Wednesday, August 3, 2022 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Good morning, and happy humpday!
Apparently, today is a day to celebrate watermelon and white wine, to grab some nuts and clean your floors.
As I continue my focus on the planet’s scorching temperatures, and their impacts on PSE, it’s also worth noting that today we can expect a solar burst to trigger a minor geomagnetic storm. Aside from some colourful aurora effects as far south as Maine, the storm is also expected to cause “minor fluctuations in power grids and impact some satellite functions” like GPS.
Yesterday (“Hot Enough For Ya?”) I summarized the extreme heatwaves hitting the northern hemisphere this summer, and their destructive impacts on forests and crops, lakes and rivers, runways and railways, server farms and economic productivity. Architects, urban planners, engineers and materials science researchers are all hard at work, preparing civilization for an even hotter future…
Rippling runways and buckling rails are nothing new: Europe’s transport sector already suffers more than $1B in climate-related damage annually. Even worse, uFlorence researchers predict that damage will exceed $15B a year by late in the century, almost all due to heatwaves. Researchers predict that maintenance costs for roads and railways will rise 4% with a 3°C increase in global warming. Many ways to protect transportation infrastructure from extreme heat are incredibly simple, like planting shade trees and grass around rail lines, painting rails white, or wrapping wrought iron in silver foil. Materials scientists are working on new, heat-resistant metals – but wholesale replacement of existing infrastructure is cost-prohibitive. WIRED
“A heat wave will always be a big challenge for a city of glass, but recurring climate change-induced heat waves is an emergent public health risk that requires us to change how we renovate and design new buildings.” – Adam Rysanek, environmental systems prof, UBC
uReading doctoral candidate Chloe Brimicombe points out that architecture from tropical countries often helps mitigate heat in unnoticed ways. Airflow can be encouraged by high ceilings, low eaves, and undulating rooflines. To fend off solar heat, middle eastern buildings often have small windows and narrow alleys, while Mediterranean homes often have shutters on the windows. World Economic Forum
Urban Heat Islands
City dwellers and their infrastructure are hit even harder than suburban and rural areas, because the “heat island” effect magnifies and contains heat. Dark pavement and rooftops absorb more heat and raise temperatures, even at night, while parks and green space lower it. That’s why major cities establish public cooling shelters, but they can also plant more trees, encourage green roofs and urban agriculture, and ensure that cooling breezes aren’t blocked by highrise developments. Queen’s U geographer Carolyn DeLoydeemphasizes that woodlands, wetlands, watercourses and urban nature can help mitigate the heat in major centres. The HealthyDesign.City tool aims to help Canadian cities prioritize the most vulnerable populations. As uToronto engineering prof Jeff Brook emphasizes, Canadian infrastructure needs to become resilient to heat, but also to localized floods, wildfires and smoke.
“While heat is currently the topic of the day, it’s only one of many ways in which we really need to move fast on building resilience.” – Jeff Brook, assoc prof, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, uToronto
Emphasis on Adaptation
Currently, just 7% of climate-related business investment is directed towards climate adaptation, but it should grow to $2 trillion a year by 2027, argue 2 authors in the Harvard Business Review this month. Besides water conservation initiatives, carbon offsets and sequestration – which do nothing to address the climate change already “baked in” – companies (and campuses) should do more. Some effective, low-cost solutions include early extreme weather warning systems, coastal barriers, water desalination and wastewater treatment, vertical farming and hydroponic agriculture, improved insulation and cooling systems, modular housing, moveable cities, and much else. Around the world, floating cities are being planned and built to rise with the tides and desalinate water for hydroponic agriculture. 3D-printed modular communities may be relocated rather than abandoned as climate changes. (Simon Fraser U has implemented many leading-edge sustainable principles in its UniverCity development, which I visited in Ten with Ken’s “Moving Mountains.”)
