Tag: Guest Post

The Impacts of Sea Level Rise and Climate Change on California and Greece

The Impacts of Sea Level Rise and Climate Change on California and Greece

Marina Baracos

June 2nd, 2021

Sea level rise is defined as a climatically induced change of sea levels that can lead to flooding in high-risk areas. This change is caused by several different factors. The two main factors that will be highlighted in this article are climate change and land proximity to a body of water. Climate change causes an increase in sea level due to the retention of heat by carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. The changes that happened during the 20th century led to a sea-level increase of 0.17±0.05m, according to observations made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [1]. If this continues by 2100, the sea level is estimated to rise between 2 to 3.4 meters. These effects can already be seen, from changes in polar regions to the increase in floods. The aspect of floods is something that is very concerning for islands and peninsulas since these geographical regions do not have much of a “buffer” against any drastic flooding or change in land borders as a result of flooding.

This issue concerns Greece and California, two places distant in location but similar in climate. However, there are several main issues that affect both of these diverse regions. The first issue is that of population displacement. This is related to the coastal development and landscape of those regions. In numerous parts of Greece, communities have found ways to thrive off the coastal regions, including tourism. The beaches that we value as part of Greece’s natural beauty are at risk of being lost, leading to a socioeconomic deficit, displacement of families and businesses who have relied on the economic benefits of tourism, and the depletion of wildlife. However, this issue can lead to something with more sinister impacts for California and Greece is gentrification. Gentrification is the systematic removal of a certain population from an area due to economic and/or climate change. Historic communities are facing removal and displacement because of the respective value of land based on its geographical position. Families are fleeing these neighborhoods to move to areas of higher elevation and less flood risk. [2] Communities that have been established within a geographical area and that have brought cultural diversity, tourism, and economic attention, as well as, are facing separation. Therefore, it is in turn, much needed that we ensure that we are preserving these high-risk areas via active intervention with both policy and infrastructure change.

Due to these aforementioned disadvantages, sea-level rise is also a large risk in property investments. In the United States, there is a specific way to prevent flood-related disasters from being unrecoverable. This is due to the national program called the National Flood Insurance Program. This program was created in 1968 by Congress to help with the cost of damage created by floods. [3] However, this process still has systematic flaws, since the claims process and the process for applying for this type of insurance are time-consuming and inefficient. In addition, flood insurance is not part of a default homeowners policy, meaning that many people have to go out of their way to apply for flood insurance. Furthermore, some homes are not required to purchase flood insurance since they were built before it was mandatory to do so. However, this age and lack of floodproofing design makes them more vulnerable. The main issue with this federally implemented flood insurance is that it formulates itself as separate from all other buildings and prevents the development of personal flood insurance plans. Instead, the U.S Government should focus on creating a program that is integrated into normal home insurance policies. This type of insurance is something that has prevented the development of personal flood insurance plans in the United States. In Europe, particularly Greece, a federal flood insurance program does not exist. Instead, most flood insurance (<=50%) exists under the private market, meaning that more development based on local resources and regulations can occur. [4] Therefore, Greece is different from California in this aspect in the sense that poorer flood insurance coverage is offered in California and in the United States in general.

Based on the evidence gathered throughout these research studies and observation of these climate-related issues, there are several methods and measures that can be taken to aid California and Greece. Three strategies that are outlined within the article “A Guide to Sea Level Rise and Housing Adaptation in California” are Protect, Accommodate, and Retreat, respectfully. [5] Protecting an area is the first step to preventing devastation due to Sea Level rise. We can change the infrastructure surrounding these areas with structures called seawalls, which can redirect and prevent floodwaters from causing damage to these regions. Secondly, the next technique that can be used is to accommodate. This means that cities and other geographical regions can change and accommodate their land use based on the patterns of sea-level rise and flooding. There are numerous techniques currently implemented in Europe for these issues, such as the phenomenon of “Living with Rivers”. This design principle incorporates rising sea levels or changes in bodies of water to existing infrastructure, rather than fighting against such changes [6]. I feel that this is something that can be incorporated in both the cases of California and Greece, along with better policies to protect infrastructure and homes that are in a preexisting area. Finally, the third strategy for rising sea levels is to retreat. This often comes in the form of managed retreat, which is actively moving at-risk communities or infrastructure away form the rising shoreline. While this strategy is used as a last resort, it still requires careful calculation and planning to ensure that effective rebuilding of these cities and towns can take place afterward on this new land. However, one con to this approach is the displacement of native communities and infrastructure.

