Author Archives: Nicholas Thomas

Climate Change: Breeding Ground of Disease

Climate change has the potential to create an unprecedented refugee crisis by making areas of the world uninhabitable. Obviously, but is still should be mentioned, climate change affects the entire world. Whether it is extreme drought in Somalia, heatwaves in the Persian Gulf, hurricanes in Puerto Rico, or extreme snowfall across the East coast of the U.S., climate change is capable of uprooting where people may live, and in some cases has the potential to change where people are capable of living. As people relocate, they not only bring their belongings with them, but also any diseases they may be caring. Exposing a geographical area of people to a disease that they are not familiar with could be extremely dangerous. In some cases, exposure to a “new” disease may cause extreme discomfort, but in other cases may be fatal.

The most rapid spreading disease in the world is dengue fever. Dengue fever is often referred to as a “traveler’s disease” because many people contract it while visiting places with a tropical climate. Symptoms of the fever include fever, headache vomiting, skin rash, and muscle and joint pain. The skin rash, and muscle and joint pains often cause contortions, which earned the disease the nickname “break bone” fever. Usually the fever last up to a week, but has been fatal in come cases. Dengue fever is contracted by being bitten by mosquitos that carry the disease. Moreover, a mosquito can carry the disease by sucking the blood a previously infected person. With this mind, dengue fever is prevalent in Puerto Rico, which, due to Hurricane Maria, may have up to 3.4 million displaced persons. Regardless, if those persons were to seek refuge in the U.S. or anywhere else, some people will most likely carry dengue fever with them. It is important to note, it is not simply dengue fever that benefits from climate change, but all diseases that thrive in warmer temperatures. For example, diseases like malaria, “black fever,” and rat lungworm, and Lyme disease can survive in more areas as global temperature increases. Moreover, these diseases have the potential to infect more people because the carries are surviving for longer periods. Insect and parasites like mosquitos and ticks thrive in warmer temperatures, so as temperature increase they are able to survive for longer seasons and infect larger geographical areas.

Moreover, the issue of disease spreading due to climate change is heightened due to diseases hidden in ice. These diseases can come from a number of different time frames from as recent as 75 years ago to as ancient as 30 thousand years ago. The most dangerous diseases that are returning because of the melting ice caps are anthrax and zombie diseases. These diseases were once locked under something known as permafrost, which is ice that has not melted in at least two years. However, since the rate at which the ice caps are melting is faster than the rate at which they freeze, these diseases are released into the world when the older layers are re-exposed.

Anthrax is a very dangerous pathogen that derives from livestock and has not had a serious outbreak since 1941. However, when that last outbreak occurred, thousands of reindeer were infected with a specific strain of anthrax. When the reindeer died, the indigenous people buried them deep below the ice and worry of an anthrax outbreak was no longer needed. What the indigenous people did not know was that the bacteria was not destroyed and was preserved by the layer of ice that formed over the carcasses. Last year, the ice over those reindeer melted because of a heatwave over the summer, and the bacteria was able to transfer to the soil, the water, and other animals. Ultimately, this led to an anthrax breakout in Siberia. Anthrax cannot be cured with man-made medicines, so if an outbreak were to occur globally, scientists would need to find a natural solution similar to penicillin. This may also cause people to leave Siberia and if they come from the region where the anthrax is reemerging, they could potentially spread the virus to other regions.

The following is a video that further discusses climate change is helping disease spread:

The other diseases released are actually more dangerous than anthrax. Zombie diseases are diseases from thousands of years ago that we have yet to experience. These viruses are more durable and are much larger than the viruses around today. Currently, the permafrost with the human viruses is still buried beneath many layers, but scientists are extracting amoeba viruses from nearby layers and industrialists will soon mine below these layers for mineral and petroleum deposits that sit beneath many layers of permafrost. One disease in particular that biologists predict is within these layers is smallpox. Humanity has believed smallpox has already been eradicated, but it is highly possible that it is one of the many diseases lurking beneath the surface. As the permafrost continues to melt and expose older viruses and bacteria to us, we will need to adapt to these prehistoric diseases and the effects they will have on local agriculture and livestock.

Climate Change: Cleaning Up Carbon Dioxide

We can attempt to protect ourselves from the effects of climate change, but we still have to address the future effects of climate change. Cutting emissions will help not make the situation worse; however, it does not significantly improve the situation. Even if emissions were cut to zero, we would still have to deal with the effects of climate change for the thousands of years. With this said, we do not have to wait for the carbon in the atmosphere to dissipate to recover from the effects of climate change, instead we should begin to filter the carbon dioxide out of the air.