“Addressing climate change requires both mitigation and adaptation, and we believe the latter represents an even better business opportunity… Small investments result in significant preparation for an unpredictable future.” – Ravi Chidambaram and Parag Khanna, in Harvard Business Review
Preparing for Failure
Architects and engineers design for tolerances and environmental risks based on historical codes and regulations, explains an Arizona State U prof in civil, environmental and sustainable engineering. They design for a 1% chance per year of a 100-year event – extreme “acts of God” are forgiven as disasters impossible to predict. But ultimately, infrastructure “designed for past conditions that no longer exist” will inevitably fail. Not just catastrophic destruction by wildfires and floods, but also more subtle degradations: roadways crack, power lines sag, water pipes and electric grids strain. Considering the scope of climate stresses, and political resistance, “failures are inevitable” and our society needs to better prepare for them. Besides “armoring” critical systems against future climate and designing for heat mitigation, we need “safe-to-fail” design, like land use planning for floods, and backup electricity microgrids. Scientific American
Lord knows, humans get grumpy when temperatures – and tempers – flare. In the past week, Canada has seen multiple shootings from London to Langley, and we’ve all witnessed far too many examples of road rage, abusive customers and worse. Even without bad behaviour, though, heatwaves pose a public risk…
Heat Stroke & Heart Attacks
Last year, BC learned the hard way just how fatal a heatwave could be for the vulnerable – which includes children, the elderly, outdoor workers, pregnant women, and others with compromised health. This summer, researchers across the country have been speaking to media about protecting the elderly and homeless from extreme heat. (Here are more than a dozen UBC experts available for media interviews, for example.) Yale research has found a 65% greater risk of hot-weather heart attacks in those taking beta-blockers and blood thinners, which normally do the opposite.
Athletes at Risk
But as high school and college athletes begin summer practice amid brutal temperatures, they’re also at risk for heat illness, particularly during the first few weeks. After 10-14 days of training in the heat, most athletes are acclimatized, and their bodies have increased blood plasma volume, sweat production and salt retention while lowering heart rate and core body temperature. To avoid tragedy, though, coaches should start training season gradually, ensure plenty of hydration, and cancel outdoor practice when the temperature hits 30°C. (And higher humidity can hinder sweat evaporation even at lower temperatures.) If athletes are dehydrated or experiencing an electrolyte imbalance, it may manifest as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or exertional heat stroke. The Conversation
“If a person has been exercising in warm conditions and their personality changes, they start acting weird or different or become confused, you should suspect exertional heat stroke.” – Susan Yeargin, athletic training prof, U South Carolina
Heat warnings aren’t just about preventing immediate health consequences like dehydration and heatstroke, but also about the long-term health impacts of sustained heat exposure. Dehydration increases the risk of cognitive dysfunction, high blood pressure, kidney stones and kidney damage, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even obesity. “Fat production is the body’s reaction to – and anticipation of – dehydration.” TIME
It’s no surprise that CdnPSE Twitter accounts have been urging campus communities to stay cool and stay cool, pointing to PHO heat warnings and advice on hydration, beating the heat, and avoiding sunburn. (“If you feel thirsty, you’re too late!” 1,200 Canadians die each year of melanoma.) Dehydration can be staved off through drinking plenty of water, staying rested and finding shade – even if only by wearing a hat. Air conditioning is a great solution too – if you can afford the hydro and the electrical grid can handle the demand. (In Arkansas, a windstorm knocked out power for 8,800 customers – just as temps hit 41°C.) UBC public health prof Sarah Henderson suggests wearing loose, breathable clothes, seeking out breezy spots near natural water, and limiting the use of stoves and ovens indoors. Adam Rysanek adds blowing a fan across ice water, wearing a damp shirt, or otherwise adding “artificial sweat” to your skin. uReading doctoral student Chloe Brimicombe recommends loose-fitting clothing like middle eastern thawbs, Indian saris and dhotis, or African kente and oubou garments. You might consider blackout curtains, cold showers, and ice packs – or perhaps even buy an “ice vest.”
Spain’s so-called jornado partida (split work day) allows labourers to avoid the heat of the day, and optionally enjoy a siesta, but it also pushes working hours into the evening: 30% work until 7pm, and 10% until 9pm. Spanish labour unions and politicians alike have tried to abolish it in the interest of work/life balance – but now, unions in Belgium and Germany are urging a 3-hour lunch break so workers can avoid the scorching heat. (They also want the European Commission to set a maximum temperature limit for work.) Workers are more productive and safer in lower temperatures, too. WIRED
Humans aren’t alone in feeling the impacts of global warming – in fact, scientists fear a mass extinction event may be imminent, and more abrupt than any in history…
Man’s Best Friends
Canadian academics have been in the media this month sharing heat warnings and advice for pet-owners, too. Obviously, it’s criminal to leave a dog in a parked car this month, and you need to ensure there’s plenty of water in that dog dish – but that’s not all you should consider. uGuelph veterinarian Shane Bateman advises against excessive outdoor exercise for dogs, who “have an inherent desire to please their owner [which] can sometimes supersede their own self-preservation.” Instead of sweating, dogs pant – but if the air isn’t cool enough, panting can actually be counterproductive. Bateman recommends a cool swim, or water misting and the breeze of a fan, to imitate the evaporative effect of sweating. uCalgary vet Rebecca Jackson adds that burnt paws are actually more common than heatstroke, and can be a particular problem on black pavement. (If you can’t comfortably hold the back of your hand to the pavement for 10 seconds, it’s too hot for Fido.) She suggests keeping those walks to early morning and late evening – and you might even consider a cooling vest, wearable fan or air conditioned pet clothes.
