At the end of May parts of France were hit with days of heavy downpours, causing significant damage and flooding. Scientists at the World Weather Attribution (WWA) have now suggested that human-caused climate change is one of the main reasons for the three-day rainstorm. The scientists analysed observational data and used climate change models to determine the causes of the extreme weather.
“We know that global warming leads to more downpours in general,” said Robert Vautard, a senior scientist with France’s Laboratory for Climate and Environment Sciences and Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace. “But with this attribution analysis, we found we could tie global warming directly to the recent rainstorms in France that triggered so much flooding and destruction.”
Overall, the probability of three-day extreme rainfall in this season has increased by at least 40 percent in France, with the best estimate about 80 percent on the Seine and about 90 percent on the Loire. All four climate models that simulated the statistical properties of the extremes are in good overall agreement. WWA scientists also ran analyses for Germany, but the results there were inconclusive.
Vautard worked with Florence Habets — a colleague from the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace and fellow WWA scientists from the University of Oxford, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and Climate Central, using observational data and climate models to conduct near real-time analyses of the likelihood that climate change contributed to the recent heavy rains in France and Germany. By reviewing the on-the-ground impacts, the team realized it needed to define the meteorological event differently in France and Germany. In France, the event was best characterized by looking at three-day rainfall extremes from April to June over the Seine and Loire River basins. In Germany, the team analysed trends in one-day maximum precipitation over the hardest hit area (a region stretching from 48°-51°N and 7°-13°E) from January to June.
“Using an ensemble of different climate models and different methods we got very consistent numbers for the impact of climate change on the rainfall in France, giving us confidence in the results,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a researcher with KNMI who led the analysis. “For such late-spring thunderstorms in Germany this was not the case, so we’re holding off on drawing conclusions for those events at this stage.”
“The same overall weather pattern — a stalled system of low pressure — triggered the heavy rains in both France and Germany, but affected each country very differently,” explained Karsten Haustein from Oxford University. “In France, problems were caused primarily by rivers bursting their banks, requiring mass evacuations. In Germany, thunderstorms dropped large amounts of rain in a very short period of time in mountainous terrain, causing devastating flash floods.”
In one location in Southern Germany, walls of water crushed cars and houses, sending residents searching for the safety of rooftops. In parts of central and north-eastern France, historic flooding of rivers led to widespread power outages and the closing of Parisian landmarks like the Louvre museum. The deluge is reported to have killed at least 18 people in Germany, France, Romania and Belgium.
Maarten van Aalst, the director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, added: “These latest lethal floods in Europe illustrate the rising impact of extreme-weather events, including developed and well-prepared countries like Germany and France. Sadly we saw that even advanced infrastructure and water management cannot prevent some areas and neighbourhoods being overwhelmed and people sometimes dying. And hardware goes hand-in-hand with awareness: well-briefed citizens know what to do when intense rainfall and thunderstorms are forecast, and they can get out of harm’s way.
“People affected by extreme events need an objective assessment of the causes,” said Heidi Cullen of Climate Central. “There is often speculation about the possible role of climate change when extreme weather events take place, generally lacking sound scientific evidence. Our goal is to provide quantitative answers using multiple peer-reviewed methodologies so we can let the science speak for itself.”
Richard Black, Director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “The ability to analyse scientifically whether man-made climate change has played a role in specific extreme weather events is advancing at a startling pace. Until very recently, scientists weren’t able to make this sort of judgement, but that’s changing fast.
“Within the last year or so we’ve learned that climate change made both last year’s European heatwave and last December’s extreme rainfall in parts of the UK more likely; and now scientists conclude man-made climate change probably almost doubled the likelihood of the recent French floods.
“This kind of information is really useful. It helps civil authorities plan for increasing extreme weather events of the future, and shows policymakers the increased risks that lie ahead if they choose not to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.”
A scientific paper detailing the results for France and Germany analyses has been prepared and will be submitted to the journal HESS. A non-technical summary of the extreme rainfall analyses may be found on the WWA website.
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.