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Copper-clad Bondi House highlights compact, multi-level living

Armed with a thoughtful combination of natural light, garden outlooks and angled design, this copper-clad townhouse in Australia manages to achieve compact, multi-level living with a deep sense of privacy — despite its location on an exposed corner site. The Bondi House, named for the beachy suburb where it’s located in eastern Sydney, comes from Fox Johnston Architects and has already been shortlisted for the 2021 Australian Interior Design Awards, Houses Awards and the AIA NSW Architecture Awards.

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The home itself spans an impressive 212 square meters on a 153 square meter site, while still leaving room for landscape spaces for the owners to cultivate. The small space doesn’t infringe upon the neighbors either, instead using its setback and deep balcony to offer up additional space along the public walkway and light to the homes on the northwest side.

Related: A sustainable, zinc-clad family home on a budget in Australia

To the left, the exterior cladding of the home. To the right, a two-level home with a balcony and windows.

The living room uses concrete floors paired with exposed timber beams, as well as windows and doors crafted from western red cedar. The architects also chose local Sydney sandstone for the office plinth and dark stone for the kitchen benchtops. Natural light and organic tones cover the entire interior, culminating in a central courtyard that separates the kitchen from the living room, accented with curved windows. The office sits where the car space once stood, though the area could easily be refitted into a parking space if the owners ever choose to sell the property. 

An open living room area with white walls and wood accents. Natural light filters in through large floor-to-ceiling windows.

“The central courtyard was an early idea we developed to gather light and segment the living level into zones, which we think is more interesting in a small space, rather than that feeling of just being in one long room,” said Conrad Johnston, Director at Fox Johnston. “The copper wall is big gesture for the setting and the street. Next to a traditional semi we’ve attached this bold, curved copper wall on a tiny block. This sculptural element crowns and connects the entire site. It’s a bit full on but in a gentle way.” Copper lasts long and doesn’t easily degrade or corrode, making it immune to most environmental elements or hazards. Plus, it is completely recyclable at the end of its life. 

A kitchen with wood cabinets and slate countertops.

Other sustainable features to the home include locally sourced construction materials, low VOC diminishes, 4 Green Start fittings and fixtures, native landscaping to reduce water usage and a 3,000-liter rainwater tank for irrigation.

+ Fox Johnston

Via ArchDaily

Images courtesy of Brett Boardman

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Better than nothing, or total trash? – Streetsblog Chicago

There’s an increasingly popular slogan and hashtag among bike advocates, “Paint is not protection.” It’s basically a factually true statement: Bikeways that consist of road markings, with no three-dimensional barrier or grade separation between people driving and folks on bikes, do not physically prevent the former from striking the latter.

Here in Chicago, the catchphrase is regularly used by advocates ranging from fairly left-leaning folks like the person who runs the Milwaukee Avenue Bike Lane Twitter account, to the relatively non-radical, Chicago Department of Transportation-friendly Active Transportation Alliance. The implication is that when city officials install paint- or thermoplastic-only bikeways, they’re short-changing bike riders, generally due to the officials lacking the guts to take more space away from motorists.

With increasing frequency, Chicago cycling advocates express disgust on social media when they hear of plans for new non-protected bikeways. For example, if a non-protected conventional or buffered bike lane is going in on a street with curbside parking, they’ll ask, why aren’t the parking and bike lane positions being switched to create curbside, parking-protected bike lanes?

The answer may be that doing so would require removing some parking spaces at intersections to ensure turning drivers and cyclists in the curbside lane can see other, and on dense retail corridors with heavy parking use, merchants are often opposed to eliminating those spaces.

In addition, it’s unsafe to install curbside parking-protected bike lanes unless there’s enough right-of way to install a wide (three or four feet) striped or concrete buffer between the parked cars and the bikeway. If you’re riding in a bike lane striped to the left of parked cars and someone opens a car door on the driver’s side, if necessary you can merge into the travel lane to avoid it. In a curbside parking-protected lane without a sufficient buffer, if someone on the passenger side opens a door in your path, basically there’s no way to avoid it except slamming on your brakes or hopping the curb.

On curbside parking-protected bike lanes, wide buffers are needed between the bike lane and the parking lane to prevent doorings. Photo: John Greenfield
On curbside parking-protected bike lanes, wide buffers are needed between the bike lane and the parking lane to prevent doorings. Photo: John Greenfield

In many cases CDOT opts not to install parking-protected bike lanes because creating safe ones, with a sufficient buffer, would require removing car parking from one side of the street to make room. More on that in a moment.

Many advocates are particularly annoyed by the dashed bike lanes CDOT has installed on several streets in recent years, starting in 2017 on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park. Other streets that have gotten or are getting this treatment since then include Clark Street in Andersonville; Armitage Avenue in Logan Square and Hermosa; and Montrose Avenue between Kedzie Avenue and Clark.

