Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chamonix Encourages Everyone to Reduce their Climate Impact by A Factor of Four

Studies at Chamonix have determined that the average temperature in the famous French resort has risen by 1.5 degrees in the past century and the resort is actively seeking to do its bit to combat climate change.
"Mythical mountains, majestic glaciers, exceptional fauna and flora; the inhabitants of the Chamonix valley are conscious of the extreme beauty of their environment which attracts visitors from all over the world. But this beauty is fragile. The melting of the glaciers, visible to the naked eye, is confirmed by local scientific data", says a resort statement.
Chamonix has been rolling out a local Energy Plan for several years and the process is on going. Initiatives being considered or already undertaken include lighter traffic initiatives and communal wood burning heating systems. As part of it, the resort is highlighting the need for everyone to reduce their personal impact on the environment and is organising workshops to help people reach that goal.
The resort reports that daily activities of each French citizen leads to seven tons of CO2 emissions per person (compared to two tons/year for a Chinese and 20 tons/year for an American). The planet can naturally recycle 11 billion tons of CO2/year, which means to each person on the planet needs to generate 1.8 tons of CO2 or less per year.
Chamonix's local economy changed rapidly from agro-pastoral activities to tourism and leisure over just a few decades and the valley has been confronted with the problem of exponential international transport. On a local scale, the municipality provides an environmentally friendly transport service and actively supports alpine farming. On an larger scale and as a member of the "Espace Mont-Blanc", Chamonix partakes in the deliberations on international transport between France, Switzerland and Italy.
Chamonix's growth involves the apparition of a Urban Heat Island (UHI). An UHI is a metropolitan area which is significantly warmer than its surrounding areas. The temperature difference is usually larger at night than during the day, and is most apparent when winds are weak. Seasonally, UHI is seen during both summer and winter. The main cause of the urban heat island is modification of the land surface by urban development which uses materials which effectively retain heat (buildings, roads, and other infrastructure replace open land and vegetation. Surfaces that were once permeable and moist become impermeable and dry). Waste heat generated by energy usage is a secondary contributor.
Mitigation of the urban heat island effect can be accomplished through the use of green roofs, installing cool—mainly reflective—roofs and the use of cool pavements and lighter-colored surfaces in urban areas, which reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat.