Climate Changes

Introduction

During the last few years, scientific research and knowledge on climate changes has progressed considerably, confirming that the current changes of the Earth's climate is certainly due to human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels. The Earth's warming already has had measurable consequences, and future impacts are expected to be wide-ranging and costly.

All over the world, people instinctively understand that the climate of the earth is deteriorating, which is indicated by signs like the growing in the strength of the wind and rain, the extreme summer and winter temperatures, the ice melting and the rising sea level, and so many other natural disasters. Everyday alarming evidence shows irreversible changes in the major ecosystems and planetary climate system, thus it is obvious that the changes are not a myth or a scientific prediction, but that it is a real fact that threatens the human kind and the life on the earth.

According to IPPC, climate change refers to “a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity”. This usage differs from that in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where “climate change refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”.(2)

It is easy to say that the climate changes are a natural procedure and many scientists agree with this, but on the other hand the rapid changes cause catastrophic consequences which are not normal at all. Previously, it was mentioned that the climate is changing because of the way people live these days, especially in richer, economically developed countries. Power stations that generate energy, in order to provide electricity and cover our needs, transportation like cars and planes, factories that produce the goods we buy, farms that grow our food, all play a part in changing the climate by emitting what is known as the ‘greenhouse gases'.

  1. Global average surface temperatures
  2. Global average sea levels from tide gauge (blue) and satellite (red) data
  3. Northern Hemisphere snow covers for March-April.

All differences are related to corresponding averages for the period 1961-1990. Smoothed curves represent decadal averaged values while circles show yearly values. The shaded areas are the uncertain intervals estimated from a comprehensive analysis of known uncertainties (a and b) and from the time series (c)

Greenhouse gases always reminds us of the negative consequences to the earth, however the truth is not so simple. The exact definition of the green house gases, as given by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is “Greenhouse gases are those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and emit radiation at specific wavelengths within the spectrum of infrared radiation emitted by the Earth's surface, the atmosphere and clouds”.(1) In the earth's atmosphere the fundamental green house gases are Water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4), and ozone (O3). In addition, a number of human made greenhouse gases can be found in the atmosphere, such as the halocarbons and other chlorine and bromine containing substances, cope with under the Montreal Protocol. Apart from CO2, N2O and CH4, the Kyoto Protocol deals with the greenhouse gases sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).(1)

The so called Greenhouse Effect is unconditionally a natural process, which is very important for life on earth .The atmosphere acts as a transparent, protective cover around the Earth, which lets in the sunlight and retains the heat. This happens due to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which trap heat and are accountable for this effect. If this did not happen, then the sun's heat would immediately reflect off the Earth's surface back into space. In that case, the earth's temperature would then be some 30 Celsius colder and everything would freeze. The atmosphere for that reason acts like the glass walls of a greenhouse. (1, 2)As mentioned before, most of the greenhouse gases occur naturally. Since the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, human activities have been producing green house gases, therefore increasing their concentration in the atmosphere. As a result, the balance of the atmosphere has changed and the concentrations are now higher than any time in the past 650,000 years. As a result, they make the green house effect stronger, which results to the rising temperature of the earth and the climatic change.

Since 1850, the average global temperature has increased by 0.76 Celsius. The average temperature in Europe has gone up even more, by almost 1 Celsius, with the fastest rise being recorded over the last 30 years. Globally, 12 of the last 14 years have been the hottest ‘on record'; precisely the ‘top three' hottest years have been, in descending order, 1998, 2005 and 2003. (3)Scientists all over the world predict and warn that the average global temperature is most likely to increase further, by between 1.8 and 4.0 Celsius throughout this century, the worst scenario is, that it could rise by as much as 6.4C. All this is surely, just estimated predictions, and a temperature increase of this size may not seem a lot until we are reminded that during the last Ice Age, which ended 11,500 years ago, the average global temperature was just 5 Celsius lower than it is today. Up until now, polar ice covered much of Europe, so it is definite that a few extra degrees on earth, makes a lot of difference to our climate! (3)

Summarizing the above, there is sufficient evidence to support the claims that the effects of climate change in Europe and around the globe are already existent. All countries are going to be affected by these changes, even though developing countries are the most vulnerable. This is due to the fact that developing countries usually rely on climate-sensitive activities such as agriculture, and it is difficult to obtain lots of money so that they can adjust to the consequences of climate changes. Nevertheless, the human kind has a last chance to stop the climate changes or to minimize them, by acting fast and finding out more about how everyone can help to do that.

