De meningen ge-uit door medewerkers en studenten van de TU Delft en de commentaren die zijn gegeven reflecteren niet perse de mening(en) van de TU Delft. De TU Delft is dan ook niet verantwoordelijk voor de inhoud van hetgeen op de TU Delft weblogs zichtbaar is. Wel vindt de TU Delft het belangrijk - en ook waarde toevoegend - dat medewerkers en studenten op deze, door de TU Delft gefaciliteerde, omgeving hun mening kunnen geven.

Posted in November 2010

Summit push

This article was first published in the South China Morning Post on November 29th 2010 by Julian Hunt. Lord Hunt is vice-president of Globe (Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment), visiting professor at Delft University of Technology, and former director general of the UK Met Office

The range of views on climate change offers some grounds for collaboration, if not a deal at Cancun

In advance of the UN climate summit in Cancun, which begins today, legislators from across the world – from US congressman Bart Gordon to Chinese congressman Wang Guangtao – met in Tianjin this month at Globe International’s climate change symposium. Though the prospect of reaching a comprehensive deal in Mexico is being widely talked down, much progress can still be made; there remains substantial room for optimism.

Last year’s disappointing and confused Copenhagen conference showed the lack of willingness of major countries to establish any meaningful international agreement to deal with the causes and impact of manmade climate change. This might involve only the developed countries reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases, as in the Kyoto Protocol, or could also involve other countries with major emissions.

Neither of these scenarios seems likely to be achieved at Cancun. It now seems that the meeting might just result in a set of statements by countries about what they are doing individually and in various multilateral arrangements – a disappointing re-run of Copenhagen.

However, it needs to be remembered that text in a communique does not reduce emissions in itself – action on the ground does. In this context, there are reasons to be optimistic about recent legislative activity in developing countries. For instance, the Chinese announced at the Globe symposium that they are studying the feasibility of a comprehensive climate change law.

Moreover, if a comprehensive deal isn’t reached at Cancun, the summit still represents a remarkable opportunity for countries to assess the future more realistically, and collaborate on the practical policies that need to be introduced. Cancun offers a stepping stone to secure a truly sustainable global deal next year or beyond.

Under current plans, many industrialising countries will continue to increase their emissions. This is despite the fact that, in most of the major emitting countries, administrative and innovative market mechanisms are offering incentives to industry to use energy more efficiently.

In China, financial rewards for reducing energy use provided by regional governments are leading to substantial improvements in efficiency. These arrangements are evolving into local carbon markets, albeit small-scale and voluntary at this stage. Although the Kyoto Protocol does not apply to the emissions in China and other developing countries, where millions still live in extreme poverty, politicians in these countries nonetheless say that the protocol does provide a policy framework for controlling emissions.

In the United States, the Obama administration is relying on national regulations operated by the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor and limit further emissions from major power plants. As green stimulus measures, such as the investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, wind down, this work becomes more important.

The US, China and the European Union are also planning to introduce new systems of monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, using remote-sensing and ground-based instrumentation. EU countries have been emphasising low-carbon energy such as wind and nuclear, as well as carbon sequestration, but have not been able to agree on priorities. There is more unanimity in the EU about promoting its policy of carbon trading to motivate industrial efficiency.

Other countries are focusing on preventing the rise of atmospheric greenhouse gases by expanding forestry. This is why some Latin American and EU legislators are considering how natural conservation and preserving biodiversity can be an integral part of climate change policy.

Given this wide range of political, economic and technical approaches to climate change policy, it may be impossible to frame an international agreement that would satisfy all governments, businesses and also civil society groups. However, it should be possible to agree on a range of practical actions to mitigate climate change and deal with its effects on health, business, agriculture and natural disasters.

The rising costs of dealing with these effects, such as coastal defenses, and reducing desertification and urban overheating, mean that preventative actions have to begin now. They must not be delayed until economies grow further, as some influential economists argue.

The legislators at the Globe symposium generally agreed that there are three areas where urgent action is needed most.