Dashed bike lane on Clark Street in Andersonville. Photo: John Greenfield
Dashed bike lane on Clark Street in Andersonville. Photo: John Greenfield

Dashed bike lanes are even less robust than non-protected, non-buffered bike lanes with a solid line, because drivers are legally allowed to impinge on the dashed lines if necessary. The department has installed these on streets that are skinny enough that putting in more robust bikeways would narrow the travels lanes such that they technically wouldn’t be wide enough for CTA buses or large trucks – unless a lane of car parking was removed.

Now, there are precedents for stripping parking on a main street to make room for bike lanes in Chicago. Starting in 2013, further southeast on Milwaukee in River West, where there’s less retail and parking demand, the department removed 15 car spots to accommodate the bikeways. The situation was complicated by Chicago’s awful 75-year parking contract, which requires the city to compensate the concessionaire for any lost revenue due to space removal. In this case most of the spaces were replaced with new diagonal spots on the nearby side streets.

In 2017 CDOT eliminated 92 on-street parking spaces on a relatively sleepy stretch of Milwaukee between Addison Street and Irving Park road to make room for new buffered bike lanes. In summer of 2020 the department removed parking from one side of Milwaukee in Logan Square to accommodate new plastic curb-protected bike lanes (over loud protests from a couple of local merchants.) And later this summer CDOT plans to remove some of the curbside parking from the car-centric stretch of Clark in Edgewater, which has plenty of off-street parking, to make room for protected lanes.

The proposal for stripping parking on Milwaukee in Wicker Park to make room for bike lanes.
The proposal for stripping parking on one side of Milwaukee in Wicker Park to make room for bike lanes.

That said, on dense retail corridors where on-street car spaces are heavily used, stripping car parking to accommodate bikeways is much easier said than done. For example, the Active Transportation Alliance proposed removing a car parking lane on Milwaukee in Wicker Park to make room for robust bike lanes, but some local shop, restaurant, and bar owners argued that doing so would hurt their business, so the idea ultimately went nowhere. And, again, the meter contract is another major hurdle to parking removal in Chicago.

Dashed bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park. Photo: John Greenfield
Dashed bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park. Photo: John Greenfield

So on other dense retail corridors where CDOT and/or the local aldermen opted to go with dashed bike lanes instead of a more robust treatment, presumably stripping and/or relocating parking was seen as a non-starter.

Personally, I view dashed lanes as a small upgrade from nothing at all. They advertise the presence of cyclists, and encourage motorists to drive closer to the center line, leaving more room for bike riders to stay out of the “door zone” near parked cars. I find Milwaukee in Wicker Park and Clark in Andersonville to be a bit more pleasant to cycle on since the dashed lanes went in.

But lots of Chicago bike advocates disagree with me that dashed lanes represent any kind of improvement. Some even argue that they make things worse.

So do dashed bike lanes represent a pragmatic, better-than-nothing approach on relatively narrow, dense retail streets where stripping a lane of car parking would involve major political and logistical hurdles, and many would argue it could hurt local merchants?

Or do they represent a depressing surrender to car culture, when city officials should be doing whatever it takes to provide physically protected or grade-separated bikeways on retail streets? Judging from the responses to the above tweet today, many local bike advocates take the latter position.

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Andrew Cuomo Wanted to Be Robert Moses (And That Was Terrible) – Streetsblog New York City

Benjamin Kabak
Benjamin Kabak

Andrew Cuomo’s reign over New York State is over. Call it whatever kind of reign you want — a reign of terror, a reign of narcissism, a reign of exhaustion — but one thing that is not over is the MTA’s struggle to emerge out of the pandemic, bleeding talent and with yet another round of interim leaders. Gov. Hochul’s first priority must be to sort out the mess.

But before doing so, she should assess Cuomo’s transportation legacy and the effect he had on New York City. Cuomo spent years talking about infrastructure in New York. He clearly viewed it as a way to show how Government with a strong executive leader can Get Things Done, and he was nothing if not a strong executive. He fancied himself a modern-day Robert Moses, warts and all, but came across more as Bad Robert Moses, the one who refused to listen to experts or dissent and did only what he wanted. We needed the Good Robert Moses.

As Cuomo took a more vested interest in transportation policy in his later years, it was impossible to divorce the personality of Andrew Cuomo from the politics and the policy. What Andrew Cuomo wanted Andrew Cuomo got, and he couldn’t withstand any challengers to his iron rule. If you worked for Cuomo, you had to make him look good, and if you highlighted flaws in past approaches and tried to fix them, that made Andrew Cuomo look bad and you became a political liability. Leaders were dismissed; agencies and environmental impact studies manipulated to deliver on Cuomo’s desired proposals. He was in charge, and his voice was the first and only one that counted. This quasi-dictatorial approach may not be inherently bad unless Cuomo’s ideas were bad. So were they?

In a NY1 news piece assessing Cuomo’s infrastructure legacy, Mitchell Moss of NYU showered praise on the outgoing governor: “There hasn’t been a governor who has done as much to improve, modernize and strengthen the state in probably 50 to 80 years. He took on jobs that had been ignored.”

