Climate change could literally crack society’s concrete foundation
Gizmodo - 10/16/2014
While concrete doesn’t corrode easily, steel does, Kevin Hartnett explains in an article for the Boston Globe. Climate change could hasten two natural processes: carbonation, where carbon dioxide gets into the concrete, and chloration, when chloride ions in water get into it. Both processes cause steel to corrode and expand, destroying the concrete from the inside. Carbonation is the worse culprit, which is ironic given that the production of cement, a component of concrete, is one reason for rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Yeah, oops.
Hartnett cites a recent study from Northeastern University that considers the worst case scenario for Boston: 60 percent of the city’s concrete buildings will face structural deterioration by 2050. Another study comparing concrete infrastructure in six cities—New York, Toronto, Vancouver, London, Mumbai, and Sydney—suggests that climate change could shorten the lifespan of buildings by 15 to 20 years. The carbonation will be worst in hot, moderately humid cities.