Kılkış, B. (2021). The relationship between climate emergency, pandemicsi and buildings: COVID-19 has a vaccine now but climate emergency has not. Belt & Road Initiative Quarterly, 2(3). 61-68
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This paper identifies two types of carbon dioxide gas emissions. The first type concerns direct emissions, emanating from sources that involve fossil fuels, such as industrial process, power generation, transportation, and farm waste. The second type, which has not been accounted for so far, is concerned with exergy mismatches between the supply and demand in any given process, even if no fossil fuels are directly involved. Exergy is the useful work potential of any given amount or flow of energy.
This paper presents a direct link between the climate emergency and carbon dioxide emissions due to quality (Exergy) mismatches between the energy supply and energy demand, which may be minimized by proper design, control, and system selection in the built environment. It is shown that these nearly avoidable exergy mismatches are as pressing as direct emissions from fossil fuel usage and such destructions also take place in green energy systems, including solar and wind energy systems. The paper further explains that these emissions are responsible for the climate emergency (Global warming) as direct emissions are. An example is given about a wind power-heated house, and it is shown that it is responsible for emissions despite no fossil fuel being involved on the site. The paper then establishes a direct link between emission exceedances and the additional pandemic risk to conclude that buildings are responsible for most of these additional pandemic risks.
Keywords: Climate emergency, CO2 emissions, COVID-19, global warming, pandemic-resistant building
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all countries to declare climate emergencies in his speech at the Climate Ambition Summit and asserted that more must be done to hit net-zero emissions (Reuters, 2020). He explained that global warming has already become an emergency issue, and all nations must take action. This is indeed an urgent issue, but will the wish of the UN Secretary-General come true? The answer is no, not with today`s measures, theory, and understanding being without a holistic view of the mechanism of global warming. Figure 1 shows that decarbonization measures developed so far will not be sufficient, even with carbon capture and storage (CCS). This data means a missing part in the big puzzle of sustainable decarbonization, which the Secretary-General alludes to. Current global warming data has a complete picture of the level of CO2 content in the atmosphere (Figure 1), but overall potential solutions are not wholly recognized due to today`s limited understanding of the root causes of CO2 emissions. Figure 1 is sad proof that the wish of net-zero carbon will never come true unless a holistic picture of the root causes is drawn.
According to the Author, Figure 2 shows the direct relationships between the climate, atmosphere, global warming, humidity, comfort, and ozone depletion. Consider a green energy system like a wind turbine or PV. Once the electricity is generated, it is important to trace downstream how it is utilized from an exergy point of view. For example, if this “green” electric power is used in an electric radiator for indoor comfort heating at 20oC (293 K), the unit quality (exergy) of useful work demand, εdem, for heating may be calculated according to the ideal Carnot cycle:
The exergy rationality of using wind or solar energy in comfort heating will be only 0.07 (0.068/0.95).
This amount of irreversibly destroyed exergy (lost opportunities for useful work) must be offset by someone, somewhere, and most likely by fossil fuels. This causes more “unseen” CO2 emission from “green power”:
This result shows that although there is not a direct CO2 emission source in this example (except in manufacturing, installation, etc.), exergy destructions are responsible for large amounts of additional emissions, which are almost equal to the emissions from a natural gas condensing boiler that we can directly measure and see.
These additional emissions due to exergy destructions are unseen and are only revealed in the global warming temperatures. In other words, these emissions are observed in the global warming context but remain unexplained and unsolvable unless the exergy concept is recognized by scientists and engineers.
According to another research study by the Author, which mathematically relates nearly avoidable CO2 emissions to exergy destructions (Kilkis, 2021a), for every destroyed exergy, the global temperature is estimated to increase by a rate of 0.256 x 10-13K/kW-h. If, for example, 2 x 1013 kW-h/year is a stable number of annual electric power generation using fossil fuels, it is estimated that exergy utilization rationality in the energy sector will rise to 0.8 in the coming decades;
DCO2 = 0.256 x 10-13K/kW-h x 2 x 1013 x (1-0.8) = 0.1 K/year
As this estimation shows, the unseen part of emissions is responsible for about 0.1 K global temperature rise, and all decarbonization measures must be revised accordingly by taking into account the exergy destructions.
