Climate change solutions: Essential for human and economic health

Concerns about global warming — now more broadly described as climate change — predate the first Earth Day (April 1970) and have been significantly amplified since An Inconvenient Truth captured worldwide attention in 2006.

Today’s worldwide health crisis has understandably pushed climate concerns off front pages as it dominates every form of media. In the absence of attention, problems persist and in some cases are amplified as fuel efficiency standards are lowered and the Environmental Protection Agency abrogates the monitoring of power plant pollution.

CLIMATE-RELATED CAUSES

Climate change is likely to have spread and accelerated the devastating pandemic suffered today in more than 200 countries. Even if climate change is never linked to COVID-19, future pandemics may be triggered by these relevant factors:

  • Habitat loss

    As animals escape drought or can no longer find the plants that sustain them, they encounter different species in their new habitat. Other climate related factors including severe weather events, fires, and rainfall pattern shifts also lead to migration.[1]

    Animal migration brings existing pathogens to new hosts. At the same time, insects carry vector-borne diseases like malaria, West Nile Fever, and Lyme disease to new regions.[2]

  • Thawing permafrost

    Viruses and bacteria, when frozen, can remain dormant for thousands of years. As climate change thaws permafrost, those pathogens can once again infect wildlife and, ultimately, humans. Smallpox and the 1916 Spanish flu have both been detected in frozen tundra.[3]

  • Water temperatures and shortages

    In warmer water, the bacteria that cause cholera thrive.[4]  As a water supply dwindles, hepatitis and typhoid fever flourish.[5]

CHALLENGES AHEAD

Long after COVID-19 vaccines are available and the current crisis abates, severe unemployment will continue. Historically, stimulus programs have solved immediate need to put food on tables and sustain the economy. Beyond that, unemployment has persisted.

In the mid-1930’s, unemployment rates of 15 to 20% continued long after ambitious New Deal programs were in place. A second devastating crisis, World War II, brought U.S. unemployment below 2% as troops headed overseas and manufacturing ramped-up to support them.[6]

Just as in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, two crises exist today. The world has a new common foe, bringing the need for investment in proportion to what was needed to prepare for World War II.

A Green Stimulus Plan[7] would make our workforce, our economy, and our planet healthier through these and other initiatives:

  • Transitioning to renewable energy would decrease Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions while putting people to work in manufacturing, installing, and maintaining solar and wind energy sources.
  • Replacing petroleum-powered vehicles and setting up an infrastructure to replace gas pumps would reduce pollution and GhG, clearing the air, reducing vulnerability to respiratory infections, and reinventing the entire automotive industry.
  • The work of replanting forests would restore animal habits and, to even greater human interest, O2 to the atmosphere.

The cost of climate change solutions may seem unimaginable. That cost, which will be incurred sooner or later, will be quantified in many international currencies. Delay in paying that cost will be measured in human lives. Healthy people must have a healthy planet!

CDC diagram: Climate change and human health

Source: CDC.gov

[1] PopulationMatters.org
[2] WHO.int — Flooding and communicable diseases fact sheet
[3] NRDC.org
[4] NIH.gov
[5] WHO.int — What is hepatitis?
[6] History.com
[7] CityLab.com

Alexa Stone
LEED AP, Sustainable Facility Professional, Envision Sustainability Professional - - Alexa has more than 25 years of experience in sustainable and Smart Cities development. Her strategic planning work has served local, state, and federal government, higher education, and private industry. Alexa founded ecoPreserve in 2009 as a team of 3 and has grown the company to over a dozen of the brightest sustainability and project management professionals in the industry.
Alexa Stone

@ecopreserve

We empower organizations to reduce environmental impact, improve efficiency, and improve quality of life.
@ecoPreserve’s List: Buildings_made_safer In a pandemic, how can a building be made safer for occupants and for the… https://t.co/2446Jq2lPH - 4 days ago
Alexa Stone

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Facility Condition Report

The report is prepared in accordance with the recommendations of ASTM E2018-15, Standard Guide for Property Condition Assessments. This is a partial list of contents:

  • PHYSICAL CONDITION
    • General condition of the building, grounds, and appurtenances
    • Physical deficiencies, their significance, and suggested remedies
    • Photographs
    • Safety issues observed
  • INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPREAD POTENTIAL
  • OPPORTUNITIES
    • Potential operating efficiencies
    • Electricity and water use reductions
    • High-efficiency interior and exterior lighting
  • ORDER OF MAGNITUDE RENOVATION BUDGET
    • Recommended interior finishes
    • Construction costs

Risk Mitigation Improvements

  • IAQ
    • Airflow
    • Temperature and humidity
    • Vertical transportation (escalators and elevators)
  • HVAC EQUIPMENT
    • Settings
    • Conditions
    • Capability
    • Filtration
  • FLOORPLAN
    • Traffic patterns
  • FURNISHINGS
    • Placement for social distancing
    • Clear barriers where social distancing is not possible

Interior Elements

  • Foundation
  • Building frame and roof
  • Structural elements
    • Floors, walls, ceilings
    • Access and egress
    • Vertical transportation (escalators and elevators)
  • HVAC equipment and ductwork
  • Utilities
    • Electrical
    • Plumbing
  • Safety and fire protection

Grounds and Appurtenances

  • Façades or curtainwall
  • Topography
  • Storm water drainage
  • Paving, curbing, and parking
  • Flatwork
  • Landscaping
  • Recreational facilities
Here's how to request further information. Thank you for reaching out!

AWARE of CDC and NIH guidelines

The Baseline Property Condition Assessments described in ASTM E2018-15 do not specify consideration of infectious disease transmission concerns. In a pandemic and post-pandemic environment, that inspection and documentation is essential.

Buildings open to the public must comply with local regulations. For best results and greatest public acceptance, any planning for building repairs and maintenance should not overlook current CDC and NIH guidelines.

Optionally, ecoPreserve's can assist with a comprehensive GBAC STAR™ Accreditation which extends beyond the building to include the goals, actions, equipment, and supplies needed to implement best practices for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

An OPTIMIZED Assessment

Certified Sustainability Consultants on a facility assessment team can discover ways to lower energy costs. Their understanding of HVAC equipment suitability and condition along with the specifics of LED lighting retrofits can provide offsets for needed investments in upgrades and replacements.

Knowledge of water systems can bring further savings while averting water waste. It can all be part of an assessment which might otherwise overlook water fixtures and irrigation schedules.

How should a facility be ASSESSED?

A thorough facility assessment finds the issues - on the surface or below - which have a potential negative impact on the building. That brings the facility to meet building codes. Beyond that, the assessment proactively addresses the deficiencies not covered by code.

The occupants of a building benefit as the assessment reveals conditions having a potential impact on their health or safety. The assessment must not overlook those conditions, nor fail to consider the frequency and duration of occupant visits.