First, more information is needed about expected levels of greenhouse gas, global and regional climate risks, and likely impact on countries. Decision-makers need to know more clearly the likely scenarios and reasonable targets. Communities need to be informed so that they can also contribute, as for example farmers do in Mali, by measuring and communicating the changes to local climate and ecology. The best way for improving information exchange is through United Nations agencies.

Second, countries and regions should exchange information about actions they have taken for mitigation and adaptation, as was agreed in principle at Copenhagen. Members of Globe are already exchanging experiences about legislation and its effectiveness in different countries. However, more work is needed to make this a reality, with transfer of know-how to developing countries.

Third, more collaboration is needed in implementing policies. This should build on national, regional or sectoral initiatives, for example in carbon trading, funding adaptation in developing countries, and developing new technologies for global application, such as desalination, plant breeding and genetic engineering of new crops. Also key are social programmes for the millions of people who are likely to be displaced by the effects of desertification, sea-level rise and probably the melting of mountain snows.

For those, such as myself, who believe that global warming is the greatest danger to humanity in the 21st century, it is to be hoped that agreement can be reached in these areas so that we can move nearer towards a comprehensive and effective deal. We cannot afford to see the shambles of Copenhagen repeated in Cancun.

Water in de Lage Landen

HUUB SAVENIJE over het waterbeheer in Nederland en België

Verloopt het waterbeheer in Belgie anders dan in Nederland? Huub Savenije onderzoekt de overeenkomsten en de verschillen.

Huub Savenije is hoogleraar hydrologie en waterhuishouding aan de TU Delft. Dit artikel verscheen op dinsdag 16 november 2010 in De Morgen

Naar aanleiding van de recente overstromingen wordt er zowel in België als in Nederland weer druk gedebatteerd over het water. Zodra er mensen natte voeten krijgen, ondergelopen kelders of, erger nog, drijvend huisraad in hun woning, is het waterbeheer weer even topprioriteit. Maar als alles weer droog is vergeten we de ellende weer vlug en gaan we weer over tot de orde van de dag. Voor de gemeenteambtenaar en voor de projectontwikkelaar betekent dat: het plannen van stadsuitbreiding, woningbouw, industrieterreinen, nieuwe wegen, parkeerterreinen en rioleringen. Dat is in Nederland en België waarschijnlijk niet anders. Mensen die waarschuwen dat de vergroting van het geplaveide oppervlak en de intensivering van de drainage leidt tot wateroverlast benedenstrooms, zien zich gesteld tegenover de grote belangen die gemoeid gaan met het intensiveren van het landgebruik. Bouwgrond is schaars en duur, en met het verkopen van grond en het bebouwen daarvan is veel geld te verdienen, vooral als de onbebouwde grond relatief goedkoop is. Helaas ligt die goedkope grond vaak daar waar ook het water terecht komt als het hard regent. Als waterbeheerder is tegen deze belangen nauwelijks op te boksen, ook in Nederland niet. De waterbeheerder ziet zich voor steeds grotere veiligheidseisen gesteld terwijl zijn speelruimte afneemt.

Geen extreme buien
Uiteraard is het aantrekkelijk om de recente wateroverlast in het licht van mogelijke klimaatsverandering te zien. Maar dat is niet terecht. Het waren heftige, maar geen extreme buien. Wat veel sterker is veranderd, zijn: ons landgebruik, de inrichting van de publieke ruimte, en de eisen die wij stellen aan het watersysteem. In Nederland is het inmiddels heel normaal dat mensen hun kelder bewonen, daar waar die vroeger alleen gebruikt werden om voorraden koel en donker te bewaren. Huizen en winkels zijn tegenwoordig drempelloos, zodat het water ongehinderd naar binnen kan stromen. Vervolgens hebben we dure vloerbedekking, stopcontacten en elektrische apparaten op voethoogte liggen, zodat de schade direct groot is zodra er water binnenkomt. Daarmee worden er eisen aan het waterbeheer gesteld die vroeger niet bestonden. Dus aan de ene kant wordt het risico groter omdat er meer water van boven naar beneden wordt afgevoerd en aan de andere kant neemt de schade toe omdat we steeds meer gebouwen met waardevolle spullen op kwetsbare plaatsen hebben. Ook dat is in Nederland en in België waarschijnlijk niet anders.