There are already qualitatively established correlations between the air temperature, humidity, and other adverse weather conditions in addition to the well-known, well-observed air pollution on the anthropogenic side of the equation. Unfortunately, there has been little quantitative modeling about virus infections and the climate emergency elements so far. That is the main reason to develop a mathematical model, which is expected to guide scientists towards further understanding the mathematics of such a direct link.
A Green Building May Not Be COVID Safe
Buildings are both energy-intensive and corona-intensive. We spend about 90%, even more with pandemic isolation measures, of our time indoors. Buildings, especially with 100% fresh air requirements against COVID-19 spread, are responsible for approximately 45% of total energy consumption (Cao, Xilei, & Liu, 2016; Tokazhanov, et al., 2020).
Such a high level of energy consumption means exceptionally high CO2 emission responsibilities, and the green energy they may use may not be green, depending upon the energy usage. For example, the Chinese government considers reducing CO2 emissions in cold rural areas by replacing local coal and lignite stoves and boilers with local wind turbines. A preliminary study (Kilkis, 2021b) revealed that the direct use of wind energy for heating, even with heat pumps, is not rational as claimed by the 1st Law. The refrigerant leakage from a heat pump also has a DCO2-equivalent ozone depletion effect. For each kW-h of wind electricity supply, the emission responsibility based on R32 refrigerant with a global warming potential (GWP) of 677 and an assumed leakage rate, L of 1.7 x 10-4 kg/h, is calculated as follows:
According to Figure 10, only the province of Hakkari does not exceed 50 PM10 µg/m3 more than 35 times a year. All other provinces exceed this limit annually, and the limit of 50 PM10 µg/m3 is a quite high value, already corresponding to short-term unhealthy conditions, especially during the pandemic period. Grey areas are provinces where measurements are not available for more than 75% of the year.
The Correlation Model
A model was developed based on initial data from Italy about daily COVID-19 cases per thousand people as a function of PM10 and PM2.5. The difficulty in adopting their correlations to CO2 versus COVID cases was their unavailability. Therefore, it was necessary first to establish a relationship between PM values and CO2 emission values. This is the first step in determining all the interrelations among four conflicting factors (Quadrilemma) and six vectors. The rest of the interrelationships are already available, known, or more easily determinable. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic became a bilateral relative with all of them (See Figure 11). Therefore, it is time to include the concept of Pandemic Resistant Buildings to the green metrics under a broadened title of safe buildings.
Daily exceedance of CO2 from local air quality measures may be determined. The exceedance limit may be established by local and national authorities. For example, if the exceedance limit is 300 ppm in a given district and CO2 concentration exceeds this limit 22 times, then CP is 0.0002, meaning two more cases in a population of 10,000 due to CO2 exceedance. This is an additional number of cases over the particulate matter exceedances. If the CO2 level is always above the 300-ppm limit, then the upper case of an additional 25 cases per ten thousand population may be estimated. However, more data is needed to project the current exceedance correlation further.
Results and Discussions
It is known that changing climatic conditions will also have significant effects on human health, even increasing the death rate. Deaths and diseases associated with weather conditions may increase due to more frequent extreme climatic events. The increase in the number of consecutive very hot days will directly affect acute health problems, especially in the elderly and those with chronic cardiovascular or respiratory disease. The increased risk of flood will also change landscapes and the spread risks of communicable diseases due to infectious and/or new disease-causing microorganisms or vectors entering new environments. Also, due to climate change, there is an increased possibility of the spread of serious infectious diseases carried by insects such as zoonoses.
This research has developed an initial correlation between additional COVID-19 cases and local CO2 concentrations. This correlation may now be linked to buildings and their emission responsibilities because, currently, they are responsible for more than 45% of emissions due to the 100% fresh air requirement and increased time spent indoors. The work presented here is the first step of the ambitious research plan to complete the puzzle shown in Figure 11. This is paramount work that needs to be done by all nations, as the UN Secretary-General urged in the Paris agreement. If this goal is achieved in time, it will also reduce the risk of current and future pandemics.