How To Make North American Homes Climate Friendly

the suburbs

Everyone is well aware that low density, sprawling, and energy inefficient is bad for the planet. Years of mindless development have left us with homes which are not well built for the current climate. It’s imperative that we get these homes to be climate friendly, here’s how. The Guardian has a nice article on the various ways people can convert their inefficient housing into a climate-friendly structure.

Deep reductions in emissions will involve revamping the major appliances in the home, such as the water heater, furnace and air conditioning unit. As these items become older, they become wasteful and they will need to be replaced by more efficient appliances that run off clean electricity.

Some of these replacements will be relatively innocuous, such as the installation of heat pumps, which will be in the basement or on the side of the house. Heat pumps work on principles similar to a refrigerator, shifting heat from outdoors indoors and vice versa. They can heat and cool your home and can also heat your water with an efficiency rate four times greater than a gas-powered version.

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Fleeing the City During This Pandemic? Do so Sustainably

the suburbs

Inequality has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we ought to be conscious about this. Wealthy individuals can work from home and afford to move, while others need to be physically at work and can’t move. As a result the prices of houses outside of cities have risen has more people look for more space to accommodate working from home.

We also know that the suburbs are drivers of regressive political attitudes and horrible environmental damage. We ought to be conscious about this too. Since people want to keep working from home and move further from sustainable infrastructure, what should we do? Over at Fast Company they explore this 2020 conundrum.

As we face a climate turning point for which our post-COVID-19 behaviors are especially crucial, it’s important that higher-income individuals who move outward live in an eco-friendly way, especially when many essential and lower-wage workers must stay in cities and, often, climate hotspots. “COVID-19 has illustrated a sad truism: We may all be in the same boat, but we all do not have the same paddles,” Daniel Kammen, the other Berkeley study author, wrote in an email to Fast Company. Affluent individuals in New York and San Francisco have the financial means to insulate themselves from climate risks, such as wildfires and unsafe air, by working from home and relocating, he explained. “Multiple properties, often larger suburban and rural homes, and longer delivery chains all mean that individual emissions of the affluent rise when they take the extra precautions they can afford.”

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Solve the Global Housing Crisis by Recognizing Buyers

the suburbs

The cost of housing has skyrocketed since the banker-caused 2008 financial crisis and there are no signs of prices stabilizing. In Toronto we’ve seen the price of housing rise faster than wages and the same can be said for nearly every major city on the planet. A key reason this is happening stems from using housing as a commodity for money laundering. Yes, that’s right the cost of your house is higher because governments are letting criminals artificially inflate the market.

In the states, like elsewhere, housing can be bought by secretive numbered companies (which don’t disclose who owns what). So the American Treasury ran a very simple pilot project to stop money laundering through real estate by looking into these secretive buyers. They made insurance companies find out who actually owned companies that were buying luxury real estate in a few cities.

It also seems to have had an effect on the market. Since the scheme started, there has been an almost 70% drop in companies buying real estate with just cash, according to an academic paper published last year. Those figures suggest that “anonymity plays a significant role” in people using secretive shell companies to buy property, and money-laundering was a “likely cause” for wanting that secrecy, Ville Rantala, a finance professor at Miami Business School and co-author of the paper, told Quartz after the paper’s publication last summer.

This is more than just a moral issue—it has national security implications. Rantala pointed to Russians hit by sanctions after the Kremlin’s efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election. “If there are these kinds of loopholes, it’s hard to know whether people targeted by sanctions may be able to make purchases in the US—so there’s really cause to be concerned about anonymous buyers,” he said.

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Christiana Figueres: The Climate Risk Reward Ratio has Changed

The architect of the Paris Agreement, Christiana Figueres, is optimistic about the future of the planet and she sees the technology sector key in moving our economy to a carbon neutral system. She sees the exponential growth in the technology sector and argues that we need that sector’s help to manage “exponential growth in sustainable solutions”. Indeed, she claimed that “the tech sector is the portal to solving climate change” at a press conference at Collision Conference.

I doubt any parent alive today wants to be blamed for the environmental problems their children will face. – Figueres

Technology

We can’t have technology growing for growth’s sake. -Figueres

As she sees it, we are in a race between two exponential curves: sustainable tech growth and climate change. Her hope is that the tech sector can help move the economy away from fossil fuels. We need to decarbonize the economy as fast as possible.

Companies are starting to note that our climate crisis greatly endangers their future business plans.

Transportation

We are killing 7 million people per year because of air pollution that is entirely avoidable if we move to electric mobility. -Figueres

The economy is slowly moving away from fossil fuels, but this needs to happen faster. The risks are too great to continue our slow progress. She even notes that all the major automakers are moving to all electric – even Harley Davidson.

Cities need to regulate the types of cars and busses allowed in their borders so citizens are dangerously exposed to pollution. We have the knowledge, we just need the policies.

Housing

More corporations understanding that its in their own interest to decarbonize. -Figueres

We need purposeful growth and millennials get that, and that’s true when it comes to housing. Figueres envisions a short term goal of retrofitting existing buildings. She wonders why aren’t people retrofitting their buildings since insulation of homes is important to reducing energy combustion.

Figueres calls for policy makers to demand that new buildings power themselves and contribute to a healthier city. Again, we have the technology, we have the knowledge, we just need the policies.

The UN Cares About Your Local Housing Crisis

Without a doubt a global housing crisis is hurting all of us. In the majority world basic housing needs aren’t being met while in the richer minority world owning a home is out of reach for the average person. These issues might seem worlds apart but that’s not how the United Nations approaches it.

Leilani Farha, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, is leading the charge against profit hungry landlords and arguing for shelter for everyone. She’s featured in the documentary Push (video above) and since the filming she’s still going strong holding evil corporations to account.

“Their business model, of which Blackstone is a frontrunner, is becoming the industry standard. Properties that are deemed ‘undervalued’, which generally means affordable to those living there, are being purchased en masse, renovated, and then offered at a higher rental rate, pricing tenants out of their own homes and communities. Landlords have become faceless corporations wreaking havoc with tenants’ right to security and contributing to the global housing crisis.” 

The experts said they had heard countless stories of tenants’ whose buildings had been bought by private equity firms and whose rents had skyrocketed almost immediately afterward, sometimes by 30 or even 50 percent, making it impossible for them to remain.

Read more.

Watch Push at Hot Docs.

Thanks to Delaney!

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