Moss meant this as praise, but it’s damning praise at best. Cuomo is able to say he did the most because his predecessors all did so little. Certainly, it is true that LaGuardia Airport is nicer now than it was 10 years ago, but a better airport simply helps a small number of people exiting and entering New York City have a more pleasant experience. It does nothing for Cuomo’s constituents waiting for a bus that crawls through clogged city streets or a subway that hasn’t grown much since the 1930s.

Gov. Cuomo loves cars. Can he do what it takes to rein them in, as the new climate-change bill requires? Photo: Governor's office
Who could forget Cuomo and the Packard? File photo: Governor’s office

And airports are easy. Cuomo exploited his ability to direct airport money back into airports to act like Robert Moses. He didn’t have to wage a political fight for limited transit funding or swat down NIMBY concerns over lengthy construction timelines. He simply reinvested money that could be used only for airports back into those airports. It was a political coup, and when faced with tougher transportation decisions — as with the Willets Point AirTrain — he backed options that will save no one any time rather than improving transit through underserved areas because the political fight would have been tougher. Is that leadership or cowardice?

So sure, Cuomo deserves credit for forging ahead on LaGuardia Airport, but when you look at the AirTrain path — and the political pressure, if not corruption applied during the EIS process — it’s hard not to be disappointed. That doesn’t even begin to grapple with the question of whether we should be promoting air travel at the time of climate change or whether keeping LaGuardia open in the first place was even a good idea. New York City has a nicer airport, one that isn’t the laughingstock of the country, and that’s probably the best thing one can say about Cuomo’s transportation legacy.

Outside of the airports, I view Cuomo’s infrastructure and transportation legacy through five other lenses. It’s hard not to start with Andy Byford and the subways, but to understand that dynamic, it’s best to start with the Second Avenue Subway. Launched in earnest during the Pataki Administration and commenced during the early days of the Spitzer Administration, Andrew Cuomo had the good fortune of being in office when construction wrapped. He didn’t have to do the heavy lifting on the planning or on the funding to earn credit for opening the subway. He just had to show up for his own New Years Eve party.

But the Second Avenue Subway was a Cuomo speciality and a Cuomo mess all rolled into one. Until it became clear that the MTA was not going to finish the Upper East Side subway extension without heavy-handed political intervention, Cuomo seemed disinterested in MTA politics. He never rode the subways before the extension had opened and hardly did afterwards, using it as a bogeyman and a punching bag instead. For its part, in the early part of the Cuomo years, the MTA was struggling to rebuild after the damage from Superstorm Sandy, and Cuomo was very hands off for better or worse. With the MTA blowing deadline after deadline and construction stretching into the infinite future, Cuomo slowly realized he had a transportation policy nightmare on his hands, and he had to step in heavy and hard.

As meticulously detailed in Philip Plotch’s book “The Last Subway,” Cuomo made the MTA “finish” the Second Avenue Subway by Dec. 31, 2016, no matter the cost — and the costs were high. Using the leadership style we’ve come to know lately — yell loudly and demand the world — Cuomo forced the MTA to divert operations resources to the Second Avenue Subway construction effort, and subway reliability tanked. The governor enjoyed his champagne toast — “EXCELSIOR” screamed the new subway station — but the schlubs of New York City had to deal with signal malfunctions and subway delays exacerbated by the governor, the very man in charge of making sure the subway was supposed to run.

The collapse of subway service due to Cuomo’s machinations under Second Avenue led Albany to look to Toronto for a new leader. Enter Andy Byford. This saga we know through and through. Byford was the most respected and most competent leader to guide New York City Transit in a generation. Importantly, he knew how to recognize talent within the bureaucracy and get the most out of people he worked with. He also didn’t need Cuomo’s patronage, and after two years, the relationship between the two men soured. Cuomo couldn’t stomach Byford getting praised in a William Finnegan article in The New Yorker. For his part, Cuomo tried to minimize Byford by stacking senior management above him with yes men, refusing to elevate Byford within the MTA, and pursuing an MTA reorganization plan with the main goal of sidelining the New York City Transit president.

In the end, it became personal. When Byford quit for good in January, 2020, he blamed Cuomo in an interview with Marcia Kramer that had the misfortunate of airing a few days before the pandemic settled in. Cuomo tried to co-opt Byford’s Fast Forward plan, but he wasn’t fooling MTA watchers. Cuomo ultimately could not let the experts he picked solve the problems he caused. It’s a legacy New York City will be trying to escape for years, if not decades.

And what of everything else? What of congestion pricing? Moynihan Station? The Gateway Tunnel? Penn Station South? How do we apportion credit for things that haven’t happened and may not?

Congestion pricing is the perfect Cuomo project. He came to it with his back to the wall and the MTA’s needs evident. He never really understood how congestion itself is a major problem for New York City and viewed it only as a revenue generator for transit. But as he leaves office, we still don’t have congestion pricing, and the MTA — Cuomo’s MTA — says we’ll be waiting two more years before implementation is complete (if at all). Ultimately, Cuomo was content to take credit for passing congestion pricing while the U.S. DOT under President Trump stonewalled it. Now, he never has to deal with the tougher politics of implementation. It’s the perfect Cuomo “accomplishment.”