One example of a CO2 filter is Climework’s CO2 collector. The collector has the ability to filter CO2 out of the air around it with the use of a sponge like filter. After roughly three hours of running, the filter becomes saturated with CO2. At which point the collector seals itself, and heats the contents to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, thus separating pure carbon dioxide from anything else the filters may have collected. Pure CO2 can be sold or stored, at relatively low cost, for commercial uses. Carbon Dioxide is used to control in reactor maintenance to control temperature, in refrigeration, in water treatment, in fire extinguishers, in food products, and in pharmaceuticals. In short, Climework’s CO2 collector recycles the carbon dioxide already on the environment by removing it from the air and making it available for other use.

The following is an image of the Climework’s CO2 collector:

A different approach to removing carbon from the environment involves technology that uses The Origen Power Process. The Origen Power Process makes uses of natural gas to create electricity. However, only half of the chemical energy from the natural gas is used to create electricity; the other half of the energy is used to breakdown limestone into lime. In addition to electricity and lime, the process also creates pure CO2 that could be used like discussed earlier. Normally using natural gas to generate electricity creates more CO2. The overall process of Origen Power actually has a net removal of CO2 from the air; so while it may be creating pure CO2, it is removing more CO2 than it creates. Moreover, lime can be used remove additional CO2 from the environment. For example, since lime acts a neutralizer, it can be used in bodies of water to lower acidity level because of too much CO2 in the water. Therefore, lime has the potential to protect aquatic life, but also combat acid rain and the damage caused by acid rain. Overall, The Origen Power Process creates four products, lime, a CO2 filter, pure CO2, electricity, and removal of CO2 form the environment.

The following is a video of The Origen Power Process explained by Tim Kruger:

As a result of pure CO2 production from the use of the Climework’s CO2 collector, and The Origen Power Process, I would imagine there would be an abundance of pure CO2. Moreover, we have been “pumping” CO2 into the environment for decades upon decades so if we were to “recycle” any fraction of that amount of CO2, there most definitely would be a surplus of pure CO2. Yes, there are the previously mentioned uses for CO2, but there would still be an abundance. With this said, a development team in China, the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences, have created a process to take surplus CO2 and turn it into clean fuel. In short, by running an electrical current through a microscopic layer of cobalt surrounded by CO2, the CO2 becomes CHOO, also known as formate. Formate has the potential to be used as a clean fuel source; however, currently not enough data has been collected to get the most energy out of formate, but experiment continue.

It is important to keep in mind that all the process mentioned, while useful to some extent, only work well with plans of cutting emissions; the same can be said vice versa. Measure still need to be taken to protect ourselves now from the effects of climate change, but not preparing for the future is what caused the current mess.

Climate Change: A Clean Space

Climate change is often thought of as the result of the greenhouse effect; and therefore, the cause of the rise in sea level, and bizarre weather patterns, such as extreme heat waves and record-breaking hurricanes. While all of this is true, the focus on climate change is centered on the weather occurrences being observed and experienced in the present. Climate change affects the Earth and its atmosphere. On a side note, the Earth’s upper atmosphere is a junk yard composed of remains of satellites, rockets, and other objects that have entered space. As a result of the increasing temperature of the lower atmosphere, where we live, the temperature of the upper-atmosphere is decreasing. The decrease in temperature causes the upper atmosphere to contract, thus removing some of the air; with less air, there is less friction in the upper atmosphere. If there is less friction in the upper atmosphere, less “space junk” falls back to Earth.

The following is an image of roughly the amount of space junk around the Earth:

There are those who think that less space junk falling back to Earth is a good thing because there is less to potentially cause damage upon re-entry. However, most space junk that does fall back to Earth burns up upon re-entry, an object would have to be significantly large in order to touch ground upon re-entry. In contrast, small objects in space can cause a lot of damage. There are roughly 520,000 trackable pieces, while millions pieces of debris that cannot be tracked. As a result of space junk building up, it has created a space junk yard, and imbedded in that space junk yard are communication satellites. Communications satellites play an integral role in daily activity. For example, without communication satellites technology like satellite internet, phones, satellite TV, GPS, weather tracking, and military communications would either not work or become over loaded with data and slow down. Imagine a world were cable internet would become so congested with data, it becomes almost impossible to use. Moreover, imagine a scenario where because weather patterns cannot be tracked, a hurricane like Maria hit Puerto Rico before people got any notice to take safety precautions. In addition, without TV it would become extremely difficult to notify people of such dangerous weather patterns. Without military communications, or at least slowed military communications, would leave, troops and the country vulnerable to attacks. With this said, these scenarios are only possible if all or at least most of the current communication satellites are wiped out. As a result of less space junk falling to Earth, the chance of satellites being damaged increase significantly. According to the Kessler Syndrome, the odds of damage to satellites increase with every collision of debris. The Kessler Syndrome states when one object bumps into another object, the momentum of those two objects increase the chances of the objects hitting into another two objects. Therefore, one object causes a total of two objects to be in motion, two becomes four, four becomes eight, eight becomes sixteen, so on and so forth. The initial bump between two pieces of space junk sets off a chain reaction substantially increasing the odds of any of the satellites in use becoming significantly damaged.

