with different levels of development has become the focus of global attention. WG3 pointed out that at present, it seems that the goal of controlling the temperature rise to 1.5 °C is difficult to achieve, and limiting the temperature below 2 °C will rely on efforts to accelerate emission reduction after 2030.
The report emphasizes that maintaining a decent standard of living for all is not incompatible with emissions reductions, nor will it affect the achievement of the goal of keeping the temperature rise within 2°C. This requires the accelerated transformation in the context of sustainable development from multiple aspects, including from technological innovation to market transformation, from policy and governance arrangements to changes in beliefs. Among them, people’s thinking and behavior are very important.
Taking buildings as an example, the WG3 report pointed out that the building sector, which accounts for 31% of global final energy consumption, is likely to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and its emission reduction potential can reach 8.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide. However, in the next ten years, there is a basic concept and principle that must be widely recognized and implemented, that is, “in the entire life cycle of the building, try to avoid excessive demand for energy and materials”. In short, it is necessary to shift from the pursuit of “efficiency” to “adequacy”.
The so-called “adequate” is to use the global emission limit as a constraint to minimize the carbon emissions caused by the construction and operation of the building without reducing the comfort level. Transportation emissions reductions are also of concern. For example, reducing long-distance air travel can significantly reduce carbon emissions; in road transport, electric vehicles powered by low-emission electricity have the greatest decarbonization potential.
In the industrial sector, this IPCC assessment report affirms the possibility of achieving near-zero emissions in the industrial sector. Reducing emissions from the industrial sector requires more efficient use of materials, reuse and recycling of products where possible, and minimization of waste. For basic materials such as steel, building materials and chemicals, production technologies with low to zero greenhouse gas emissions are in the pilot and near-commercial stages.
Technological innovation in the next 5-15 years will be critical for industrial emission reduction. Since my country’s renewable resources are concentrated in the northwest region, the future industrial layout of my country may change due to the influence of resource endowments.
In September 2020, China clearly proposed the goals of “carbon peaking” in 2030 and “carbon neutrality” in 2060. On July 15, 2021, the Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange announced that according to the overall arrangement of the country, the national carbon emission trading will open on July 16. According to the estimates of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the first batch of enterprises covered by the national carbon market have a carbon emission of more than 4 billion tons. After the national carbon market is launched, it will become the largest carbon market in the world covering greenhouse gas emissions. Liu Qiang, a researcher at the Institute of Quantitative and Technological Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that controlling fossil energy consumption, promoting the development of new and clean energy, promoting the in-depth integration of emerging technologies such as Internet big data, artificial intelligence, and 5G with low-carbon industries, curbing the “two highs” “The blind development of the project can promote the transition from “double control” of energy to “double control” of total carbon emissions and intensity.
Regarding the future of climate change, whether it will turn the tide in decades or cross the climate tipping point, the key lies in these few years.