Zijn er dan geen verschillen? Je hoort vaak dat de oorzaak vooral gezocht moet worden in de organisatie van het waterbeheer die veelal versnipperd is over verschillende overheden. De gemeente probeert de nood te lenigen als er wateroverlast is. Als er kelders onderlopen of als er mensen gered moeten worden, dan rukt de brandweer uit. Maar het is vaak dezelfde gemeente die vergunningen heeft afgegeven voor stadsuitbreiding, afwatering of voor het bouwen op riskante plaatsen. Daarom is er een hoger orgaan nodig dat de effecten van deze maatregelen doorrekent en kaders stelt waarbinnen lagere overheden kunnen manoeuvreren. In Nederland zijn er de waterschappen en is er de Rijkswaterstaat die deze gemeenteoverschrijdende belangen in de gaten moeten houden, maar in de praktijk werkt ook dat in Nederland lang niet altijd zoals het moet. De gemeentes trekken meestal aan het langste eind en passen hun plannen hooguit cosmetisch aan.

Geaccidenteerd België
Wat is er dan anders tussen Nederland en België? Ik denk dat louter door het feit dat Nederland zo vlak is, en dat een groot deel van het land beneden zeeniveau ligt, de problemen bij intense regenbuien minder extreem zijn. Zodra er hoogteverschillen zijn, loopt het water naar de laagste plek – en tegenwoordig gaat dat steeds sneller door de intense bebouwing. België is nu eenmaal meer geaccidenteerd dan Nederland en het water concentreert zich dus gemakkelijker in de laagste stukken. Ten tweede is Nederland waarschijnlijk iets beter ingespeeld op dit soort van gebeurtenissen. Omdat grote delen van Nederland onder zeeniveau liggen, zijn de waterschappen dagelijks bezig om de waterpeilen in de sloten en waterlopen te handhaven. Zodra het regent gaan er pompen aan, of het nou veel of minder regent. Het is de routine van alledag die maakt dat er direct handelend wordt opgetreden. Maar wellicht geldt dat evenzeer voor de lagere gebieden van België.

Dit neemt niet weg dat het in Nederland nooit fout gaat. Onlangs nog was er na een heftige regenbui veel wateroverlast in Egmond aan Zee, en deze zomer trad de Oost-Nederlandse Dinkel buiten zijn oevers, met veel schade. In Nederland is er een intensieve maatschappelijke discussie gaande over de hoeveelheid land die wij moeten reserveren om het water de nodige ruimte te geven. Uiteindelijk is het een kwestie van ruimtelijke ordening, waarbij wij zowel ervoor zorgen dat het water voldoende kan worden vastgehouden (in de bodem of op daartoe aangewezen land), als dat we de schade beperken door de laagliggende gebieden beter toe te rusten op eventuele inundaties.

How to achieve energy neutrality in cities

This article by Andy van den Dobbelsteen and Nico Tillie first appeared on Reuters The Great Debate UK on Nov 9, 2010.
Andy van den Dobbelsteen is a Professor of Architecture and Nico Tillie is a PhD candidate at Delft University of Technology. Tillie also works for the City of Rotterdam.

This year’s World Town Planning Day, on November 8, was held in 30 countries on four continents. It is a recognition and celebration of the contributions that sound planning has made to the quality of the human environment and provides recognition of the ideals of community planning among the profession and the general public worldwide.

In recent times, World Town Planning Day has been strongly influenced by environmental themes and this year was no different with much of the world’s eyes on the upcoming Cancun U.N. climate change summit. However, our own view is that planners have yet to fully grasp the fundamental question at the heart of the global warming challenge in urban areas: how can cities and towns become far more autonomous and possibly even free from fossil fuels?

In Europe, until now, architects and urban planners have often followed three steps when designing a sustainable built environment. Reducing energy consumption, utilising sustainable energy, and using fossil fuels as efficiently and cleanly as possible. However, to date at least, this approach has not led to substantially more sustainable towns and cities.

