human activity and the destruction of the planet

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Cities with the biggest carbon footprints

The World Economic Forum has published on its websites those cities with the biggest carbon footprints.  The top twenty include:

  1. Seoul, South Korea.
  2. Guangzhou, China.
  3. New York City, USA.
  4. Hong Kong, SAR.
  5. Los Angeles, USA.
  6. Shanghai, China.
  7. Country of Singapore.
  8. Chicago, USA.
  9. Tokyo, Yokohama, Japan
  10. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  11. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  12. Wuxi, China
  13. Johannesburg, South Africa
  14. Tehran, Iran
  15. Moscow, Russia
  16. London, UK
  17. Benha, Egypt
  18. Beijing, China
  19. Jakarta, Indonesia
  20. Al-Almadi, Kuwait



Seoul, South Korea – has the biggest carbon footprint

The list was compiled by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Their study showed that 18% of all global emissions come from just 100 cities. Researcher Daniel Moran said he was surprised at how carbon footprints are concentrated into a small number of dense, high-income cities and affluent suburbs. And that might make curbing the absolute levels seem more achievable, with the power in the hands of a relatively small number of local mayors and governments.  Full details can be found on the World Economic Forum website:

Calculated on a per capita basis, Hong Kong was top of the list, followed by Mohammed Bin Zayed City and Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Calculated on this basis, four Chinese cities were in the top 10 per capita and two US cities –  New Orleans and Detroit.


Hong Kong – has the biggest carbon footprint per capita

Hong Kong has responded to the Paris Agreement  by setting out plans to lower their carbon emissions by 2030.

The Norwegian researchers said, “The confluence of high concentration of global GDP and global carbon footprints augurs well for future development of innovative strategies to reduce footprints. The fact that carbon footprints are highly concentrated in affluent cities means that targeted measures in a few places and by selected coalitions can have a large effect covering important consumption hotspots.”


London is 16th on the list of cities with the biggest carbon footprints


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Mayor of London’s new Environmental Strategy

A few month’s ago, I posted details on this site of how to contribute to the consultation on London’s Environmental Strategy.  Now it has been published and can be found at the following website:

Click to access london_environment_strategy.pdf

It includes sections on:

Mayor’s foreword
Chapter 1: London’s environment today
Chapter 2: Transforming London’s environment
Chapter 3: New approaches
Chapter 4: Air quality
Chapter 5: Green infrastructure
Chapter 6: Climate change mitigation and energy
Chapter 7: Waste
Chapter 8: Adapting to climate change
Chapter 9: Ambient noise
Chapter 10: Transition to a low carbon circular economy
Chapter 11: GLA group operations – leading by example

and is well-illustrated with colour photographs and graphic representation of data, collected as part of the development of strategy.  There are some big plans in it, one of which is to become the cleanest (least polluted) major city in the world, becoming a zero carbon city by 2050.

Chapter 6 is a lengthy section on Climate Change.  It provides data on carbon emissions by sector for the city in 2015.  These can be broken down into:

Workplaces 40% of emissions; Homes 36% of emissions; Transport 24% of emissions.

An appendix sets out a pathway to reach the target of zero emissions by 2050.


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Draft London Environment Strategy – have your say

In August 2017, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched a draft Environmental Strategy, which is currently out for consultation.  Responses need to be lodged by 17th November 2017.  An excellent document, it can be found through the following link:

Click to access draft_environment_strategy_-_executive_summary.pdf

The Mayor of London’s website introduces the consultation document as follows:

“The state of London’s environment affects everyone who lives in and visits the city – it helps Londoners to stay healthy, makes London a good place to work and keeps the city functioning from day to day.

Today London is facing a host of environmental challenges. Toxic air, noise pollution, the threat to our green spaces, and the adverse effects of climate change, all pose major risks to the health and wellbeing of Londoners.

We need to act now to tackle the most urgent environmental challenges facing our city as well as safeguard London’s environment over the longer term. We need to ensure that London is greenercleaner and ready for the future.

This is the first strategy to bring together approaches to every aspect of London’s environment. It is divided into the following areas:

•    Air quality
•    Green infrastructure
•    Climate change mitigation and energy
•    Waste
•    Adapting to climate change
•    Ambient noise

Mayor's Environment Strategy

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20 Countries Most At Risk From Sea Level Rise

Sea level has risen globally by around 20 cm from 1901 to 2010, at an average rate of 1.7 mm per year. The rate has increased over this period and is currently 3.2 mm per year. It is estimated that around 70 per cent of sea level rise from 1970 to 2005 can be attributed to human activities. At present the largest contribution is caused by  thermal expansion of the world’s oceans – the volume of water increasing simply due to warming (40 per cent of the increase from 1993 to 2015). The rest is from the better-known losses of land ice from glaciers (25 per cent) and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets (20 per cent), along with transfer from land water sources such as groundwater and snow (15 per cent), with the ice sheet contributions increasing during this period. Data from Dr Tamsin Edwards’ report cited below.

pinn rising sea levels.jpg

Climate Central just completed a novel analysis of worldwide exposure to sea level rise and coastal flooding. They found that 147 to 216 million people live on land that will be below sea level or regular flood levels by the end of the century, assuming emissions of heat-trapping gases continue on their current trend.