All the consequences of climate changes and the awareness of the public have started to have a strong impact on the economies of the countries and have forced the governments to act. The first movement was done in 1988, when the national governments around the word gave a clear request to the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization to establish the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was to be composed by scientists and experts, on global warming. The scientists' responsibility was to inform the Panel about the current situation on climate changes, evaluate the environmental and socio-economic impacts, and develop realistic strategies to deal with the problems. The IPCC, in 1990, made a report publicly known, providing a detailed statement about the increasing concentrations of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as a result of human activities; this would in turn ‘enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting, on average, in an additional warming of the Earth's surface' by the next century, with temperatures expected to rise, unless actions were adopted to limit the emissions, of these gases. (1, 2, 4)

The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro which took place in 1992 was one of the largest gatherings of world leaders in history, where great issues like worldwide economy development and environmental protection were discussed. Amongst the topics of discussion were the biodiversity, global warming, sustainable development, and preservation of tropical rain forests. As a result of the Summit, five international agreements were signed between the industrialized countries of the North and the poorer developing states of the South, who were unwilling to accept environmental restrictions without increased Northern economic aid. In addition, the Summit adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (4, 6).The industrialized countries were therefore requested with this settlement, to take action and prevent ‘hazardous anthropogenic interference' and in addition, were expected to willingly reduce their emissions from the 1990's levels, by the year 2000. Unfortunately, these intended measures were not successfully enforced, and even worse, most of the countries around the world are now emitting even more greenhouse gases than ever before.(4)

After the failure of Rio's summit to convince the countries for serious actions, another nine Conferences of Parties (COP) followed with attempts to set up agreements on how emissions and impacts were going to be calculated, and how to manage and programme the targets and tools, were used in the negotiations. In Japan, in December 1997, at the ending of COP-3 in Kyoto, positive actions took place and changed the negative scenery where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted by more than 150 nations. As a result of this extraordinary agreement, the industrialized countries committed to make reductions in emissions of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). (4, 7)

During the negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol the reductions for each country varied, but the cut emissions percentage was set up to 5% lower than the 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. Nevertheless, some countries agreed to reduce even more than 5%, like the United States agreed to reduce 7%, Japan 6% and the European Union Members agreed to joint reductions of 8%. A simultaneous agreement was established, where a system of emissions could be traded between industrialized countries, and which was the key which determined the success of the Kyoto Protocol, according to which countries within the binding limits could buy and sell the rights to release greenhouse gases. Since the Kyoto Protocol was an important progress which had been made, on the 12th of August 2003, an additional 84 Parties signed this, including Canada, and 113 Parties confirmed or agreed to the Kyoto Protocol. (4,6,7) Another Conference of Parties, COP-9, was then held in December 2003, in Milan, to discuss the trading issues of carbon sinks and emissions', as well as how to incorporate them in the global targets for the Protocol. A problem though, was generated with regards to this agreement, as many countries found easier alternative ways to reduce their emissions instead of looking at the real problem. They avoided making deep cuts in their own greenhouse gases by investing in cheap ‘carbon sinks' abroad. Nevertheless, something positive resulted from this Conference of Parties, which was the continuous attempt by all the countries to contribute and support the attempts of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Today, the positive point is that governments and public are now aware of this serious issue, and thus make attempts to change things by understanding the problems and the dangers that it might cause. (4)

Whilst all these discussions bring us more and more information about climate changes, so each time new agreements are being set up between countries, behind the scenes new studies indicate further important results about a sector that has never been of any concern to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes. It has been amazing that whilst all these discussions have taken place amongst the different countries, the building sector was always missing. For the last few years, scientists have been aware of the considerable contribution of green house gases from this sector that uses more energy than any other single sector in the developed world. However, it is now important for each country to begin the biggest cuts, which will be from the building sector and this will demand a new approach on the construction of buildings. A crucial question is arising “Can we adapt our buildings and cities to survive through the climate changes and its effects, which are expected to rise in the 21st century?” (4)

Figures 3.1 and 3.2 below indicate the results for the building sector, by disaggregating two of the emission scenarios produced by the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) (5), Scenarios A1B and B2, into ten world regions. These scenarios show a range of projected buildings, related to CO2 emissions (including via the use of electricity): from 8.6 GtCO2 emissions in 2004 to 11.4 and 15.6 GtCO2 emissions in 2030 (B2 and A1B respectively), representing approximately 30% of the share of the total CO2 emissions in both scenarios. In Scenario B2, which has a lower economic growth, especially in the developing world (except China), two regions account for the largest portion of increased CO2 emissions from 2004 to 2030: North America and Developing Asia. In Scenario A1B (which shows rapid economic growth, especially in developing nations), all the increase in CO2 emissions occurs in the developing world: Developing Asia, Middle East/North Africa, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, in that order. Overall, average annual CO2 emissions growth is 1.5% in Scenario B2 and 2.4% in Scenario A1B over the 26-year period.