As part of a new approach, we have therefore added in another step: re-using waste flows such as waste-water, household and agricultural waste, and residual heat, whilst using renewable energy to satisfy remaining demand. All buildings and urban areas generate "waste streams" that could be harnessed, but rarely are. We believe that adoption of this approach will eventually render the use of fossil fuels completely unnecessary.

Our project is part of the Rotterdam Climate Initiative, which aims to halve the level of CO2 emissions in the city by 2025, compared to 1990 levels. This is an ambitious plan which will require the truly transformational paradigm we advocate in our revolutionary REAP (Rotterdam Energy Approach and Planning) model.

REAP incentivises urban planners to comb urban areas looking for opportunities to exchange energy. For instance, in the area of Rotterdam near the World Trade Centre, many new homes, offices and a second shopping mall and supermarkets are all forthcoming. All of these buildings will have their own heating and cooling needs and produce residual energy flows which can be "exchanged":

*    For instance, supermarkets must continually operate cooling systems which produce huge amounts of heat that, at present, simply disappears into the atmosphere.  Under our plans, heat pumps will transfer this residual heat to nearby homes and buildings.

*    This principle will also allow for the exchange of heat between offices and homes. On hot days, for instance, office air conditioning units roar into action, yet the heat that is produced in this process is currently wasted. It could (and should) be stored, for instance in underground aquifer layers (Heat and Cold Storage) for inter-seasonal exchange (and then used to heat homes during the winter months) or in tanks for covering diurnal or weekly differences.

*    Organic waste from the neighbourhood could also be collected to produce biogas. Moreover, there are also plans underway for the city to generate residual demand for energy using available green technologies such as solar panels or heat pumps.

We applied these principals in Hart van Zuid, an existing district in Rotterdam, where urban planning calls for homes to be built near the Zuidplein shopping centre that can use the residual heat generated by a local supermarket. The Ikazia Hospital, which is located nearby and consumes huge amounts of energy, is also being modified to be energy self-dependent by reclaiming heat from residual hot air and water, while also becoming much better insulated by means of an overarching climate façade which resembles a huge greenhouse covered in vegetation.

While REAP principles can be applied universally, they do require a substantial amount of infrastructure changes. For instance, small communal facilities must be built to store and redistribute energy. Moreover, heat pumps and heat storage systems are needed for counter-balancing daily and seasonal temperature changes.

Logistics also provide a challenge. For instance, suppose a newly built residential complex in a CO2 neutral neighbourhood is completed earlier than the supermarket the residents depend on for their heat. The only interim solution here might be an emergency generator which could prove costly.

However, for all of these potential obstacles, the big picture here is that carbon-neutral urban development is definitely possible, at least for the demand for heat and cooling — as we have evidenced through REAP in Rotterdam. We believe that REAP can be applied in any urban geography and the next step is to see whether it can provide a structure for other natural resources such as water and materials.

While that experiment is for the future, we are extremely excited about the value REAP has right now as a planning tool for urban planners to make the transition from existing city regions to more sustainable and autonomous city regions. Indeed, we believe that adoption of this approach will eventually render the use of fossil fuels completely unnecessary, a development that would be truly transformational.

Preparing for the next tsunami

This article by Julian Hunt and first appeared on Reuters The Great Debate UK on Nov 3, 2010. Lord Hunt is a visiting professor at Delft University of Technology and emeritus professor at University College London, and former director-general of the UK Meteorological Office.
Dr Simon Day is a researcher at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, University College London.

The devastating tsunami that struck the Indonesian islands of Mentawai may have caused about 450 deaths, with hundreds more still missing, and compounds the disaster caused in the country by the eruption of Mount Merapi in Java. Following a magnitude 7.7 earthquake, the Mentawai Islands were engulfed with estimated three-metre waves that affected thousands of households.

What has shocked many about this latest disaster is the fact that, more than five years after the cataclysmic Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, when at least 187,000 people died (with 43,000 still missing), there were no greater preparations against the devastation.

