100 Reasons Cities are Winning the Climate Fight
As we approach the UN climate Change Conference, COP21, in Paris this December, the focus will be on national governments to reach a binding global climate deal. But Cities100 is here to remind us that city leaders are not waiting for national level changes. Instead, they are leading the charge against climate change by implementing local solutions to global problems.
As the global discussion on climate change intensifies, cities are leading the way to a sustainable future. And for good reason. By 2050, nearly 70 percent of the world’s population will live in a city. As urban societies continue to expand and change, so too do the challenges facing them, particularly when it comes to climate change. This growing urban population is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change—for example, 90 percent of all urban areas are coastal—but it is also powerful.
Cities have always been centers of commerce, culture and knowledge. Now they are harnessing their innovative, collaborative and progressive nature to take action on climate change, forging a path to a low carbon future that improves the health, wellbeing, and economic opportunities of urban citizens.
In Johannesburg, South Africa, for example, the city is issuing green bonds to finance climate mitigation projects for more than $143 million, enabling them to accelerate the roll out of 42,000 building smart meters, 43,000 solar water heaters and deployment of 152 hybrid buses.
In Milan, a city with one of the highest rates of car ownership in Europe, the “All you can share” mobility system is convincing the city, and the world, that private car ownership is a thing of the past. More than 4,600 bikes are available to be picked up and dropped off at fixed stations, whilst 150 scooters and 2,000 cars—half of which will be electric by the end of 2015, are available throughout the city, accessible through an integrated and easy-to-operate system that users manage via a dedicated smartphone app.
These are just two examples taken from the Cities100 report, published this week, which features 100 leading policy solutions from cities around the world and serves as a guide to civic leaders and planners all over the world seeking to create resilient and productive cities.
Cities100 could not come at a better time, as the world’s leaders gather in Paris this December for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21. While the hope is that nations will reach a binding deal, the 100 city solutions presented in this publication remind us that cities can and do take meaningful action at the local level. City governments are often smaller and more nimble than their national counterparts. They are directly accountable to their local constituents and are more invested in the people and places they serve. Regardless of wealth or resources, size or location, cities around the world are learning from one another, adapting global best practices to fit local circumstances and demonstrating that they have the power to take action to build a smarter, more resilient and resource-efficient world.
By specifically naming 100 concrete city solutions to climate change that can be scaled and replicated across the world, Sustania and C40, along with our partner Realdania, hope to inspire cities to go even further and faster after COP21 in taking action to tackle climate change.
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By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
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Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
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