“We call it a policy of shade,” Muñoz said. “It’s just one of the many things we need to do if we want to be able to use the streets — from children playing to people who want to do their shopping or just sit outside and talk.”
The city is using every other strategy in the heat adaptation playbook — installing public fountains, planting 5,000 trees a year and switching to construction materials that reflect heat. Because extreme heat requires extreme measures, earlier this summer Seville became the first city in the world to name and categorize heat waves in the same way the US or Asian nations name hurricanes and typhoons.
Heat wave Zoe was designated as a category 3 heat event, the most serious of the three levels contemplated in the categorization system. It hit Seville at the end of July and brought minimum temperatures of around 30°C and maximum temperatures above 43°C. The pilot initiative, backed by the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, a nonprofit promoting climate resilience solutions, means every named heat wave will trigger measures like opening city pools and water parks, or deploying health workers to check on vulnerable populations.
“Heat kills more people than any other climate-driven hazard and it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Arsht-Rock director Kathy Baughman McLeod. “The silent, invisible nature of it makes it extra challenging to convey these messages of how serious it is.”
But adapting to heat today is not enough. At the current level of emissions and with the latest policies to fight climate change, global temperatures are still expected to increase between 2.4°C and 2.7°C by the end of the century, from the average of pre-industrial times, according to nonprofit Climate Action Tracker. That level of warming would make life in some parts of the world impossible.
Seville’s answer to this forecast is CartujaQanat, a 5-million-euro ($5.1 million) pilot project that aims to lower average temperatures around one street by 10°C. The project, 80% financed with European Union funds and scheduled to be completed in October, is led by Seville’s city hall and backed by institutions including Universidad de Sevilla.
To lower average temperatures, engineers have come up with a way to replicate the ancient Persian technology of the qanats. These systems, developed over 1,000 years ago, consist of building underground canals that carry water across a large area that needs to be cooled. Vertical shafts pierced along the canal take air underground to the surface, lowering temperatures above ground.
The new system will replace an old qanat, which was first used in modern Seville in 1992 as an experimental project, while the city was hosting the Universal Exposition. It helped lower the street’s temperature by 3°C, but the engines that kept the canal’s water running were powered with fossil fuels. Now, technology developed by engineers at Universidad de Sevilla allows this system to run on renewable power.
In another experimental twist, the cool underground water will be pumped above ground and directed toward the top of a building. From there, it will trickle down porous walls, helping lower temperatures inside and outside. Special benches connected to this system will create surfaces for people to sit and recover from extreme heat, said Lucas Perea, an official at EMASESA, Sevilla’s public water company.
“This sounds like science fiction, but it is applicable to a bunch of spaces around the city,” he said. “You just need a bit of imagination, and the implication of local stakeholders.”
While EMASESA is helping develop the CartujaQanat project, it will also use the same technology in a number of so-called “comfort rooms” along one of Seville’s main avenues, where people will be able to seek refuge from sweltering heat. It is in talks with the municipal metro and bus companies to set up a similar system inside the city’s main communication hubs.
“Old traditions like charlas al fresco don’t have to disappear,” Perea said. “But they will be harder and harder to keep if we don’t come up with ways to manage public spaces as the world heats.”
From other Bloomberg reporters:
Tomato paste and ketchup prices surge as drought shrinks the California crop.
A large wildfire in northeast Spain grew rapidly overnight and was burning out of control Sunday.
Outages pose a new threat to clean energy supply chains pressured by high costs of raw materials.
An analysis of bumblebee wings shows signs of stress linked to conditions getting hotter and wetter.
- One answer to Europe’s energy crisis? More electric cars. EVs en masse are great for storing renewable electricity and sending it back to the grid.
- Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes is urging Australia to act more on climate, even as the new government begins to strengthen emissions cuts.
- US President Joe Biden’s big goal of decarbonizing the nation’s electricity system is clashing with a plan to prolong the life of some coal plants.
- It was the middle of July — with temperatures surging through one of the hottest summers in US history, half of the country in drought — and the Senate’s all-important member, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, had slammed the brakes on legislation to combat global warming. Again.That’s when billionaire philanthropist and clean-energy investor Bill Gates got on the phone with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, whose job it was to hold together the Democrats’ no-vote-to-spare majority.One of the world’s richest men felt he had to give one of the nation’s most powerful lawmakers a little pep talk. “[Schumer] said to me on one call that he’d shown infinite patience,” Gates recounted in an interview last week, describing for the first time his personal effort to keep climate legislation alive.
“You’re right,” Gates told Schumer. “And all you need to do is show infinite plus one patience.”
Gates was banking on more than just his trademark optimism about addressing climate change and other seemingly intractable problems that have been his focus since stepping down as Microsoft’s chief executive two decades ago. As he revealed to Bloomberg Green, he has quietly lobbied Manchin and other senators, starting before President Joe Biden had won the White House, in anticipation of a rare moment in which heavy federal spending might be secured for the clean-energy transition.
Those discussions gave him reason to believe the senator from West Virginia would come through for the climate — and he was willing to continue pressing the case himself until the very end. “The last month people felt like, OK, we tried, we’re done, it failed,” Gates said. “I believed it was a unique opportunity.” So he tapped into a relationship with Manchin that he’d cultivated for at least three years. “We were able to talk even at a time when he felt people weren’t listening.”
Few had any idea at this time that talks remained open at all. In addition to Gates, an ad hoc group of quiet Manchin influencers sprang into action just when climate legislation seemed out of reach. Schumer’s office credited the bill’s passage to persistence and otherwise declined to comment.
Collin O’Mara, chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation, recruited economists to assuage Manchin’s concerns — including representatives from the University of Chicago and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware brought in a heavyweight: former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who has spent decades advising Democrats.
The economists were able to “send this signal that [the bill’s] going to help with the deficit,” O’Mara said. “It’s going to be slightly deflationary and it’s going to spur growth and investment in all these areas.” Through this subtle alchemy, clean-energy investments could be reframed for Manchin as a hedge against future spikes in oil and gas prices and a way to potentially export more energy to Europe.
That additional patience and pushing helped send a history-making climate bill through Congress. The Inflation Reduction Act, sponsored by Manchin and Schumer, includes $374 billion in new spending to speed up clean-energy deployment, incentivize consumer purchases of electric cars, and boost other green priorities (alongside expanded federal mandates for oil and gas development).Biden hands his pen to Manchin after signing the Inflation Reduction Act at the White House on Aug. 16. Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg
Now Biden has signed it into law. Doing so secures a landmark victory for Democrats, who acted in unison without a single Republican vote, and delivers on the climate agenda that formed a part of the president’s campaign promises.
It’s by far the biggest financial commitment the US government has ever made to fight climate change. The emissions reductions that will result from this law will be roughly the same as eliminating the annual planet-warming pollution of France and Germany combined, or about 2.5% of the total global greenhouse gas output, according to researchers who specialize in climate modeling. It might be just about enough to revive the virtually left-for-dead goal of limiting warming to 1.5° Celsius, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement.
But this turning point almost didn’t happen. Perhaps more than any previous moment in the effort to reverse rising temperatures, this one hinged on a handful of personalities and interpersonal relationships.
Click here to read the full story of how quiet back-channeling by Bill Gates and others helped shape the climate policies in the new law.Photo Illustration: 731; Getty Images (3)