Recent studies illustrate the serious issues of the building sector, which are responsible for more than one third of the primary energy used and thus contributing a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. As figure 4 shows, the energy consumption in the buildings is mainly for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and generally for covering the human needs, in contrast with the energy that is consumed for materials, manufacturing, construction and demolition which is a smaller percentage of around 10-20%.(8, 9)

Under the high growth scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the building-related green house gas emissions was evaluated at .6 billion tonnes CO2 eqv.( CO2-equivalent emission) In 2004, there were predictions for double that amount of concentrations by 2030, reaching 15.6 billion tonnes CO2 eqv(CO2-equivalent emission). At the same, the IPCC report concludes that it is possible to have a huge potential for significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from the buildings sector. Whilst at the same time this prospect is comparatively independent of the cost per tonnes of CO2 eqv. (CO2-equivalent emission) achieved. However, the available knowledge and technologies could help reduce the energy consumption in both new and old buildings, so that it is possible to have reductions of 30-50% with no significantly increasing investment costs. It is thus imperative at this time, to adapt a new approach to buildings, where energy savings can be achieved via a range of measures. (10)

Despite the fact that the buildings have a great impact on climate changes, another big issue has risen since 1970, which also has to do with this sector. The first oil crisis in 1973 made scientists look at the life history of fossil fuels on the planet and make predictions about the reserves of oil and gas. Scientific predictions alarmed the governments as they claimed that only 30 years of oil have been left, something that caused simultaneously the increase of fossil fuel prices. This had a huge impact on the global economy and the richest nations became the most vulnerable. Recent studies point towards 2012 as the year where the oil shortages will really begin to bite hard and to start changing the face of society. (11) As Bartsch and Muller state in their book “Fossil Fuels in a Changing Climate”: ‘It is not that we will not have enough oil to take us to 2020, but that the road is likely to be bumpy and subject to a number of economic and political shocks'. (11)

It was then that the concept of green design began and started to change the outlook of construction. New approaches and ideas were developed, giving in this way hope to the human kind. The axes of these new approaches were based on the energy savings and reduction in the buildings and the locally production of energy from renewable sources.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) published a report of the Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB), which presents the results from the three different scenarios. These scenarios were developed in order to be able to predict how the building energy market could perform throughout the coming decades, whilst at the same time it pinpoints, the necessity for a transformative approach. Still, through these scenarios it is possible to identify the threats and opportunities, whereas simultaneously understanding the huge challenge the world faces in increasable building energy waste.

As the above graph shows, there are three different scenarios: the sleepwalking, the little too late and the transformation. (8)

According to the sleepwalking scenario, advances appear at the beginning but are lost soon enough and at the end the total energy consumption is much higher by 2050.The development of low energy buildings grow irregularly and at a low rate. This scenario assumes a continuity of the present tendency in economic growth and energy used in urbanization, without any attempts for energy efficiency. The consequences in this case are extreme weather events and a sequence of economic crises caused by energy price surges. In addition business and investments are affected by the strict and highly reactive measures which cause unpredictability and doubtfulness. However, the crisis is followed by people retreating into old behaviour and a transformation to high energy efficiency which is expensive and difficult. (8)

As for the too little too late scenario, the growth of low energy buildings move at a low rate whilst the same time the energy consumption is recurring back to the 2020 levels. This scenario depicts continuity of present tendency, where bound action is taken. The positive step in this scenario is that behavior changes to a certain extent, accompanied by consciousness of sustainability and the role of the public can be helpful in saving energy. Investments in energy efficient buildings are increasing and technological progress is followed by rapid changes. In more than a few countries, changes occur but improvements are too slow to compensate the growing numbers of buildings and the increased service levels. As for the businesses, the chances are too divided to give reason for significant investment. (8)

The transformation is the last scenario and it is the only one which contains important energy savings which are essential beyond the building reserve. People are enforced to reduce consumption through the energy prices, which continue to be high and stable. In this scenario, building codes are stronger and apply to new and existing buildings. There is a development of new design approaches and technologies and new financing mechanisms are revealed. All these actions are part of a well-organized global approach to the environmental, economic and social threats caused by the climate changes. The public awareness of energy conservation and energy priorities causes change of behaviour and at the same time, the fast development of energy efficient technologies and practises. The Transformation scenario results in the most substantial and sustained business opportunities across the energy and building sectors. (8)