The Water’s Not Fine
While humans and other land animals struggle with heat stroke, drought, and wildfires, rising temperatures are disrupting underwater habitats too. Salmon have evaporated in some regions of Alaska’s Yukon River, while setting new records elsewhere. A UNB researcher warns that high temperatures and heavy rains have created unusual conditions for blue-green algae blooms in New Brunswick rivers and lakes. One Queen’s U biologist has found that heatwaves do lasting damage to zooplankton and lake ecosystems, potentially disrupting the food chain and even making the water toxic. Another warns that we are “sleepwalking to disaster” as growing algae blooms kill off underwater plants across the country, lake evaporation increases, and deep-water fish habitats are warming. “The last thing many Indigenous communities need is more problems with their water supply.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s too, too late, but it’s very, very late.” – John Smol, biology prof, Queen’s U
UP under the Sea
Rising temperatures are starting to disrupt the deep sea too. Ocean heatwaves in 2013-16 killed thousands of birds, boosted jellyfish populations, and fuelled a bumper crop of harmful algae that poisoned marine mammals. A new study out of uVic and UBC has explored the impact on Pacific kelp forests too, many of which died from temperature stress – as well as sea urchin overpopulation, because a key predator was nearly wiped out. Climate change may eventually reduce the planet’s temperature differences from equator to poles, slowing the ocean jet streams and making heat waves even worse. But in the meantime, scientists believe rising sea temperatures are already driving a spike in shark attacks along the eastern seabord!
So, while the best advice seems to be – head to the beach! – you may want to keep an eye out for sharks!
I’ve written before about climate change, the most existential crisis of our lifetime, and a key force shaping our future on this planet. This summer’s heatwave is bringing global attention back to the subject…
We’re to Blame
A new study from the Chinese Academy of Sciences concludes that human-produced greenhouse gases have increased the probability and intensity of heatwaves, like last year’s record-breaking 49.5°C in BC, by influencing 3 atmospheric circulation patterns. CTV
Our “Collective Suicide”
On July 18, UN secretary general António Guterres warned that “half of humanity is in the danger zone from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires,” but that the world’s governments have a choice: “collective action or collective suicide.” (If only we could trust politicians to make the right choice!)
“We have a choice: collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.” – António Guterres, UN secretary general
So what do higher temperatures portend for higher ed?
Certainly, extreme weather events (floods and wildfires) have been threatening some CdnPSE campuses already. Rising temperatures will put strain on campus HVAC, water, and generation systems. Those outdated dorm-style residence buildings may become uninhabitable without central a/c. Athletes are likely to eschew outdoor practice fields in favour of indoor arenas during the summer. What else?
Increasing urgency may drive public and private research investments in green energy, climatology, environmental studies, heat stroke treatments, agricultural tech, and temperature-mitigating urban planning and architecture. What else?
Perhaps Canada, and northern institutions, will become more attractive destinations for students, scholars, and professional staff as the planet warms. Will major urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver become lessso? Will we see an influx of “heat refugees” from the southern US and equatorial countries? Will we see new workplace policies like maximum working temperatures or siestas? What else?
Let me know what you’ve seen out there, or what you can imagine!
The weather isn’t the only thing “heating up” out there – plenty of student recruitment campaigns are hitting YouTube this summer too!
uWindsor released a series of three 1-min testimonial videos in late July that encourage prospective students to “Be Exceptional” and “Build Differently.” Third-year mechanical Engineering student Erica discusses the importance of co-op placement, EDI, and the benefits of UW’s smaller, close-knit Engineering program. French student Lauren considers the benefits of a second language to unlock career opportunities. And BFA Acting student Justin emphasizes the close-knit community, that inspires him to develop his talents. YouTube
As always, thanks for reading!
I’m working on several other issues of this newsletter for you, but also dividing my energies between some paying clients – and of course, an exciting new platform for you “Insiders,” coming soon…
Stay safe and keep cool!
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