A Day With the Dutch

Open-loop geothermal heating systems, unconventional increased disease risk resulting rising temps and how to build adaptive capacity into building infrastructure are among the things I heard during the Holland Climate House’s “Cities and Climate Change” series of events today.

There were a few things I found to be directly applicable to Alma and the surrounding community:

– The open loop geothermal systems are many times more effective than conventional closed loop systems that most people have installed when they get a geothermal heating system. The difference between the two is that, rather than having a treated and sealed amount of water piped below a building to be either warmed or cooled by exposure to groundwater and then pumped back up to the house in a circulated manner over and over again, the open loop systems pipe  water directly from the ground, circulate it around the building, and then pump it back into the ground. Matthijs Bonte, the geohydrologist who gave the talk, said the systems should not be used next to wells because of increased risks of contamination from surface pollutants. When I heard this, I instantly thought that these systems are perfect for large scale adaptation in areas where people already do not drink the water. If and when the town of St. Louis, who’s water is contaminated by residual poison from the Velsicol Chemical Company,  gets a new source of drinking water I believe you could some large scale retrofitting projects incorporating the systems and saving tons of energy on the way. If not St. Louis, there are more places in the state where the water should not be consumed.

– From Patrick Smeets of the KWR Watercycle Research Institute, I learned how the risks to exposure to water bourne pathogens is magnified by everything climate change has to offer. I already knew higher temps meant higher rates of bacteria in water, but did not think about how drought concentrates levels of  water borne vectors while simultaneously  reducing the number and quality of available water sources. Increased rain, however, means more runoff into rivers and groundwater, and with all the CAFO’s in the area, that means even higher chances of getting exposed. Smeets cited data that showed correlation between water borne sickness and heavy rainfall events, which he attributes to people getting sick from drinking well water that the ground was unable to properly ‘clean’ because it was over-saturated already. Smeets also showed how cooling systems like air conditioners that aerosol-ize water droplets spread disease because they take in all the air around them including what people cough into them. They are also usually quite wet and no one ever thinks to clean them out, which is gross.

– Adaptation was the theme behind several of the sessions, where some eye opening statistics were cited. Peter Bosch said few people give consideration to the idea that climate change does not just stop after 100 years (where most model projections typically stop) and that what is built today is going to be affected then. Chris Geurts said the logic behind the way in which we construct buildings is inherently flawed because it takes into account only today’s environment and weather, short term economic costs, and give little consideration to the facts that building typically stands for 50 to 100 years and has many owners and purposes in that time. Pauline Hartog said that 40 percent of the buildings in the world, which were mostly built in the post-WW2 boom, will need to be replaced in the next 25 years. Geurts also cited studies saying energy and building efficiency is typically 25 percent lower than the contractor states on the paperwork when a project is completed.

Today I also read a little bit and watched a film during one of the Holland Climate House sessions:

At the COP15 Climate Thinkers blog, there is an entry by Senator Christine Milne, Deputy Leader of the Australian Green Party, that points out a good communicative reason why little action on the global scale has been taken, and what must be done to change the language of climate change

From “Crisis rhetoric has to be matched with crisis action”:

One of the many problems we face in driving political ambition is that some scientists who privately warn that we must make very deep cuts very fast, in public allow themselves to become what they call “pragmatic”. They temper their advice because they fear that honest advice will be seen as politically impossible and will thus be ignored or ridiculed. I say to those scientists, have courage. If you do not, there is no chance at all that the necessary targets will be adopted. You will become part of the problem not part of the solution.

Connecting Delta Cities, is the film I watched and got a copy of  about  partnerships to develop climate adaptive capacity in Jakarta, New York City, Rotterdam and Alexandria.


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