Moynihan Station, Gateway and Penn South all fall into this same political morass. We have a nicer station for Amtrak now, but that’s all we have. Cuomo spent 10 years not addressing the trans-Hudson capacity problems, and despite agreeing to fund Gateway during the end of the Obama administration and subsequently complaining about Trump’s stonewalling of the project, Cuomo recently started throwing a whole bunch of cold water onto the Gateway Tunnel itself, to much confusion about the city’s transportation experts. I don’t even really know how to make sense of this. Cuomo spoke a lot about Gateway, did nothing to advance, and then, when given an opening to start the project, seemed to want to stop it. He didn’t think of first; it wasn’t going to open any time sooner; and ultimately, it didn’t suit his needs. This is the personality from which it is impossible to divorce policy or accomplishments.

I know I’m forgetting projects that fell by the wayside. I haven’t talked about the $106 million LED lights for NYC bridges that remain in a storage locker; the Kosciuszko Bridge rebuild that ignored concepts of induced demand (let alone climate change); the $30 million Cuomo demanded be spent on blue and yellow tiles for the Battery Tunnel. It all just bleeds together in the end, a tortured legacy of doing things that don’t matter without improving anyone’s commute. Is your commute better today than it was in 2009?

Is anyone’s commute better besides those who take the new Tappan Zee Bridge, the one monument to Cuomo in New York that still bears the family name for now? On one level, replacing the old bridge had to happen before it collapsed, but on the other, it’s a sprawl-inducing, car monstrosity without promised transit provisioning that was plagued by its own construction scandals. It looked good, and Cuomo had a chance to drive his mom across the new span as it opened. A flashy new span for cars without substance was ultimately what it was all about. If that’s the best we can say about the governor credited as doing the most in five or eight decades, what kind of legacy is that anyway?

And which Robert Moses was he exactly — the one everyone praised or the one everyone ultimately just wanted to see leave?

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5 Big Findings from the IPCC’s 2021 Climate Report | TheCityFix

The newest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that even with stringent emissions-reduction measures, we are guaranteed to face more dangerous and destructive extreme weather events than we are seeing today. Photo by Sudarshan Jha/Shutterstock

Headlines related to recent extreme weather appear to come out of a science fiction book: Even the richest countries in the world can’t control widespread fires — they’re even burning in the Arctic. Deadly flooding in Germany and Belgium in July 2021 completely washed away buildings and cars, and more than 1,000 people remain missing. Hundreds died in flooding in China. The U.S. Pacific Northwest, known for its cool climate, hit over 100 degrees F for several days. And the Arctic lost an area of sea ice equivalent to the size of Florida between June and mid-July 2021.

These changes are happening with average warming of just 1.1 degrees C (1.98 degrees F) over pre-industrial levels. The newest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), world’s most authoritative body on climate science, finds that this is just a taste of what’s to come.

The IPCC Working Group I sixth assessment report shows that the world will probably reach or exceed 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) of warming within just the next two decades. Whether we limit warming to this level and prevent the most severe climate impacts depends on actions taken this decade.

Only with ambitious emissions cuts can the world keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C, the limit scientists say is necessary for preventing the worst climate impacts. Under a high-emissions scenario, the IPCC finds the world may warm by 4.4 degrees C by 2100 — with catastrophic results.

Of course, every fraction of a degree of warming comes with more dangerous and costly consequences. In just a decade’s time, we’ll be looking back on today’s apocalyptic headlines thinking how stable things were back in 2021.

The report offers policymakers a clear-eyed view of the current state of global climate change and lays out the transformational action governments must take to avoid a calamitous future. Here are five things you need to know:

1) We’re on course to reach 1.5 degrees C of warming within the next two decades.

In the scenarios studied by the IPCC, there is a more than 50% chance that the 1.5 degrees C target is reached or crossed between 2021 and 2040 (with a central estimate of the early 2030s). Under a high-emissions scenario, the world reaches the 1.5 degrees C threshold even more quickly (2018-2037).

If the world takes a carbon-intensive pathway (SSP5-8.5), global warming could climb to 3.3-5.7 degrees C (5.9-10.3 degrees F) higher than pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. To put that in perspective, the world has not experienced global warming of more than 2.5 degrees C (4.5 degrees F) for more than 3 million years, a period with a very different climate system.

At the same time, the report shows that even with stringent emissions-reduction measures, we have already baked a lot of warming into the climate system. We are guaranteed to face more dangerous and destructive extreme weather events than we are seeing today, underscoring the need to invest much more in building resilience.

2) Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C by the end of the century is still within reach, but requires transformational change.

On the other hand, if the world takes very ambitious action to curb emissions in the 2020s, we can still limit warming to 1.5 degrees C by the end of the century. This scenario includes a potential overshoot of 1.6 degrees C between 2041 and 2060, after which temperatures then drop below 1.5 degrees C by the end of the century.

