Climate Change Real or Not – Does it Matter?

Is man changing the Earth’s climate?  Does our carbon footprint really affect the atmosphere by proliferating greenhouse gases?  Are the consequences of human excess melting the polar caps?

The debate continues with scientific evidence from both sides taking blows.  The waters were muddied recently when it was alleged that Climactic Research Unit (CRU), a primary source for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, intentionally manipulated data to “prove” global warming to have been man-made.  (CRU has been used to formulate global warming policies worldwide.)  CRU is currently undergoing an independent review.

Additionally, a recent Gallup poll reports that only 58% of the general public believes that global warming is caused by man.

Architecture” magazine found that interesting enough that it proceeded to poll 960 design professionals on the topic.  They found the following:

  • “It’s vital that we design and build sustainably, in order to conserve scarce resources and prevent further global warming.” – 46.4 percent
  •  “I’m not sure that global warming is caused by man, but energy conservation makes economic sense if we’ll be less dependent on other countries’ oil.” 34.1 percent
  • “I’m not sure whether building green in the United States will help the environment when China and India are becoming industrialized so rapidly.” 6.7 percent
  • “Global warming is a myth perpetuated by the media, and green building is a fad – it’ll be forgotten in 20 years time.”  12.8 percent

The bigger question we ask today is……when it comes to environmentally friendly design, does it matter if “climate change” is real or not?

In our experience, some clients have stated that they believe that “climate change” is bogus, and “green” is a passing fad.  In their opinion, there is no incentive for change.  They have tied green design to climate change with industrial-strength glue.

Our response is that it still makes good sense to be “green,” no matter where you come down on the issue of climate change.  At the heart of any “green” program (whether it’s US Green Building Council’s LEED program, US Department of Energy’s Energy Star program, Green Globes, or any number of others), is energy efficiency.

Conserving energy can only be a good thing:

  • From a global-economic standpoint (and national security, for that matter), the less dependent on foreign oil we become, the better off we’ll be as a nation.  The more energy we can conserve, the less foreign oil we’ll need.
  • From a socio-economic standpoint, “green” collar jobs are helping pull us out of the current recession.  And the future looks blindingly bright.  Innovation in automobile technology alone is a huge economic opportunity (as long as the oil companies are not allowed to suppress alternatives).  The United States produces 2 billion barrels of oil a year, but imports 5.5 billion barrels.  Of 7.5 billion barrels, 3.3 billion of that produces gasoline every year.  The untapped Alaskan oil reserve is believed to hold an estimated 4.4 to 11 billion barrels – a year’s worth of oil, maybe.  If cars continue to run on 100% gasoline, we’ll never achieve oil independence.  An estimated $5 trillion dollar industry awaits in alternative automotive technologies.
  • From a purely economic standpoint, more and more green building owners are realizing the benefits to their bottom line.  When incorporated early in the design stage, the added premium for good green design is a lot less than just a few years ago.  ROI’s are getting better and better as technology improves.  Paybacks are shorter than ever on solar PV and solar hot water.  Yes, the upfront, first cost can still be prohibitive in some instances, and it takes careful analysis of life-cycle costs to determine if a certain technology is right for a particular situation.  But there is evidence of higher building valuations and consumer demand when it comes to green construction.  Even developers whose goal is to sell a project outright immediately upon completion have begun to see the increased value in green design – because their BUYERS see the value.  Landlords are seeing the increased value because their TENANTS see the value.  Buyers and Tenants who fail to see the value are now being dismissed as “short-sighted.”
  • From an environmental standpoint, energy production is costly in terms of pollution.  Pollution from coal-burning power plants can be devastating, nuclear waste from nuclear power plants is a huge, long-term problem, etc.  Minimize power usage minimizes power production, and that will minimize pollution.
  • Add to that natural resource conservation for future generations, drinking water conservation, indoor environmental health and other benefits that come with green design, and it just makes good sense….whether you believe global warming is happening or not.

And just think, if it turns out that global warming IS real, and that it IS being caused by man, wouldn’t you like to be able to say that you tried to do something about it?  Even if that something is as simple as turning down the thermostat, buying higher efficiency glazing, specifying thicker roof insulation, or using occupancy controls for light fixtures?

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