 

To no surprise, there is no immediate or fast solution for protecting satellites and clearing the “space junkyard.” For example, CleanSpace One has created a satellite with the purpose of grabbing debris and carrying it back in orbit, thus burning up itself and the debris upon re-entry. However, this cleaning satellite is not designed to handle like amounts of debris at once, and is a one-time use satellite. Multiples of these satellites would have to be shot into space to create any significant change, but remain a viable solution for getting rid of large debris in the case of an emergency.

The following is a video further describing how the CleanSpace One satellite works:

Moreover, it is equally important to make sure the issue does not become worse over time. To prevent more debris building up, future space vessels should be built with material that erodes easily in the presences of ultra-violet rays. Using such materials causes allows debris to break apart over time, and specifically helps with getting rid of smaller debris, thus allows satellites like CleanSpace One to focus on collecting larger objects. Without action now the issue will continue to grow, while it literally hangs over our heads.

Climate Change: Melting Cities

By 2100 the Persian Gulf could experience temperatures exceeding 170 degrees Fahrenheit causing the area to become uninhabitable. Areas within the Persian Gulf, such as Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Bander Abbas, some of the richest cities in the world, would have to be abandoned. However, extreme heat waves are not limited to the Persian Gulf. In degrees Fahrenheit, by 2100, while not as extreme, New York City could on average experience temperatures exceeding 81.8 degrees , LA could experience 80.9 degree weather, London may experience 68.7 degree weather, and South Africa City could experience 79.9 degree weather. These temperatures may not seem dramatic, but that are roughly 8.6 degrees hotter than the current average temperature. In the year 2100, 3 out of 4 people could face deadly heatwaves. By 2080, heatwaves in Europe could kill over 150,000. The increase in temperature is a worldwide, and current issue. For example, in 2016, limited to the UK, 1,661 people died in one day because of a heatwave. While action is being taken to lower emissions, lowering emissions will not prevent the incoming weather. Without mitigating dangers of rising temperature, whole areas of land will have to be abandoned.

Heat waves, and the rise of temperature in general, is especially bad in cities because of the urban heating effect. The urban heating effect states that because of the large amount of human activity within in cities, cities become hotter than the surrounding rural areas. For example, pavement absorbs large amounts of heat then releases it at night, inhibiting surroundings from cooling down. As a result of generating, and absorbing more heat, cities are also known as urban heat islands. Currently the primary method of countering heat waves is cooling centers, public places where A/C is provided. However, cooling centers are an out of date method that offers limited assistance. Cooling centers do not address the issue of entire cities becoming over heated, but instead cool individual buildings. These centers do not help people keep cool in their own homes. For example, imagine the following scenario:

There is a 67-year-old man who lives alone, makes barely enough money to sustain himself, and cannot afford an A/C. On his day off from work, the temperature is 98 degrees Farrenheight, so he decided to head to local library, a cooling center, to cool. However, as the man makes his way to the door his knee gives out and he collapses on the floor. Unable to call anyone, the man lays on the floor until he passes out from heat exhaustion. Luckily, the man’s neighbor, who checks on him every day after work, found the man on the floor and called an ambulance.

As temperature increases, scenarios like the one suggested may not end with someone fainting, but possibly death. People should not have to worry about dying the following summer, because they cannot not afford A/C. With this said, a potential solution to keeping cities cool is the creation of green areas. Green areas create more shade, mitigate the amount of heat pavement absorbs, and act as air filters. Unlike cooling centers, green areas work on a larger scale, and address more issues. The shade created my greens areas helps people keep cool. Green areas can be used in combination with cooling pavement so cities do not absorb as much heat. Moreover, green areas address the original issue and cause of climate change by filtering out carbon emissions, thus purifying the air. To take green areas a step further, cities could be turned into forest cities. Forest cities make plants a part of the cities by covering large portions of cities in green foliage. As one giant forest, cities could combat the urban heat island effect. However, if such as action were ever enacted, low-income neighborhoods must be refurbished first. It is unjust to allow those who cannot afford A/C to struggle to survive the impending heatwaves, while those who have some protective measures to gain more protection.