The most important factor for constructors and the public is to understand, that the resource consumptions and the global warming are directly linked together. As scientists believe, the likelihood to reduce the global warming depends on changing behaviours, and specifically by changing civilized beliefs regarding prosperity, resource consumption and economic growth that connect growth with the increased energy used. In addition, a greater effort is necessary to be developed through the way we act and consume, which in return will have an immediate influence on the climate changes through our basic everyday activities. (8)

All these suggestions over the years from scientists and Organizations drive the developments in the building sectors to look for new approaches on building constructions. The passive house and other low energy buildings were the immediate response from the scientific and building sectors, but these results have also been based on academic research about traditional and experimental buildings, in order to create the data for the computer models. A “new age” began promising great changes for our planet. (13)

The special feature of the new passive houses and low energy buildings is the balance between energy conservation and the use of renewable energy. Engineers found out that the key of a successful low energy building is not only to design it to use low energy, but at the same time to be able to minimize all energy use, regardless of the fact that the energy may come from renewable resources. In addition, the design and construction methods of low energy buildings are so different from the conventional building practice. This difference is due to the fact that the engineers of the conventional buildings care about minimizing the total cost which results in putting aside issues like energy analysis or lifecycle operating costs. On the other hand, in the case of low energy buildings the new approach demands from the engineers to do lifecycle energy consumption analysis and usually the aim is to raise primary costs, if they decrease energy demand and functioning cost by an equal or greater amount. Additionally, low energy building engineers estimate each decision they take about major secondary systems in terms of its future consequences on energy demand, by using the life cycle analysis. The new approach to low energy buildings could be described as energy first building design.

Until now, low energy engineers used complicated computer simulation tools to calculate a wide range of variables such as the local climate, the building orientation, insulation values of the building elements, window type, air tightness, the efficiency of the heating and cooling systems, lighting and other equipment. The results of this computer simulation, is knowledge of the future buildings performance and the opportunity to model the economic implications on building cost. (16)

As research continues on low energy buildings, the challenge for engineers is to manage, (apart from the use of renewable energy) to design buildings which are going to make use of the energy gained from other sources like lighting and even body heat. In a few years the research obtained on the buildings sector, will have great potential to present amazing and evolutionary changes that are going to help the governments and above all the planet.

To conclude, the purpose of my proposal and thus of my research, is based on the fact that there is great opportunities for more research in reference to the issue of Zero Energy Buildings, based on all the facts, needs and changes which are affecting our world. The research hypothesis is based on opportunities to design/construct and operate multiple occupancy zero energy/carbon buildings in Cyprus, without significant extra costs.

Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean (part of the Middle East), located thirty-five miles south of Turkey and sixty-four miles south-west of Syria. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia, with an area of 9.251 sq km2. The islands' proximity to southwest Asia makes it one of the hottest parts of the Mediterranean, and during the summer, high pressure coming from North Africa keeps the temperatures high. (14)The climate is equable, with an abundance of sunny days throughout the year even in December and January; there is an average of six hours of bright sunshine per day. The average daytime temperature from June to September is 32oC, from December to February 16oC and the other five months 25oC. Winters are mild with some rain and snow on Troodos Mountains (usually starting before Christmas) and with average daytime temperatures around 16C. Most of the rain in Cyprus falls between December and February, with the island averaging of about 40 days of rainfall each year. The most important and at the same time challenging issue resulting from Cyprus' climate, is the huge variation in the temperatures during the day which makes the design and operation of Zero Energy Building complex and problematic. (14)

Another important issue that influences the Cypriot economy and development is the energy problem (figure 8). The energy production is more or less completely dependent on imported fuels. This way, Cyprus' power plants are more than 90% dependent on oil products while the remaining 9% is covered by imports of coal (4,5%) and by solar energy(4,5%).(17, 18) As already mentioned, the building sector consumes more than 40% of the primary energy and consequently in Cyprus, this has a profound impact on the economy (figure 8). A remarkable 62% of Cyprus's export earnings are used to pay for the import of the country's oil. At the same time, the production of energy from fossil fuels contributes to CO2 emissions. Due to the fact that Cyprus became a full member of the European Union (EU), it is now imperative to follow the EU regulations. This implies that new ways and approaches are needed in the building sector, whilst at the same time the use of renewable sources becomes a necessity. Despite the fact that Cyprus is one of the leading countries in the world, when it comes to utilizing solar water heaters, nothing essential has been done to ensure the further introduction of new technologies and approaches.(17, 18)

It is obvious that considerable measures with significant changes are required to take place in Cyprus. It is vital not just because of the economic benefits, but also due to the fact that people's lives need to make progress regarding green issues, and especially on the matter of CO2 emissions. The proposal's idea to develop Zero Energy Buildings is a solution to therefore fill the gap, of the Cypriot energy problem. This hypothesis aims to examine the possibilities of designing, constructing and operating multiple occupancy Zero Energy/Carbon Buildings in Cyprus, without having to face significant extra costs.

