A steady increase of cloud bursts warrants climate adaptation projects
Dawn was breaking as the enormous cloud rolled in over Copenhagen, lit from above
by the cold light of a dying moon and from below by the sun’s first golden rays. Minutes later the scene was transformed into a dull grey day in the city as the first heavy raindrops fell. The frequency of cloudbursts in Denmark has grown steadily since records began in 1874.
A bad one in 2011 landed insurance companies with a $650 million bill for property damage. Copenhagen’s Cloudburst Management Plan includes 300 climate adaption projects over the next 20 years.
PHOTO Lars Just
In Roskilde, west of Copenhagen, Rabalder Park reverberates with the sound of kids on wheels as soon as school is out for the day. But when downpours still their happy cries and send them scuttling for cover, the rumbling of wheels-on-concrete soon becomes the roar of water-on-its way.
Heavier cloudbursts, rising sea levels, more flooding. This is the outlook for many urban areas. City councils, architects and engineers are responding to the challenges of a wetter future by looking at ways to adapt the urban landscape rather than expanding traditional underground drainage solutions. The approach saves money and creates better urban spaces.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, just learn from those who have already done it. Cities are busy doing just that as they look for ways to adapt to climate change and build more liveable urban spaces.
Theme on Energy Efficiency part 1/5: The payback period for energy saving investments can be painfully long and the risk of no payback frighteningly big. There are ways to tear down both barriers
Theme on Energy Efficiency part 3/5: Better engineering everywhere can cut industrial energy use in all applications
The joint work of architects and engineers to achieve “liveable cities” is one of the good examples of climate adaptation since it is aiming both for value and solution. Also, by using this concept city resilience will be improved in a long-term perspective. However, not only city arrangement and stormwater collecting, but also an effluent water quality at the end of the pipe should be considered before the stormwater released into the sea.
We should also consider the mineral recycling capacity of wastewater treatment technologies, particularly phosphorous – a key nutrient for our crops. Its reserves are being depleted at an alarming rate and, if we do not change the way we harvest and use such mineral, we’ll run out of it in short time (for more information regarding this issue please read: Prud’Homme, M. (2010). Peak Phosphorus: an issue to be addressed. Fertilizers and Agriculture, International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA). February 2010). Recovering phosphorous from municipal wastewater is a technologically feasible alternative, which can help developing a more sustainable agriculture in the future, securing food production at low costs.
As a close observer of the process of the planning of this new waste incineration facility in Copenhagen I would like to focus on an aspect which is not addressed in the discussion of the “beautiful” waste incinerator. The planning process is one of the worst cases of blind, path-dependent planning by public institutions ever seen in Denmark. The waste incinerator is planned with a too big capacity compared to the available amount of waste in the Copenhagen Region.
There was no involvement of the environmental organizations by the owning municipalities when the plans for the investment was developed. Public hearing took only place when the height of the incinerator and other details was sent into public hearing. The case illustrates the danger of understaffed public authorities, which are not involved sufficiently in the public planning by the publicly, owned companies. This problem will probably become even bigger if the present national government succeeds implementing their strategy for a more privatized supply sector.
The planning of the incinerator took place exactly at the time when it would have been timely to discuss in Denmark a reduction of the future incineration capacity and maybe a merger between the two big incineration companies near Copenhagen. Due to the discussions that was raised “in the last moment” by some politicians and NGOs the planning process was re-opened and a reduction of the plant capacity discussed. However, there was a strong lobbying taking place from the Labour Party in order to ensure the (possible) supplier of the incineration chambers more orders and increased employment by using this new incinerator as a window of exhibition.
A strange compromise was made where the size of the incinerator was kept but the company was not allowed to use the full capacity. During the process the company changed its name from “incineration company” to “resource company” and the company was forced to develop a stronger waste recycling strategy. Today the waste incineration company has huge economic problems, probably because of the too big capacity of the new incinerator it has invested in. It is now discussed to burn waste from the UK at the facility!
Very good article and it is interesting that the district cooling is being developed in the north of Europe. We should also think how to disseminate the knowledge to the souethern-european countries in an effective way as one would believe that there is a potential for district cooling even to regular buildings and flats and not only for large consumers. Hopefully the above-mentioned companies will increase their presence there, too.