Small-scale efforts won’t be sufficient; we’ll need rapid, transformational change.

The world’s remaining carbon budget — the total amount we can emit and still have a likely chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C — is only 400 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) as of the beginning of 2020 (a figure which can vary by 220 GtCO2 or more if you factor in action on non-CO2 emissions such as methane). Assuming recent global emissions levels of 36.4 GtCO2 per year, this amounts to about 10 years before we exhaust the budget. While global emissions dipped due to COVID-19, they have bounced back quickly.

We must redefine the way in which we use and produce energy, make and consume goods and services, and manage our land. Limiting the dangerous effects of climate change requires the world to reach net-zero CO2 emissions and make major cuts in non-CO2 gases like methane. Carbon removal can help compensate for harder-to-abate emissions, such as through natural approaches like planting trees or technological approaches like direct air capture and storage. However, the IPCC notes that the climate system will not immediately respond to carbon removal. Some impacts, such as sea level rise, will not be reversible for at least several centuries even after emissions fall.

While achieving the 1.5 degrees C target will be difficult and will require managing trade-offs, it also provides a massive opportunity: Transformation can lead to better-quality jobs, health benefits and livelihoods. Governments, corporations and other actors are slowly recognizing these benefits, but we need greater, faster action.

3) Our understanding of climate science — including the link to extreme weather — is stronger than ever.

It is now unequivocal that human-caused emissions, such as from burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees, are responsible for recent warming. Of the 1.1 degrees C of warming we’ve seen since the pre-industrial era, the IPCC finds that less than 0.1 degrees C is due to natural forcings, such as volcanos or variations in the sun.

In addition, the science of attribution linking extreme events to human-induced warming has become much more sophisticated, thanks to greater observational data, paleoclimate reconstructions, higher-resolution models, enhanced ability to simulate recent warming and new analytical techniques. For example, human influence is likely the main driver of more frequent and intense precipitation events, such as heavy downpours from Hurricane Harvey. There’s also a connection between changing weather conditions and fire risk in the Mediterranean, United States, Australia and southern Europe. For example, one recent study found that extreme heat (which has become at least twice as likely as a result of human-induced climate change) was a key driver of the recent fires in Australia. A preliminary study suggests that the recent extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada is “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change.

Scientists also found that human influence is the principal driver of many changes in snow and ice, oceans, atmosphere and land. For example, marine heatwaves have become much more frequent over the past century, and the IPCC notes that human activities contributed to 84-90% of them since at least 2006. Human-induced warming has very likely been the main driver of glacial retreat since the 1990s, the reduction of Arctic sea ice since the 1970s, the decline in spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere since 1950, and global sea level rise since at least 1970.

4) The changes we are already seeing are unprecedented in recent history and will affect every region of the globe.

Climate change has already impacted every region on Earth. We are not only smashing record after record for warming and other impacts, but the world in which we live today has no recent parallel.

The IPCC report shows that no region will be left untouched by the impacts of climate change, with enormous human and economic costs that far outweigh the costs of action. Southern Africa, the Mediterranean, the Amazon, the western United States and Australia will see increased droughts and fires, which will continue to affect livelihoods, agriculture, water systems and ecosystems. Changes in snow, ice and river flooding are projected to impact infrastructure, transport, energy production and tourism in North America, the Arctic, Europe, the Andes and more. Storms will likely become more intense over most of North America, Europe and the Mediterranean.

5) Every fraction of a degree of warming leads to more dangerous and costly impacts.

The report profiles the consequences of the world warming by 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) and how much worse the effects will be if temperatures rise by 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) or 4 degrees C (7.2 degrees F). Every fraction of a degree of warming really matters — whether related to the intensity and frequency of extreme precipitation, the severity of droughts and heat waves, or the loss of ice and snow. Many consequences of climate change will become irreversible over time, most notably melting ice sheets, rising seas, species loss and more acidic oceans. And the impacts will continue to mount and compound as emissions increase.

The report finds that the chance of exceeding tipping points, such as sea level rise due to collapsing ice sheets or ocean circulation changes, cannot be excluded from future planning. Their likelihood increases with greater warming. At 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) and 5 degrees C (9 degrees F), respectively, projections suggest an eventual near-complete loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet (which holds enough ice to raise sea levels by 7.2 meters or 23.6 feet) and complete loss of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet (which holds ice equivalent to 3.3 meters or 10.8 feet of sea level rise). Melting of this level will redefine coastlines everywhere.

The report also finds that our precious carbon sinks — land and oceans — are at great risk. They currently perform a remarkable service — absorbing more than half of the carbon dioxide the world emits — but become less effective at absorbing CO2 as emissions increase. Under some scenarios studied by the IPCC, the land sink eventually turns into a source, emitting CO2 instead of sucking it in. This can lead to runaway warming. We are already seeing this in the southeast Amazon rainforest, which is no longer a carbon sink due to a combination of local warming and deforestation. This not only affects the world’s climate efforts, but poses significant food and water security risks to countries in the region, and may lead to irreversible biodiversity loss.