Only countries with a total population of over 1 million were included in the Climate Central analysis.  This means that most island nations do not appear in their tables, which are copied below:


These tables appear to grade countries according to the size of their populations and what proportion of that population is at risk from coastal flooding.  Thus, China would have the greatest number of their inhabitants affected by sea level rise but, in terms of the percentage of their population as a whole, this is only 4%.  Conversely, the Netherlands have a smaller number of their people at risk from coastal inundation, compared with China, but this represents almost half (47%) of their total population, putting them at the top of the table, percentage-wise. However, Vietnam comes second in the list, however the calculation is done, and Japan comes third and fourth. So many Asian countries are particularly at risk.

Chapter 1 (Figure 15) of my book features some of the maps produced by National Geographic Creative.  These show the new coastlines if all of the ice caps were to melt. From these maps, I personally would want to place countries like Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Denmark, Cambodia, Japan, much of the eastern coast of USA (especially Florida), southern Thailand, much of Indonesia, most of the Pacific and Indian ocean island nations, very close to the top of the list.  But then, I am looking at them in terms of territory lost, rather than the numbers of people displaced.  It would be interesting to see these tables showing countries rated according to how much territory they would lose.

Another factor that needs to be looked at is the huge numbers of major cities of the world which would go under water.  They include:

Alexandria, Amsterdam, Auckland, Baghdad, Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Bissau, Boston, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Cancun, Copenhagen, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Dhaka, Doha, Freetown, Georgetown, Helsinki, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Houston, Jakarta, Kolkata, Lagos, Lisbon, London, Manila, Maputo, Melbourne, Miami, Montevideo, Montreal, New Orleans, New York, Phnom Penh, Rangoon, Riga, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Singapore, Stockholm, Tallinn, Tampa, Tokyo, Vancouver, Venice.



A recent article in The Guardian (5.10.18) focuses just on what is happening in the cities of the world, some of which are sinking (some due to the weight of the tall buildings that have been built there eg Bangkok), as well as sea-level rise and other reasons, such as the geology of the area.  Sinking cities include London, Shanghai, Jakarta and Houston.  A report from Christian Aid also focuses on the cities that are sinking and describes Jakarta, which is said to be sinking by 25 cm a year, largely because of groundwater extraction. Houston is sinking as the oil wells beneath it are depleted. The Christian Aid study focused on eight of the major cities of the world. For full details of the situation facing Jakarta (Indonesia), see the following report:

Jakarta_slumhome_2-1 (2)

Slums in Jakarta, the world’s fastest sinking city

Many cities have been built in coastal areas and near major rivers.  This makes them vulnerable, not only to sea level rise but also to storm surges.  Amitav Ghosh has discussed the situation regarding Asian cities like Mumbai and Kolkata in his book “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable” (2016, published by University of Chicago Press).  He comments on Asia’s late entry into the process of industrialisation and believes that, due to the numbers of people involved, this has brought the climate crisis to a head.  He surmises that “The brute fact is that no strategy can work globally unless it works in Asia and is adopted by large numbers of Asians.” 

And to add to these reports, there was a recent piece in The Times, warning about the effects of rising sea levels in Scotland.  It can be found at:

According to the Times report, scores of coastal towns, Prestwick airport and Faslane are all at risk, although Scotlandas a whole is rising rather than sinking.

And another recent report from Molly Rubin in Quartz, reports on measures that are being taken in New York to prevent another storm surge like the one that occurred with Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It involves a system of underwater gates, which can be raised and lowered to block surges. The UK and Netherlands use similar systems: the Thames Barrier in London and Maeslantkering in Rotterdam.

With more superstorms predicted, there’s a dream project to keep New York above water

The US clearly has the money to introduce such systems, which developing countries do not have.


The Thames Barrier in London

And another recent article, this time in The Guardian (3rd November 2017) focuses on Lincolnshire and outlines how much farmland and coastal regions will go under water with 3 degrees of global warming, changing the coastline for ever.

