Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Is ‘Climate-Positive’ Design Possible?

Cities are crucial to fighting climate change. They occupy only 2 percent of global land area but have an enormous climate impact, consuming more than two-thirds of global energy and accounting for at least 70 percent of carbon emissions.

There is a window of less than three years for big cities to deliver on the commitments they agreed to in the Paris climate agreement, according to C40, a coalition of 90 major cities committed to addressing climate change. That goal only became more urgent in October, when the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world is on track to heat up at least 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2030.

Just keeping this in check will require unprecedented actions. “To keep the Earth somewhat hospitable for humans, we have to make changes that most people would find unreasonable,” said Eric Corey Freed, an architect and sustainability specialist who works with cities around the world to curb their carbon emissions. “Cutting carbon in half is pretty straightforward,” said Freed. “What I have to do to get to the last 50 percent is harder.”

Some of Freed’s recommendations to clients in city governments: Ban the use of internal combustion engines within city limits, buy solar panels for every rooftop, take over your electric utility, buy every citizen an electric scooter.

And that’s just to reach carbon neutrality. The stage beyond that entails removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Can cities revamp their neighborhoods so they cancel out more carbon than they emit? Some designers and advocates are pushing for what they call climate-positive city design, which aims to go beyond zero emissions.

“We know that reducing emissions alone won’t get us there,” said Pamela Conrad, a landscape architect with San Francisco’s CMG Partners who focuses on carbon drawdown strategies. After she developed a carbon calculator to measure a project’s climate impact, Conrad said it became clearer how much landscape design could do to offset and reduce emissions. For example, trees, soil and other materials store (or sequester) carbon, and can offset a significant amount of what building materials emit during their life cycle.

Using alternative cement, smart glass, and other materials that curb energy consumption and emissions can also lessen a development’s carbon load, as can looking beyond the site level to consider users’ transportation patterns. The three variables that cities need to account for, according to Conrad: sources of emissions, such as the carbon used to produce the project’s materials; sinks, such as trees and wetlands, where carbon is stored; and costs, like carbon emitted during project maintenance.

Designing beyond net-zero impact is certainly possible. The International Living Future Institute can point to more than 60 building projects that generate more energy than they use. Ranging from an education center in Austin, Texas, to a farmhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the projects have met the “Energy Petal” threshold within its Living Building certification. This indicates that each generated at least 105 percent of its energy needs in its first 12 months of operations. A handful of buildings generated 200 percent of their energy or more.

Designers and planners “need to be holistic,” said Ryan Allard, a senior fellow at Project Drawdown, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, at a panel on climate-positive design at the Global Climate Action Summit in September. (Project Drawdown lists and ranks 80 measures that it claims, if taken together, could reverse global warming.) “As planners, you may come in and think of a development as an isolated project which is not fully connected with the rest of the city,” Allard said. But the connections are vital, and thinking on multiple scales is a necessity.

Making a neighborhood or campus climate-positive is less of a challenge in terms of technology than in policy, bureaucracy, and mindset. For the central SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco, the city has approved a redevelopment plan that calls for recycling stormwater runoff by channeling it to an underground tank and then using it for street cleaning. In Boulder, Colorado, Andrew Bush, a developer who specializes in highly sustainable buildings, says he can already build residential water systems that pull the heat from wastewater lines and transfer that energy to the drinking and showering water that tenants use. He’s now looking to tap into the heat generated from city sewer lines—but getting approval for that is complicated and takes time.

Given that transportation is now the largest source of emissions in the U.S., transportation systems need to be designed or refined to prioritize walking, biking, and mass transit over driving, said Lisa Fisher, San Francisco’s sustainability leader for city design, on the climate-summit panel. While building codes have become more stringent, and some cities have adapted their regulations to embrace carbon-reducing innovations such as gray-water recycling and microgrids, there must be a major shift in that direction quickly for climate-positivity to be feasible.

So far, progress has moved at a creeping pace.

Consider the Climate Positive Development Program, launched in 2009 by the Clinton Climate Initiative, the U.S. Green Building Council, and C40. It focused on advancing one major project per city. Eighteen cities around the world committed to achieve net-negative emissions through the program. Almost a decade later, only six—Sydney, London, Jaipur, Melbourne, Sonderborg, Denmark, and Oberlin, Ohio—have advanced to the second of four phases.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Spotted at the Climate Summit: Republican Mayors

After Greg Lemons was elected mayor of Abita Springs, Louisiana, in 2012, residents of the 2,500-person city started coming to him to complain about a local landowner’s plan to lease about 60,000 acres to Helis Oil & Gas for hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. Although area voters supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election, they were concerned that the company’s plans to drill through the aquifer the town relies on—the former spa town sells Abita-branded spring water and beer—could compromise its economic livelihood.