Heeding the Warnings from the IPCC Report

Since the last IPCC assessment report in 2014, not only has the science gotten more sophisticated, but we have continued to emit at alarming rates. This year’s report is even bleaker than previous assessments and the message is clear: This is our make-or-break decade for limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. If we collectively fail to curb emissions in the 2020s and reach net-zero CO2 emissions by around 2050, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C slips out of reach. The impacts we’ll face will make today’s extreme weather seem mild.

It’s now time for governments, businesses and investors to step up their action to be commensurate with the scale of the crisis we face. During these last few months ahead of the COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow, it is crucial for countries to put forward stronger 2030 emissions-reduction targets and commit to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, if not sooner. These commitments need to be made with the IPCC report’s findings in mind so that we give ourselves a fighting chance for a safer future.

This article was originally published on WRI’s Insights.

Kelly Levin is the Chief of Science, Data and Systems Change at the Bezos Earth Fund.

David Waskow is the Director of the International Climate Initiative at World Resources Institute.

Rhys Gerholdt is the Director of Communications & Media Strategy for the Climate Program at World Resources Institute.

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Higg provides a sustainability report for consumer products

The race is on to battle climate change in notable and impactful ways. While every citizen can help by reducing emissions and lowering their carbon footprint, the largest contributors to the problem are businesses. Even companies with good intentions when it comes to monitoring materials and manufacturing may be contributing to the problem more than they think. Higg is a technological solution to this problem that addresses the issue by providing a score for a product’s impact.

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To understand the solution, we must first consider the problem. The life-cycle of a product begins with material selection, goes through production and moves onto delivery before it ever reaches consumer hands. Along the way, every decision can weigh heavily on the planet’s resources by stripping the land, using valuable resources like water and contributing to waste and pollution. Higg is a data-driven system that gives businesses the information they need when making eco-friendly decisions. This data allows them to avoid these contributing factors and instead rely on the most innovative solutions for a low carbon footprint at every level.

Related: PaperTale app shows the ethics and sustainability of clothing with a simple scan

Higg CEO Jason Kibbey says, “Higg has spent the last couple years working with consumer goods facilities, brands, and retailers to collect valuable data that helps companies measure their social and environmental impacts in a comparable way.”

Higg works with companies to input and analyze data, giving them the power to better understand the environmental and social impact of each step in the cycle. Take, for example, a clothing company. With Higg tools, companies can measure the footprint of the plant where fabric is made. This includes water consumption, electrical usage, pollution and more. From there, the company can evaluate the manufacturing process of the product in the same categories and others, like wages, working conditions and safety. Post production, the clothing is shipped, so the analysis further tracks the impact of packaging, transport emissions and the environmental burden at the retail level. 

A screenshot of Higg's industry benchmarking software, comparing sustainability data from apparel companies.

The culmination of this information provides a critical tool for transparency in consumer goods industries. Providing a macro and micro view of the cradle-to-grave impact of individual products not only gives consumers more purchasing power but provides companies valuable, data-based information to share with investors, partners and customers. 

“In order to achieve true sustainability change at the pace necessary to reach climate goals, consumer industries need access to rich, comparable, and actionable data. Without knowing true environmental performance, it’s impossible to know which steps companies should take to reduce impact, which actions make the biggest difference, or if industries are moving fast enough,” Kibbey added. 

Along the way, the systems maintain a database of information that businesses can tap into when making decisions. For example, through data collection, a company can quickly see the energy efficiency of a particular manufacturing plant or compare the waste from different production facilities. Rather than individual reports that may be slanted in favor or disfavor of a particular company, Higg’s system is standardized for reliable comparisons of information that can be measured, managed and shared within and outside the company.

A screenshot of Higg's manufacturing section scores software.

This information is a powerful tool in the effort to enable true sustainability in corporate actions. “Higg provides easily synthesized data which makes it simple for companies to take meaningful action towards positive environmental and social impacts,” Kibbey said.

While Higg is an essential tool for the decision-making process of eco-minded businesses, it’s equally valuable for the everyday consumer who is looking to make wise purchasing decisions. With these tools at its disposal, any apparel company can clean up its act. The information is now out there to understand a product’s impact. From there, it’s a company’s responsibility to evaluate and improve every step of its processes. This includes choosing the least-impactful materials to supporting manufacturing plants with fair trade policies and renewable energy investments to selecting packaging that is recycled and recyclable. With what equates to a sustainability score, consumers will be able to directly compare the actions of an increasing number of companies when choosing what products best align with their personal environmental goals. 

Higg is a spinoff of a prior partnership between Patagonia and Walmart that set a mission to reduce the footprint of the apparel and footwear industries. This nonprofit industry association, called the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, resulted in the “development of the Higg Index, a suite of tools for the standardized measurement of supply chain sustainability,” according to Higg.