According to The Guardian, the county is a major recipient of the government’s six-year £2.5bn programme to strengthen sea and flood barriers in England. This is done with a mix of soft defences (sandy shores, mudflats and wetlands to absorb wave impact) by the coast along with hard defences (concrete walls) further inland.  The authorities replenish eroded beaches such as Skegness each year with 350,000 cubic metres of of sand. Earlier this year, two new flood-alleviation reservoirs were completed in Louth and Horncastle. A public inquiry has also been held for a £100m flood barrier scheme in Boston.

This is another example of a developed country being able financially to deal with the effects of sea level rise.


A coastal region of the flat Lincolnshire countryside

A 2015 report in The Guardian states that some UK coastal communities could be facing up to 6 metres of sea level rise, even if it is possible to keep global warming below 2 degees.

I have just come across a Government-commissioned report on the impact of sea level rise on the UK.  The 39-page report “Future of the Sea:Current and Future Impacts of sea level rise on the UK” has been written by Dr Tamsin Edwards and published in August 2017.  It can be found at:

Click to access Future_of_the_sea_-_sea_level_rise.pdf

Below is a copy of the executive summary of the report:

Sea level rise increases coastal flooding and erosion, creating risks for UK
infrastructure, communities, businesses and natural capital. Coastal flooding is one of the top four priority risks for the UK Government, and estimated annual damages are £540 million. Sea level rise projections for the 21st century are very uncertain, generally ranging from around 25 cm to around 1 m (depending on greenhouse gas emissions and ranges of modelling uncertainties), with a few estimates consistent with 1.5–2.5 m.
Uncertainty in the Antarctic ice sheet response to climate change is the largest driver of uncertainty concerning sea level rise during this century. The first study to estimate probabilities of sea level rise from rapid Antarctic ice losses, co-led by the UK, strengthens evidence for the lower end: median total sea level rise of around 70 cm, implying estimated annual damages of £1.3–1.5 billion in the 2080s under current adaptation. A high-profile 2016 study has mean Antarctic estimates consistent with 2 m total sea level rise, but with large uncertainties and no consensus on their reliability. The UK is in a strong position to reduce this uncertainty due to world-leading expertise.
The 2017 Climate Change Risk Assessment is wide-ranging, but the underlying research may systematically underestimate coastal flood risks. Better understanding of coastal processes, correlated risks (floods and impacts connected across space, time, business, sectors or nations), indirect impacts (such as disruption), infrastructure exposure and vulnerability, and the impacts of population and demographic changes on risk, would increase confidence that risks are sufficiently assessed.
Risks can be reduced with sea defences, coastline realignment, land-use planning,
forecasting, and property-level protection. However, not all risks can be offset, increasingly so with sea level rise and population increase.
Response options for risk management include improving data collection, understanding, and uptake. Exposure and vulnerability data are sparse in several areas such as infrastructure and wellbeing, and the co-benefits and negative impacts of adaptation are not well-quantified. Use of existing evidence on risk management is limited in key sectors across individuals, infrastructure, businesses and local authorities.”

Following on from this is a report in The Guardian , which warns that 12 of Britain’s  19 nuclear sites are on land at risk of coastal flooding and erosion due to climate change. The information is from a government document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in 2012.  Among the sites at risk is Hinckley Point in Somerset, which is one of eight sites around the UK which has been proposed for the building of new nuclear power stations.  See:

Among the list of countries at risk of coastal flooding at the beginning of the article is Thailand (7th on list 1 and 3rd on list 2).  A new report about this country and its capital, Bangkok, can be found in the Financial Times and at:

In the South China Morning Post, the heading is given:

Bangkok is sinking. How will Thailand’s capital cope when flooding disaster strikes again?

With the weight of skyscrapers contributing to the city’s gradual descent into water, Bangkok has become a victim of its own frenetic development.  Bangkok is a sprawling city of more than 10 million and is under siege from the environment, with dire forecasts warning it could be partially submerged in just over a decade.

Bangkok, built on once-marshy land about 1.5 metres (five feet) above sea level, is projected to be one of the world’s hardest hit urban areas. “Nearly 40 per cent” of Bangkok will be inundated by as early as 2030 due to extreme rainfall and changes in weather patterns, according to a World Bank report. Currently, the capital “is sinking one to two centimetres a year and there is a risk of massive flooding in the near future,” said Tara Buakamsri of Greenpeace.


Flooding in Bangkok

August 2019

Other Asian cities are also sinking, for example Jakarta and Manila.

Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, has announced that the country will relocate its capital Jakarta to the island of Borneo. Taking on concerns of overcrowding, pollution, and income disparity, the move also hopes to address issues of extreme land subsidence. The new city would be built over 800 miles away from the current capital.