Lemons, a lifelong Republican who spent his career in the banking technology industry, initially felt the deal would be positive for the town, but he decided to investigate anyway. “I’m an engineer by trade, so I said, ‘I need to do a little research on this,’” he recalled. “I read everything I could online.” He started traveling to other fracking sites to learn more. The resulting three-year journey led him through western Pennsylvania, central Texas, and northern Louisiana.

He visited a Pennsylvania couple who demonstrated the methane intrusion into their water table by turning on their faucet and setting the liquid on fire. He toured a denuded fracking site north of Shreveport, where all the wildlife had been driven off and the compressor’s rumbling could be heard two miles away. And he visited a drilling site in Texas where workers all wore hazardous-waste suits and respirators as children played in a park less than two city blocks away, he said.

“Those three things were pivotal to me,” said Lemons. “They changed my whole perspective.”

Lemons is one of multiple Republican mayors who attended the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco last week to promote their commitments to curbing carbon emissions. Another was James Brainard, mayor of the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, Indiana. Brainard spoke from the main stage on behalf of a coalition of more than 3,500 public, private-sector, and faith-based leaders across the United States who have committed to continue supporting the Paris climate agreement. More than 280 cities and counties have signed on to the effort, dubbed We Are Still In, from Iowa City to Grand Rapids to Hoboken.

“Mayors in both parties have been working on this for decades, because we’re closest to our constituents,” said Brainard. “I point out to these younger colleagues that there’s no Democratic or Republican way to fill potholes or plow snow, and climate should be nonpartisan because our planet demands it.”

Carmel Mayor James Brainard (right) talking to Jean-Francois Parenteau, a borough mayor from Montreal, at the Boston Climate Summit in June. (Charles Krupa/AP)

In communities around the country, citizens are reaching across the aisle on issues like protecting local air and water resources, and promoting the economic development that new industries like solar and wind can provide. The economic opportunity is massive: Between now and 2030, the world faces a gap of between $320 billion and $480 billion a year in the spending needed on renewables and energy efficiency to meet the Paris goals, according to a report released in June.

In Blacksburg, Virginia—a college town in a county that narrowly voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016—Democratic and Republican statehouse candidates last year both opposed a new natural-gas pipeline proposed for the county. Last December, city-council members pledged to shift to getting 100 percent of Blacksburg’s energy from renewable sources by 2050.

Eileen Quigley, director of the Clean Energy Transition Institute, has been working for two decades to help small and medium-sized cities throughout the Pacific Northwest cut greenhouse-gas emissions and switch from fossil fuels to green energy sources. The number-one thing she’s learned about how to bring more conservative communities on board, she said: “Don’t talk about climate change.”

Instead, she focuses on health and community benefits: economic development, clean air and water, and the creation of new jobs that come with the potential for career development. Quigley outlined four steps leaders in conservative communities can follow to win support for measures to fight climate change.

First, understand what the community’s assets are and how they intersect with one another. (Communities with a clean energy grid might need to focus instead on transportation to create meaningful results.) Next, don’t work in isolation. Banding together with other cities can help a jurisdiction negotiate better deals with electric utilities, for example. Third, get businesses—especially anchor employers like hospitals or universities—and local chambers of commerce engaged to add leverage and clout to the effort.

Finally, make sure financiers and elected officials are involved from the get-go. That can help if you need to access green bonds, funding through opportunity zones, or one of the many other financial tools available.

“It’s not enough to have a great strategy, to have done all of your coalition work, to have created an opportunity to invest in renewable energy, if you don’t have the skill set, the brain power, and the access to the capital,” said Quigley.

A table at Abita Springs’ Clean Energy Day in March 2018. (George H. Long)

In Abita Springs, Lemons joined forces with the legal minds at nearby Tulane University in New Orleans to file a series of lawsuits aimed at stopping the fracking project. In the end, the town lost. But the journey persuaded Lemons and the rest of the town’s leaders that fossil fuels were incompatible with the Abita Springs of the future.

The first time the Sierra Club had come calling on Lemons, “I really didn’t warm up to them very much,” he said. The group seemed too political, too heavily Democratic. But the second time it came around, he listened. Abita Springs joined Blacksburg; Pueblo, Colorado; and other Republican cities to sign on to the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, committing to shift to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

The town plans to install solar panels on all eight of the buildings it owns, make town hall more energy efficient, and replace all its street lights with LEDs. Tesla recently announced that it would install four electric-vehicle charging stations in town.

“All I know is, we’ve got to move to something more sustainable. We have to move away from fossil fuels,” said Lemons. “We have to have a balance of life.” For other leaders in conservative communities, he has a message: “I want people to understand if we can do this in Abita Springs, in an oil and gas state, anybody in this country can do it.”