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Background and the State-of-Affairs

Since the first agriculture humans (10,000–8,000 BC), the humankind environmental impact started to increase proportional to the population rise. End of the 18th century the Industrial Revolution boosted worldwide the hunger for energy thus exponentially increasing environmental impact of the humans.

It took the humans species 300,000 years to reach the 1st billion, 130 years to add the 2nd, 30 years to add the 3rd, 15 years to add the 4th, 12 years to add the 5th and the 6th billion, but only few centuries for devastating effects of overpopulation. We are exploiting the planet so to run out of resources and currently need more than 1.5 Earths to meet our demands, which have already exceeded what the planet can replenish. Present environmental damage on some places worldwide show the harsh realities of the ecological and social tragedies that Earth is suffering from overdevelopment and overshoot.

Each person requires energy, space and resources to live and survive, and during the century and a half since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, human population and its growth became the number one threat to the world’s environment. With the population of 7.5 billion by the end of April 2017 and the global population growth rate of about 90 million a year the environmental impact is not expected to decrease. The fact that 54% of the world’s population was living in urban areas in 2014 with increasing tendency to reach 66% by 2050, makes the projected environmental impact even worse.

Current warming the north pole for about 6 degree C and melting Greenland and Antarctica, glacier thaws, numerous smog alarms in big cities, draughts, landslides, tripling desert area in last 30 years, increased number of tornados and hurricanes around the globe, as well as amplifying equatorial ocean stream and major slowing (or even shutdown) of the global ocean thermohaline conveyor belt could be with unpredictable and abrupt (probably irreversible and apocalyptic) consequences.

It seems that the human impact is accelerating out of control resulting also in excessive carbon emissions and corresponding global warming up. Despite to numerous worldwide protocols and agreements the CO2 emissions are still not on track for a 2 degree C scenario. Global CO2 concentration of 405.6 ppm measured in March 2017, average temperature anomaly of 0.99 degree C in 2016 and sea level rise of 88.2 mm measured in January 2017 causes for concern. This developing sea level rise is triggered by three primary facts caused by ongoing global climate change: (i) Thermal expansion of oceans, (ii) Melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, and (iii) Ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica.

The most important effect of the human environmental impact is undoubtedly the sea level rise with a current rate of more than 3 millimetres a year. Even a small increase could have devastating effects on the population living in the low-elevation coastal zone where hundreds of millions of people live. According to some sources, about 50–60% of the world's population lives within 100 km of the sea. Census figures from 224 countries in 2007 showed that low-elevation areas are home to 634 million people. Roughly, 10% of population in the world lives in the low-elevation coastal zone. And, about more than 20% of the global population live in the “near coastal zone” (within 200 km of the sea).

In addition, most of the world’s megacities like Tokyo–Yokohama with 37.8 million, Jakarta with 30.5 million, Manila with 24.1 million and Seoul 23.5 million inhabitants are located in the coastal zone. About two-thirds of the world’s megacities are located in the coastal zone.

On the social aspect, the constant threat of sea level rise hazards to hundreds of millions of people living in coastal communities. With sea level continuing to rise and without proper solutions, they will be forced to move to another area, with the corresponding demographic problems.

Thus, the S.ARCH Architecture Competitions FACING SEA LEVEL RISE are pursuing solutions to deal with the threats from the ongoing global sea level changes.

Carbon emissions development tends to cause possible 4 degree C of global warming although the international target is still 2 degree C. (Here it must be noted that with average global temperature rise of 0.99 degree C we are already on the half way to the international target). Both points to very different future sea levels. By the global temperature rise of 2 degree C the sea level rise is projected to be 4.7 m, and by temperature rise of 4  degree C the sea level rise is expected to be 8.9 m. Such projected sea levels may take different times to develop, depending on the carbon choices the world makes today. But to note is the fact that the CO2 concentration, temperature and sea level continue to rise long after emissions are reduced. For instance, global temperature stabilisation needs few centuries and the sea level rise due to thermal expansion needs centuries to millennia and due to ice melting several millennia. (These stabilisation times explain why the half of the temperature anomaly is not causing yet proportional sea  level rise.)

June 27th, 2017

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Full text of this summary may be read in the Vol. 4, No. 2 (2017) of the International Journal The New ARCH, or by clicking the image on the right.


S.ARCH :  The 6th International Conference on Architecture & Built Environment + AWARDs


5-7 March  |  Havana, Cuba



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