The following video explains how heatwaves work and affect people:

Rural areas do not the issue of the urban heating effect, but have to combat drought due to rise in temperature, and heatwaves. In 2012 farmers in the West and Midwest, due to a drought, loss billions of dollars in crops. However, as temperature increases it may not simply be money that is lost, but vital amounts of food. A potential solution to drought is the use of “spongy” soil. “Spongy” soil could help farmers combat both drought and sever-storms because it retains more water, and reduces run off. “Spongy” soil does not have to be limited to farmers. In urban setting, “spongy” soil could help with growing, and maintaining green areas. Moreover, the soil would complement vertical farms, which already offer a more controlled environment for farming. The benefit of the soil is not that it reduces the needs of plant life, but increases the efficiency of how resources, such as water, are used.

While climate change issues, like sea level rising, and an increase in frequency of hurricanes are prevalent, they are effects of the global temperature rising. People can move in order to survive hurricanes, and flooding; however, temperature rising will affect the entire world. Temperature rising will be a continuing issue because of how long it takes carbon dissipate from the air. We may not be able to stop the rising temperature, but we can mitigate the effects.

Climate Change: Moving with a Flood

Weather occurrences such as extreme rainstorms, hurricanes, and tsunamis are viewed as destructive forces which is true given how land, and infrastructure are used. Whether it is the skyscrapers in cities, neighborhoods in suburbs, or farmland in rural areas, none are capable of adapting in the middle of an extreme flood or storm. However, these various elements of society have to be preserved. Various defenses such as storm water drains, and bulwarks have been used to protect these areas, but these methods often fail. The issue is not that these areas are not properly protected, but the structures in these areas need a lot of protection to not be destroyed. The structures we build are rigid, and are not designed to adapted to drastic changed. In short, as a result of how land is used, and structures are built, society must fight against rising sea level. While sea level rising is currently a destructive force to current society, rising of sea level has the potential to be a tool for society.

Instead of creating defenses against flooding another solution is to control the water. A basic solution to controlling flooding is to utilize permeable pavement. Permeable pavement allows water to pass through it into the ground. In addition to helping water return to the water cycle, the pavement would lessen the chance of overflowing storm water systems and; therefore, cut down on flooding. This pavement has the potential to lessen the amount of rainfall going into sewage systems by 80%. A limitation of this technology is it may not be able to pass water into the ground quickly during anything like a hurricane. With this said, infrastructure like eco-boulevards could compensate for the limitations of permeable pavement by controlling flooding. Eco-boulevards work to control where floods take place within a city. Yangming Archipelago designed a city within the larger city of Changde, China so that floodwater would fall into the middle of the city. As a result, the eco-boulevards creates a temporary lake within a city and turns parts of a city into mini islands. Floods do not have to be seen as an invading body, but something that is part of society.

Some places simply cannot be flooded, and therefore would benefit from the technology used in POP-UP, a parking garage, designed by THIRD NATURE, that “floats” on water. The POP-UP garage moves up and down depending on the amount of overflow from sewers in the water reservoir underneath the garage. As the reservoir fills and releases water, the garage moves up and down accordingly. This technology works well in urban environments because it combines a parking garage with a water reservoir, thus creating more free space for other purposes. However, this technology is not limited to making floating parking garage, but could be applied to any architecture that follows the Archimedes Principle. For example, vertical farms could use this as additional safety. A vertical farm takes the mold of an expensive farm and makes it into a tower. At different levels of this tower, different foods and fish can be raised year round. A vertical farm would help protect farms from flooding, but the technology used in POP-UP would make the farm flexible to move with water, thus preserving the structure. The rise of sea level would not be as devastating if infrastructure did not resist various degrees of change.

