With 2015 being the hottest year on record, it is becoming increasingly obvious that something is very wrong with the climate in the world. This message is being driven home almost weekly through the media. Two months ago, you may recall, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded threatened to wipe Puerto Vallarta, Mexico from the map. Thankfully it lost much of its lethal power before making landfall. In today’s paper, there is an article about snakes migrating northward in response to climate change, and the challenges that bumblebees are facing due to warming temperatures. These species need to adapt and fast.
Meanwhile, in the Arctic, methane is bubbling out of the ground furiously as permafrost melts. The ice cap that covers the top of the earth continues to shrink, imperiling the safety of ancient hunting paths used by the Inuit and the very survival of polar bears which need the ice in order to hunt seals. To the far southern reaches of our planet, incomprehensibly large Antarctic ice sheets are breaking away from the land, and slipping into the ocean. Their mass is so enormous that they alone will raise the level of the worlds oceans and cause more flooding in coastal cities.
In the face of such dramatic changes, we need to both reduce greenhouse gases rapidly, and adapt quickly to the changes that are already upon us. This involves embracing new technologies and new ways of designing buildings and planning cities, in a manner that allows us to prepare for extreme weather events, such as severe storms which bring floods, and extreme heat.
Held in Toronto on June 1 through June 4, 2016, the 4th Annual Grey to Green Conference is about living green infrastructure and its ability to provide tangible, scientifically proven solutions to the challenges of climate change, particularly in cities. We are in the solutions business! Green roofs, green walls, bioswales and urban forests can help us mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy consumption directly in buildings and indirectly by reducing the urban heat island effect. We can also use plants to pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, locking them in the soil and tissue of plants. Green infrastructure can also be designed to capture and retain huge volumes of stormwater in a ‘treatment train’ from the roofs, to the walls to the streets and so on. This helps us reduce the risk of flooding, which is costing billions in insurance claims. Green infrastructure also provides new opportunities for us to produce food, in an around buildings.
At Grey to Green will explore the wide breadth of these, and even more opportunities that living technologies provide that will allow us to prepare for climate change and make our cities more livable.