This paragraph will lay down the objectives of this project, which were set by taking into consideration the global and Cypriot energy problems, as well as the latest scientific progresses on the building sectors and renewable sources. First of all, there is an evaluation of the technical scopes so that a wide range of possible measures for the integration into zero energy building, including fabric thermal performance, heating and air conditioning equipment, renewable and developing technologies can be used. Another important factor is to identify possible combinations of measures, which are going to give a better energy performance of the buildings. In addition, through the use of computer simulation, the effectiveness of the combination measures will be assessed. A life cycle assessment of the combination measures will follow the computer simulation and finally, recommendations as to how zero energy/carbon performance can be achieved, will be proposed.

In this project, 3D computer simulation tools are going to be used, as well as considering a wide range of design variables and parameters. A prediction of how the buildings will perform will also be attempted, enabling to therefore make a model of the economic and financial implications, of the building's cost-benefit analysis.

During the research we are going to focus on key points such as the hot climate, the temperature variations, the balance between energy conservation and energy production, the use of renewable sources and the building cost. However it is very important, at this stage of the research and design to make a deep analysis on the parameters which influence the Zero Energy Buildings. These parameters are: the location and climate, the form of the building (internal and external), the building fabric, the building ventilation, the natural daylight, the artificial lighting, the passive solar heating, the heating and cooling systems, the generals services and the post occupancy energy management. (13, 15, 16)

As previously mentioned, all of these parameters are going to play an important role in our research and will affect the modeling and the results. To achieve the best design of the Zero Energy Building (ZEB) we have to consider, estimate and find the best combination of the above parameters. Zero Energy Building (ZEB) goals are achievable and are the only way to reduce the huge amounts of green house gases. Is important for all of us to understand that buildings are closely connected to the local, regional and global environments that are all part of the earth's environment. Our generation has the responsibility to engage into the concept of Low energy Buildings, which in turn will help the stabilization of the Earth's climate. It is obvious that we can rapidly change if we combine the wisdom of engineers, any new knowledge and the renewable sources so as to create our new generation buildings... the Zero Energy Buildings!

REFERENCE

  1. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change, Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007 , B. Metz, O.R. Davidson, P.R. Bosch, R. Dave, L.A. Meyer.
  2. Synthesis Report, an Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC Plenary XXVII, Valencia, Spain, 12-17 November 2007.
  3. Climate Change what is it all about? , Luxembourg : Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2009
  4. Sue Roaf, David Crichton and Fergus Nicol (2005), Adapting Buildings and Cities for Climate Change: A 21st century survival guide.
  5. Working Group III Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Summary for Policymakers: Emissions Scenarios, A Special Report of IPCC Working Group III, ISBN: 92-9169-113-5
  6. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, for a full state of play on the climate conventions see: http://unfccc.int/index.html.
  7. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change , Kyoto Protocol, http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php
  8. World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Energy efficiency in buildings, Transforming the Market: www.wbcsd.org/web/eeb.htm
  9. Submission of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Sustainable Building Initiative (SBCI) to the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA), 24 April 2009
  10. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change, Residential and commercial buildings.
  11. Bartsch. U. and Muller, B. (2000) Fossil Fuels in a Changing Climate. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  12. Glicksman L., Juintow L. (2006), Sustainable urban housing in China, Principles and Case study for Low energy Design.
  13. Sue R., Fuentes M., Thomas S., (2001), Eco-house: A design guide.
  14. Meteorological Department of Cyprus, The Climate of Cyprus: http://www.moa.gov.cy/moa/MS/MS.nsf/DMLcyclimate_en/DMLcyclimate_en?opendocument
  15. US Green Building Council (1996),Sustainable Building Technical Manual, Green Building Design, Construction, and Operations
  16. Nicholls R. (2002), Low Energy Design
  17. Cyprus Institute of Energy Website: http://www.cie.org.cy/apekse.php
  18. Kassinis S., Renewable Energy & Energy Conservation: The Business Environment in Cyprus.

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