This is especially puzzling to some as, since 2004, our understanding of the risks of tsunamis and how to reduce their impact has advanced considerably through warnings, forecasting and better tsunami-resistant construction and design.  For instance, in the past five years there has been significant progress in most aspects of warnings around the world, and the Indian Ocean region now has a system in place.

Much of the explanation for this apparent paradox stems from the fact that, even with a warning system in place, some communities close to epicentres may still not receive the warnings in time. This was exactly the issue with the recent disaster.

With Mentawai no more than 100 kilometres from the earthquake’s epicentre, the tsunami waves reached the shores of the islands within 15-30 minutes; even if a tsunami alert had been issued by a warning system, it would have arrived too late for many people to have time to escape. This underlines the fact that, in almost all major earthquake-generated tsunamis (the exceptions occur when the source area is more or less uninhabited), at least 80 percent of the casualties occur in the zone of felt seismic shaking from the source, and within the first hour.

So does this mean that there is nothing we can do to assist communities near earthquake epicentres from tsunamis? The short answer is ‘no’ in at least two main respects.

First, whether there are warnings or not, communities and infrastructure need to be resilient against the most likely kinds of natural hazards. Since 2004, for instance, many people near the Indian Ocean coastline sleep at higher elevations to avoid surprise tsunamis at night.

Research is now leading to more ambitious solutions for building resilient infrastructure. At several research institutes, including Delft University of Technology and University College London, laboratory wave-makers have reproduced tsunami events. But mathematical models and computations are now needed to turn the experiments into reliable estimates for engineers and for community planners to build tsunami proof structures and plan more resilient communities. With global warming, these calculations also take account of the increasing danger as the sea level rises – which is happening three times faster in tropical seas where tsunami risk is greatest.

Resilience also involves understanding how hazards affect local situations. Education for Self-Warning and Voluntary Evacuation (Eswave) is the best and most cost-effective method, whether in developed countries (as with earthquake drills in California) or in developing countries (as with tsunami-earthquake response procedures that saved many lives in Chile this year).

Eswave helps explain to local communities the diversity of tsunami waves (and the appropriate responses), such as:

● High surge waves, as occurred in Mentawai, which increase in height as they travel at speeds of about 10 metres a second or more up the beach and several kilometres inland, drowning and destroying villages in their path.
● Depression waves, as happened in Thailand and Sri Lanka in 2004 and in Samoa last year, when the water withdraws – lulling people into relaxing or even approaching the beach – before returning as large, surging waves.

The wider use of Eswave could have almost certainly saved lives in Mentawai by teaching local people to find higher ground or move further inland when they felt the initial seismic shaking or perhaps seen initial sea level changes. Survivor accounts indicate that they felt the earthquake, but that many did not react until the early tsunami waves were breaking on the shorelines.

This contrasts strikingly with the behaviour of many communities in the southwestern Pacific, who know that earthquake shaking often precedes a tsunami: mortality rates from tsunamis in such communities are at least 90 per cent lower than in adjacent communities of immigrants who are not tsunami-aware.

Forecasting is the second main way to mitigate tsunami risks. Perhaps the most promising research for improving our predictive skills is holistic geophysical forecasting.

This makes use of the fact that tsunami related disturbances are so large and so powerful that they disturb the solid earth, the oceans and the atmosphere. These disturbances do not lead just to mechanical forces and releases of heat, as in storms, but they also affect electrical, magnetic and molecular processes, especially higher up in the atmosphere.

Modern instruments have become so sensitive that they can measure magnetic fields one millionth of the strength of the earth’s magnetic field; they can detect tremors in the earth’s rigid outer layer long before large earthquakes and tsunamis actually occur. Research at Moscow’s Geoelectromagnetic Research Centre confirms that the motions in tsunami waves can be detected over many hundreds of kilometres from distant measurements of weak, slowly changing magnetic fields.

This new frontier of prediction is pathbreaking and already achieving exciting results. However, true success will only be achieved when human lives are routinely saved by applying both this and other tsunami-related research in practice.

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