A screenshot of Higg's data input screen.

The team at Higg comes from varied backgrounds, yet they all center around the same belief in making it easier for businesses and consumers to contribute to the solutions for a sustainable future for the planet. Mimi Frusha, COO at Higg, says, “We have a global crisis on our hands. Being part of Higg is how I contribute to what we all have ahead of us.”

Josh Henretig, VP Global Partnerships, reinforces that thinking saying, “The urgency and complexity of the climate crisis is simply too large for any single organization to solve alone. We need the collective action of partnership and the speed and scale of technology if we are going to reverse the harmful impacts of human activity on the environment.”

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Images via Higg 

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Unprecedented rainfall hits snowy summit in Greenland

On Greenland’s highest summit, snow is the norm. But on the weekend of August 14-15, it rained. A lot. Seven billion tons of water hit the ice sheet for the heaviest rainfall since researchers started keeping records in 1950.

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This means that Greenland is heating way, way too fast, according to senior research scientist Ted Scambos of the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center “What is going on is not simply a warm decade or two in a wandering climate pattern,” Scambos told CNN. “This is unprecedented.”

Related: Greenland’s ice melt enough to cover Florida in water

Over the weekend, temperatures at the Greenland summit climbed above freezing for the third time in the last 10 years. This resulted in an ice mass loss seven times higher than the daily mid-August average.

“Increasing weather events including melting, high winds, and now rain, over the last 10 years have occurred outside the range of what is considered normal,” said Jennifer Mercer, program officer for the Office of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation, as reported by CNN. “And these seem to be occurring more and more.”

And July wasn’t any better. Last month, in a single day, the Greenland ice sheet lost more than 8.5 billion tons of surface mass. That’s the third instance in the past decade deemed “extreme melting” by scientists.

The culprit? You guessed it. Climate change. According to a recently published study in the journal The Cryosphere, since the mid-1990s, our planet has lost 28 trillion tons of ice. Much of that came from the Greenland ice sheet and other parts of the Arctic.

The recent deluge will alter the properties of Greenland’s snow. The ice crust it will leave behind will eventually be buried in snow, but will form a barrier preventing water from melting downward. Instead, there will be runoff at higher elevations.

“We are crossing thresholds not seen in millennia, and frankly this is not going to change until we adjust what we’re doing to the air,” Scambos told CNN.


Lead image via Pixabay

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What Makes Placemaking Work | Planetizen News

Nate Storring, deputy director of Project for Public Spaces, writes for the Brookings Institution blog, The Avenue, to provide a list of “takeaways” generated by a recent qualitative study into the holistic effects of three public spaces in the United States.

The research in question is a recent entry in the Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking research series titled “Beyond traditional measures: Examining the holistic impacts of public space investments in three cities.” Researchers Hanna Love and Cailean Kok qualitatively examined public spaces in Flint, Mich., Buffalo, N.Y., and Albuquerque, N.M. “to shed new light on these questions and chart a path forward for more equitable and effective placemaking,” explains Storring.

Storring focuses on four main takeways from the research, with more detail included in the source article below:

  1. Public space for ‘everyone’ don’t work for everyone.
  2. Placemaking needs thoughtful place governance to sustain itself
  3. When it comes to money, ‘how’ sometimes matters more than ‘how much’
  4. The future of public spaces is qualitative

On this last point, Storring notes that the groundbreaking observational research techniques pioneered by William H. Whyte and Jan Gehl “to track the number and kinds of people in a space and how they use it” offer a baseline of research that nevertheless fails to capture key issues, such as public perception, interpersonal interactions, and broader benefits to public health, the economy, and the environment. “Since then, academic research on public spaces has continued to evolve, with a growing emphasis on qualitative techniques,” according to Storring.

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Annual Amazon deforestation rate hits highest levels in a decade

A new report by Brazilian research institute Imazon shows that the Amazon forest has experienced the highest level of annual deforestation in a decade. Despite global calls for action, poor policies championed by President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil have contributed to increased deforestation.

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Data released by Imazon shows that 10,476 square kilometers of the Amazon were deforested between August 2020 and July 2021. That’s almost 13 times the size of New York City. According to Imazon data, the area deforested this year is about 57% higher than the previous year and is the worst since 2012.

Related: The Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon than it absorbs

Scientists have previously warned that continued deforestation spells doom for the area once known as one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. Last month, a different study found that the Amazon forest had started emitting more carbon than it absorbs. Human activities, such as agriculture and logging, can be blamed for the turn of events.

Carlos Souza, a researcher at Imazon, has criticized the Brazilian government for setting policies that go against the global climate agenda. “Deforestation is still out of control,” Souza said. “Brazil is going against the global climate agenda that is seeking to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

According to Souza, urgent action is needed from the Brazilian government. He called for the resumption of policies that outlaw the destruction of the forest, such as “illegal agriculture-led deforestation.” Souza also points at budget cuts for the environment ministry as one of the causes of the slow down in environmental protection action.

