Second Sea Calculator predicts damage to global cities from rising seas

Just in time for the COP27 climate summit, a team of researchers led by architect Adrian Lahoud has developed an app that calculates how much coastal cities are owed in climate reparations to offset the destruction caused by rising sea levels. .

The Second Sea Calculator uses real-world data from 136 cities from Athens to Zhanjiang, showing how much sea level rise they can expect by the end of the century.

Created in collaboration with Sudanese diplomat Lumumba Di-Aping and design studio Accept & Proceed, the platform then generates an invoice showing the estimated cost of the resulting damage, which users can share on social media.

The Second Sea Calculator predicts how sea level rise will affect global cities

The bill also details the share of these damages that the different countries of the world should have to pay, according to their contribution to climate change in the form of CO2 emissions, with the industrialized countries with the highest emissions paying the most.

“We want the moral, legal and financial obligation of rich countries to pay for climate reparations to be recognized at COP27,” explained Lahoud, dean of the school of architecture at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London.

“Second Sea identifies historical and projected emissions of those responsible and draws attention to their financial responsibilities by producing a nationwide itemized repair bill, which can be shared as a social media asset.”

Receipts showing sea level rise damage for three different cities
It generates invoices that provide an estimate of associated damages

The poorest countries in the South bear disproportionately the brunt of the climate crisis, despite being the least responsible and the least financially able to protect themselves against the fallout.

Although the topic of wealthier countries paying reparations for climate “loss and damage” has been under discussion since the Rio Earth Summit in 1991, it took until this year for the topic to be added to the agenda. official day of a United Nations climate summit.

“Despite thirty years of discussions and many commitments, no meaningful action to tackle climate finance has taken place,” Lahoud told Dezeen.

Posters showing projected sea level rises for different cities
Giant blue bars adorn the results to visualize sea level rise

“This year at COP27, loss and damage is a formal agenda item for the first time,” he added. “Despite this, discussions continue to take place informally and proposals on what nations are responsible for and how much they should pay are non-existent.”

Lahoud developed Second Sea with designer Benjamin Mehigan and Sam Jacoby, the research director of RCA’s School of Architecture, with the aim of advancing the repair program.

The resulting app, designed in collaboration with Accept & Proceed and made by developer Made by On, specifically addresses the topic of sea level rise, which could cause flooding and damage up to 14 trillion dollars per year by 2100 if emissions continue as they are.

“We focused on sea level rise and coastal cities for this iteration of the platform because that’s where we have the strongest data,” Lahoud explained.

“Sea level rise will cause displacement of communities, loss of wetlands, reduced biodiversity, flooding, subsidence and increased salinity, and will disproportionately burden future generations and those of already vulnerable developing economies with debt and damage not of their making.”

Second Sea chart showing huge number equivalent to Jeff Bezos growing net wealth per hour on blue background
The platform also provides real money comparisons

Sudanese diplomat Di-Aping, former chairman of the G-77 group of developing countries, worked with the researchers to create a model for how reparations payments should be determined.

Unlike current environmental law, which typically requires victims to prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between pollution and resulting damage, the researchers suggest a system based on a country’s proportional contribution to climate change.

This is determined based on the country’s cumulative historical CO2 emissions so far, assuming they will continue as they are.

Sea change poster floating in a pool of water
Design studio Accept & Proceed has also created physical assets such as posters

“CO2 is long-lived and is fairly evenly distributed in the atmosphere,” Lahoud said. “This ‘equality’ opens new spaces for legal activism that move away from attribution as a causal relationship towards attribution as a proportional contribution.”

“In other words, if a nation contributed 15% of global CO2 emissions, it is responsible for 15% of the loss and damage caused by climate change everywhere and for everything.”

Company cars in blue and white design
Call-to-action cards hope to get people to interact with the platform

On the Sea Change platform, the sea level rise for different cities is visualized as a wavy blue bar, which takes up the results page and can be tilted up or down to scroll through the results. years by 2100.

“The deep blue graphic feels like you’re flooding the screen, being immersed in this mighty sea, erasing everything in its path,” explained Accept & Proceed’s Executive Creative Director, Matthew Jones.

As users scroll down, the app also breaks down how a city’s financial damages would increase with rising waters, providing real-world monetary comparisons to make those sums more tangible.

“It’s incredibly hard to figure out the difference between ten million and five billion, those are just big numbers,” Jones said.

“Within the platform, we contextualize what that means in real terms, like Jeff Bezos’ one-day increase in wealth or the cost of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest.”

Climate change can often seem like an unfathomable problem. But designers are finding new ways to visualize global warming data in hopes of making it more understandable — and ultimately inspiring climate action.

Recent projects in this space include a typeface designed by Helsingin Sanomat that shows the decline of Arctic sea ice in its vanishing letterforms and a range of blankets and scarves by Dutch design studio Raw Color, which features infographics on rising temperatures while offering a way to keep warm without turning on the heater.

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