In conclusion, sea level rise is something that can affect multiple facets of a community. Not only does this affect the socio-economic landscape of a region, but the environmental cost at stake amplifies this prominent issue. Through the use of modeling and predictive technology, we are able to determine an effective solution for a given geographic region. Coastal land use may differ slightly based on geographic region, but these principles can still be applied to both California and Greece. Firstly, what needs to be addressed for any of these regions is that of an effective policy concerning flood insurance and planning. Without proper insurance for our pre-existing buildings and structures, there is no way that we can properly address and take care of what is already constructed. Therefore, we need to revise Flood Insurance Policies to be more encompassing of older buildings without a federal program. We also need to place emphasis on different solutions such as Protection and Accommodation. These solutions can revise existing infrastructure without separating communities, unlike retreat, which is something that we should avoid and use only as a last resort.

Works Cited:

[1] Klaoudatos DS, Kokkali A, Conides A (2015). Estimates of the Economic Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Paros and Naxos Islands (Cyclades Archipelago Greece). J Aquac Mar Biol 2(2): 00020. DOI: 10.15406/jamb.2015.02.00020

[2] WPBT2. (2020, January 6). Is Climate Gentrification Happening in Miami? YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa55kMXxXCQ.

[3] CNBC. (2020, November 18). Why Flood Insurance Is Failing The U.S. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGzXXUNzf3o.

[4] Bouwer, Laurens & Huitema, Dave. (2007). Adaptive flood management: The role of insurance and compensation in Europe. 24-26. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Overview-of-national-flood-insurance-and-compensation-systems-in-Europe-considered-in_fig1_228346355

[5] Gendler, I. (2020, September 15). A Guide to Sea Level Rise and Housing Adaptation in California. Abundant Housing LA. https://abundanthousingla.org/a-guide-to-sea-level-rise-and-housing-adaptation-in-california/.

[6] Görlach, B. (n.d.). Economic Evaluation of Flood Management Measures. Ecologic Institute. https://www.ecologic.eu/1371.

[7] Press, T. A. (2020, September 19). Greek flooding leaves 2 dead, 1 missing; 600 others rescued. The Ledger. https://www.theledger.com/story/news/2020/09/19/greek-flooding-leaves-2-dead-1-missing-600-others-rescued/5840184002/.

Efficient Methods of Transportation Infrastructure Reform Within the U.S. and China

Efficient Methods of Transportation Infrastructure Reform Within the U.S. and China

By Marina Baracos

4/5/2020

Shifting the modern transportation paradigm to a more sustainable model is one of the most pressing issues in the field of Engineering. Two nations that are the primary focus of the issue are the United States and the People’s Republic of China. In many ways, these two countries are at two different ends of the spectrum of this issue. The United States is experiencing a transportation crisis due to the fact that the ratio of cars outnumbers that of people, and the infrastructure is ill-suited to the current number of cars on the road, (List of countries by vehicles per capita, WorldLibrary.org, 2018), a result of a prolonged period of mass suburbanization. Consequentially, the way the U.S has built its cities is centered around the idea that the car is required for even the most simplistic errands. Therefore, the need for more cars and long-distance transportation is built into the city structure, vastly increasing carbon emissions. However, in China, the exact opposite problem is unfolding, with a population density being so high that it is very difficult to have even a few cars on the road without there being major safety concerns. Pollution is already a major concern within many Chinese cities, and the air quality is so poor the many citizens have to wear face masks on a daily basis to avoid the inhalation of particulate matter. In each case, the transportation infrastructure is ill-suited to the population and the methods of mobility that are currently being used. Therefore, significant changes in structure must be made in order for these major powers to change their efficiency in a way that allows for the creation of a sustainable and resilient environment for their inhabitants.