Since taking power, President Bolsonaro has facilitated a watering down of environmental protection policies. Although Bolsonaro has deployed thousands of soldiers to combat illegal deforestation, his administration’s definition of the term “illegal deforestation” has been questioned. 

Marcio Astrini, the executive secretary of Climate Observatory, says that Bolsonaro’s strategy has so far been ineffective. “The data shows that it didn’t work,” said Astrini. “No army operation will be able to mask or reverse the attacks of the federal government against the forest.”

Astrini said that deforestation rates in 2021 are already almost 50% higher than the rate in 2018 when Bolsonaro took office. “The measures that benefit the export of illegal timber – the reason why Salles had to leave office – are still in place,” he said.

Via The Guardian

Lead image via Pexels

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U.S. Supreme Court Tosses New York’s Eviction Moratorium

“The Supreme Court issued an emergency order on Thursday blocking a New York state pandemic-issued law created to protect renters from eviction,” reports Lilian Dickerson.

The Supreme Court found fault with the portion of New York’s “COVID Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act” that “allows tenants to self-certify that they’re facing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic, and avoid eviction through this means through the end of August,” according to Dickerson.

“The court’s argument for the law’s unconstitutionality was that landlords had no way to effectively challenge such claims made by a tenant.”

The three justices appointed by Democratic presidents dissented from the order, saying the order was unnecessary with the law set to expire in three works from the ruling, and with the potential for harm outweighing the benefit of the order.

An attorney representing the state’s landlords is quoted praising the court order. “Meanwhile, housing advocates responded by asking the state legislature to reconvene to amend the law so that it allowed for hearings on tenants’ hardship declarations, in compliance with the emergency order,” writes Dickerson.

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The International Garden Festival presents new 2021 installations

Magic lies outside is the theme of the annual International Garden Festival, which aims to “bring us hope, to exalt creativity and to add colour to this world that is struggling to overcome this global pandemic and to come out of several months of confinement.”

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Now in its 22nd year, the 2021 edition at Reford Gardens in Quebec, Canada features five new installations, submitted from Canada, the United States, France and Sweden. These additions extend the current gardens, creating an outdoor museum of art.

Related: Casa CBC incorporates greenery at every level 

A cactus garden surrounded by dirt and rocks.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Balmori Associates from New York present this work, inspired by the effects of global warming. The fight against climate change, coupled with the impact of the pandemic, drove the team to rethink the human/nature connection. 

An overhead view of a garden with hard tile surrounding small square plots of land where trees and shrubs are planted.

This contemplation is represented in simple lines of plants crisscrossing with hard materials. The message simplifies our relationship with the soil, water, air, plants and animals. Choose Your Own Adventure sets out to encourage visitors to feel the hot ground underfoot, smell the moisture or dryness in the air and hear the crunch of gravel as they walk.

Three straw huts surrounded by a field of flowers.


Architect Emil Bäckström from Stockholm, Sweden presents Hässja, a traditional hay-drying technique that offers shelter and a connection to nature. Each of the three structures is made up of millions of pieces of straw, transforming a once-living grass into a cozy and protected space for contemplating the resurgent need to intermingle human needs with those of nature. A press release explains the installation by saying, “The covid-19 pandemic has taught us a lot. It has exposed a disconnection from nature, agriculture and the importance of biodiversity. All around the globe, a regained interest in traditional, sustainable ways of inhabiting the earth is emerging.”

A structure that looks like two satellite dishes connected to each other and facing out at a forest.

Miroirs Acoustiques

Presented by landscape architects Emmanuelle Loslier and Camille Zaroubi from Montreal (Quebec) Canada, Miroirs Acoustiques gives visitors the chance to experience sound in a newly presented way. Inspired by sound mirrors used across the coast of Great Britain during WWI to detect approaching enemy aircraft, the installation allows sounds to bounce and focus, amplifying them via two parabolic reflectors (recycled aluminum antennas) planted in the ground.

An overhead view of a blue house opened up to look like an exploded diagram of a house.

Open Space

A team of architectural interns for Quebec, Canada (Gabriel Lemelin, Francis Gaignard, Sandrine Gaulin) delivers an open space in the outdoors. The premise is a completely unboxed house, loaded with endless possibilities. It not only provides an open space but a way for the mind to openly roam with new consideration for the doors, staircases, windows and walls around us every day.


David Bonnard, DE-HMONP architect, Laura Giuliani, landscaper, and Amélie Viale, visual artist, represent Lyon, Villefranche-sur-Saône and Lissieu, France with Porte-bonheur, an installation about reopening the doors firmly shut during the pandemic lockdowns.

“Porte Bonheur is a rite of passage between reality and potentiality. The installation invites visitors to dare to throw open the door, cross thresholds, go outside and explore their surroundings with all the wonder of a small child.”

The Reford Gardens will be open daily from May 29 to October 3, 2021, in addition to being accessible to members in the low season.

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Images via JC Lemay, Martin Bond, Nancy Guignard and Antoine Proulx