The following is an image of how POP-UP works:

If flooding is going to be treated as a useful force then it has to be treated as a tool, not something to get rid of as soon as possible. For example, flooding has the potential to be real-estate, rather than a threat that destroys real-estate with the use of floating infrastructure. Floating infrastructure is not limited by issues such as space or continuing sea level rising, and thus works on a spectrum of facilities. For example, Floating City App has created a solar powered floating school by giving shipping containers an extreme make over. These floating schools come with a classroom, kitchen, bathroom, and solar powered battery pack. Given the compact nature of these schools that are easy to put into use. On the opposite end of the spectrum of floating infrastructure are plans like floating airports. In 2000, Mega Float created a floating airport in Tokyo Bay, Japan that measured 1000 meters long. The airport was so long that it rode multiple wave cycles at once that canceled each other out, and allowed the airport to remain stable. Since the airport was not viewed as necessary, it was dismantled in 2003. However, in the UK there have been proposals of creating a floating airport due to the growing population. Between population growth, the scarcity of real-estate, and rise of sea level, floating airports may become a reality again. With this said, there is not a reason to stop at airports as the extent of floating infrastructure, whole floating cities could be built. Floating cities change the issue of losing to rising sea leveling to a need to construct more space.

The following video discusses the future of floating airports:

The rise of sea level of force of flooding does not have to be a destructive force, but a force that requires change. Rising sea level is a current issue, and will persist for thousands of years. Fighting against rising sea level may only slow down the process, while making use of the floods and open water offer a more sustaining solution.

Preparing Our Cities for the Next Flood

There is minimal protection for coastal cities when it comes to combating tropical storms. Tropical storms can cause massive damage due to wind speed, impact from landfall, and remnants of floods. Whether one agrees climate change affects the frequency and power of hurricanes is irrelevant, these storms are occurring, and could hit a city such as New York City. The end of the 2017 hurricane season was devastating to Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, each experiencing record breaking storms. These storms left communities demolished. In the case of Puerto Rico, the entire island may not have power for months. Puerto Rico has the potential to have 3.4 million displaced persons. If New York were hit by a strong enough storm there is a potential of over 8 million displaced persons. Generally, cities have minimal protection from such incidences. “Soft” defenses would be too extensive on their own to protect a city. The “hard” defenses cities do have offer little protection. In addition, it is difficult to know if a “hard” defense will be useful during a storm until the actual storm arrives. While building defenses for coastal cities is important to protect the areas, it is paramount to have systems that can act during the storm rather than invest in defenses that may fail.

Infrastructure from the underground storm drains to sky scrapers must be adapted to combat the strongest storms in order to minimize damage. It is 2017 there are cities, such as New York City, that continue to rely on bayous, rivers, and land to drain water in the event of a flood. One of the main tools used to combat flooding is storm drains, but as apparent in Texas, these storm drains can easily overflow from a strong storm. The frequency of flooding will continue to increase as the sea level continues to rise. If an area with a dense population, such as New York City, were hit by a major storm, waiting for the water to recede would not be an option. With this said, major cities on the coastline could benefit from the flooding system used in Japan to protect Tokyo known as the G-Cans Project. The G-Cans Project is a series of underground tunnels that total 3.7 miles long, and vertical shafts that measure 580 feet long, 59 feet high, and 256 feet wide. This network is capable of channeling 12,500,000 L of water per minute. However, if a city’s major portion of underground real-estate is used by subway stations, such as New York City, the scale of the G-Cans Project may not be possible, but the system may still be useful especially when used in combination with other flood prevention plans. If the water from a storm cannot be stopped it can at least be rerouted before more damage can be caused.

The following gives a brief look inside the G-Cans Project’s tunnels and tanks:

Storms are more than heavy rain fall, they are also extremely powerful winds, and the taller the building the more exposure to stronger winds it has to endure. Winds can make buildings sway. While winds may not always cause huge junks buildings to go flying, the swaying motion may distort the structure. Generally, swaying is not good for buildings. However, instead of fighting against wind, a possible solution is to go with the wind as evident by the architecture of the Sky Tree in Japan. The Sky Tree, the second tallest structure in the world, allows the movement from earthquakes to push it around. The Sky Tree is composed of a core column and an outer flexible region, the two sections are connected by oil dampers. As one part of the tower sways one way, the other sways another way which allows it remain stable. Granted this architecture was designed for earthquakes, but the uses for the design can also be applied for high-speed wind situations. Instead of fighting the wind, buildings could sway with it. If buildings had the flexible design of the Sky Tree getting through heavy storms turns from combating the storm to literally flowing with it until it passes.

The following is an image of the structure of the Sky Tree:

There is insufficient time to create a method that would prevent all damage to cities from storms, as the affects of climate change are a current threat and precautions need to be taken. However, cities need to take prepare themselves now because the weather patterns as exemplified in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico will persist, if not get worse, for thousands of years. Even if carbon emissions were completely stopped, it would take thousands of years for the Earth to recover. Once cities take preliminary action for the coming weather problems, then they can begin to take preventive measures to prevent all damage.