I believe that a method of fixing overcrowded transportation would lie in reducing the size of the transport used in large cities. Not only would this fix the problem of our infrastructure being unable to support so many large vehicles, but it would also provide a method of transportation that is more efficient than walking or biking to individuals who are unable to purchase or drive a car. The ideal form for this type of transportation would be a moped. A moped is a small vehicle that takes on a form that is similar to that of a motorcycle but is overall more accessible to those who are unfamiliar with riding or unable to ride a motorcycle. Mopeds are much more compact and are overall easier to control and balance. Therefore, it would be beneficial in cities where finding storage and providing opportunities for transportation may be difficult. A standard moped uses a combustion engine to obtain power. Combustion engines are dependent on a fuel substance to catalyze a chemical reaction that powers the engine of a machine, often a car or other vehicle. The fuel, in this case, is the issue, as gasoline emissions from transportation are the number one source of greenhouse gases in the environment. Thus, another energy source must also be a component of solving this issue. (All-Electric Vehicles, Fueleconomy.gov.) In recent years, there have been innovations in batteries that function in the same manner as lithium-ion batteries but use less caustic and environmentally damaging substances, such as saltwater. Within a lithium-ion battery, the polarization of the substance within the battery is transferred between a cathode and an anode, and through this distribution, chemical energy is created and can be stored within the battery. (Battery University, Lithium-ion Safety Concerns. 2018) This can then be released in the form of electrical energy to power what the battery is connected to. In 2017, I was able to speak to Sneha Shanbhag, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University, who was working on an environmentally responsible lithium-ion alternative as part of her graduate research. What is beneficial about this type of battery is that it is able to hold an immense amount of energy for its size, making it much easier to produce, transport, and implement within a device, without any immense environmental repercussions. She partnered with a company known as Aquion Energy to develop a working prototype, and, as of July 2017, the battery’s design was still being actively tested for efficiency.

Another component that is a key issue of the transportation crisis is lack of parking. Our current means of transportation are fairly difficult to house effectively, and as the number of cars and these larger vehicles increase, the need to create other establishments such as parking garages also increases. In turn, we may also be increasing our carbon footprint by the removal of natural areas to make way for these structures. With smaller vehicles such as mopeds, storage is not as much of problem, since more mopeds can fit into the space of a parking garage than can cars. By incorporating a means of transportation that occupies less space and rivals the efficiency of larger vehicles, we can aid with both the lack of transportation and the surplus of larger modes of transportation, therefore leading to a more balanced world system and creating more accessibility to those who might not be able to or afford to drive a car.

In conclusion, the issue of transportation is one that affects the world in a drastic manner. While both the United States and China are at polar ends of the issue, implementing a solution for both would require cooperation and development of more compact and more efficient modes of transport. The design of something as compact and readily available as a moped, as well as an efficient and versatile energy source, would be a key way to solve this issue. By implementing a new, more versatile system of transport, we are able to adapt in a way that benefits our current infrastructure and will definitely improve it for our future.

 

Works Cited

All-Electric Vehicles. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2018, from
https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/evtech.shtml

Lombardo, T. (2017, March 05). Your Next Car Will NOT Be Solar Powered. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from http://www.engineering.com/ElectronicsDesign/ElectronicsDesignArticles/ArticleID/14433/Your-Next-Car-Will-NOT-Be-Solar-Powered.aspx.

List of countries by vehicles per capita. (2018, January 05). Retrieved January 10, 2018, from
http://www.worldlibrary.org/articles/eng/List_of_countries_by_vehicles_per_capita

Lithium-ion Safety Concerns. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2018, from
http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/archive/lithium_ion_safety_concerns