Life in face of unpredictable climate events

Merely two months ago in July a catastrophic rainstorm broke out in Western Japan, causing many casualties, and I reflected on a city’s resilience against such extreme climate events. Last week Japan was again struck by two devastating hazards, the supertyphoon Jebi and the deadly earthquake in Hokkaido.

Jebi has been the worst typhoon striking Japan in 25 years, leaving so far 11 dead and causing imponderable economic damage, particularly to tourism. Osaka and neighbouring cities bore the brunt of the storm and the Kansai airport was closed indefinitely because of the flood. Just the same week Hokkaido experienced a 6.7-magnitude earthquake, which killed 44 and cut energy access to 5.3 million residents on the island.

The typhoon and earthquake struck Japan unpredictably, leaving residents suffering and tourists stranded in Osaka. Despite the innovative technologies we have at hand, we cannot predict all climate events and natural hazards. And when one breaks out, we are caught off guard, just like this time. And life is just as unpredictable. We never know what life has in store for us. So we should live in the moment, and enjoy.


天災難料 生命無常

今年七月,日本西部暴雨肆虐,造成大量傷亡,使我反思到城市建設在抵禦極端天氣上的重要性,不足兩個月,颱風「飛燕」襲日,北海道亦發生強烈地震,天災接二連三,帶來災難性傷亡。

「飛燕」是日本近二十五來最強勁的颱風,共造成十一人死亡。其中大阪和鄰近城市為重災區,關西機場亦因水浸不知何時重開,為日本經濟特別是旅遊業帶來難以估算的損失。同一星期,北海道經歷6.7級地震,共四十四人罹難,地震同時導致停電,受影響人數達五百三十萬。

颱風和地震毫無預警來襲,不僅使居民受苦,旅客亦滯留機場,受影響人不計其數。即使我們擁有多麼先進的科研和技術,亦不能準確預測自然災害,一旦災難性氣候事件爆發,我們又會像這次般被殺個措手不及,但後果可能更不堪想象。天災難料,生命無常,我們難以預計生命為我們準備了甚麼,因此此刻更應活在當下,享受生命。

How building a smart city means building a city’s climate resilience?

Recently a heavy rainstorm broke out in Western Japan, bringing serious landslides and flooding, resulting in one of the worst climate disasters in decades. While it is vital to carry out remedial measures, preventive ones are just as critical. This caused me to reflect on a city’s resilience to climate change and how a city can be smartened up against sudden climate catastrophes.

A smart city can be the key to boosting up a city’s resilience against natural hazards. A smart city is one that adopts information and communication technology (ICT) for a better management of urban resources to achieve a higher quality of life and work efficiency. If a city is smart enough, it should be resilient to sudden climate disasters and emergencies. For example, Internet of Things (IoTs) sensors and big data analysis can be adopted to establish monitoring and alarm systems against many types of climate hazards, like earthquakes, flooding, storms, etc. Such an alarm system can be adopted in the form of a mobile app, to be easily and widely accessible to the public. Emergency navigation can be provided on the same system to guide people to safe places as well.

While it is important to build a city’s climate resilience, it is essential to make the city eco-friendly to cut down carbon emissions to fight against climate change in the first place. Copenhagen for instance, set a role model in transiting to a zero carbon economy by implementing a climate plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. This shows that a smart city does not simply folster climate resilience but can even combat climate change!

Hopefully in the future technologies and innovations can be adopted to solve many more urban problems and make life happier.


建立智慧城市能如何加強城市面對氣候變化的適應力

近期日本西部暴雨成災,造成嚴重山泥傾瀉和水浸,是近幾十年來最嚴峻的暴雨。救災行動固然重要,但未雨綢繆的預防工作亦必不可少。是次水災讓我反思到城市適應氣候變化的能力的重要性,以及發展智慧城市(Smart City)能如何提升城市面對氣候變化的抵抗力,減輕天災禍害的影響。

智慧城市以資訊及通訊科技(Information and Communications Technology)來管理城市和城市資源,以提高生活質素和工作效率。建立智慧城市同時有助增強城市抵禦氣候變化的能力。一個有足夠「智慧」的智慧城市足以抵抗突發的氣候災禍和緊急狀況,例如,利用物聯網(Internet of Things)感測器和大數據(Big Data)分析技術針對各類氣候災害如地震、水浸、風災等建立監察和警報系統,以手機程式的形式供大眾使用。系統亦可包括緊急路線導航的功能來引導民眾疏散至安全地方。

雖然加強城市的氣候變化適應力相當重要,但卻只是治標的做法,讓城市變得低碳環保從而緩和氣候變化才是治本的措施。以哥本哈根為例,該城計劃在二零二五年前達到零碳排放,減輕全球暖化,可見智慧城市不但能抵禦氣候變化,更能夠緩和改善氣候變化。

期望未來創新科技能被應用解決更多城市問題,讓生活變得更好。

Unusual Strong Typhoon in Macau

Climate change becomes a popular reason in my friend circles when it comes to unpredictable weather situation.

I was about to leave for the conference in Macau this morning, chairing a session related to smart city development.  Just before I had my feet out of the door I realised that today’s conference was called off due to the hoisting of typhoon signal numbered 8 (which I was told as unusual.). Fortunately, we grabbed the chance yesterday to meet with overseas visitors.  Otherwise, we could have wasted this wonderful opportunity to learn from them.

Anyhow, I managed to spend time with my local friends to catch up and relax a bit Mandarin Oriental Macau.  With still a question in mind though, why would it be No.8 when it was fairly calm and there was almost no rain!?


澳門罕見颱風

每次出現不尋常的天氣事件,總激起我朋友間對全球暖化的討論,也是罕見天氣事件最常被歸究的原因。

今天早上我原本要在澳門出席會議,負責主持會上一個關於智慧城市發展的環節。但我在出門以前就被告知會議取消了,因為8號風球正生效,幸好我們在前一天已和外國的與會者見面,不然就要浪費向他們學習的機會了。

縱使今天看來不太順利,我還是和當地的朋友在澳門文華東方酒店聚舊,度過愉悅的下午。但我很不解,為甚麼外邊看來如此平靜且只有微雨會懸掛8號風球?