Page E1.1 . 24 September 2008                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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Postcard from a Tipping Planet

Wake Up, Freak Out - then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

Dear ArchitectureWeek,

Please take a moment to look at this great short animation from Leo Murray. Just click to play.

It starts out with a polar bear floating on a chunk of ice, playing a violin. Then the narrator hops out and grabs the violin, saying "Give me that. This really isn't about polar bears anymore!" And you're off and running, for a compact, very clever, and scientifically sound run-through of some major climate tipping points — all left out of the current IPCC projections — and what these might mean to us.

Toward the end, there's even a rewind of the worst effects scenario, and a chance for a happy ending!

A chance which is particularly happy this week, as news is released on the latest worldwide carbon emissions report card (details here) from the Global Carbon Project. To quote Olive Heffernan, writing in the climate blog at Nature, one of the world's top scientific journals:

"Most striking is that, despite years of effort, carbon dioxide emissions are increasing at an alarming rate of 3.5% a year — faster than the 2.7% predicted by the IPCC in their worst case scenario, and miles ahead of the 0.9% annual rise in the 1990s. Worst still, current measures have been based on a middle-ground IPCC scenario. Pep Candell from the Global Carbon Budget told me that this was 'astonishing'."

Please don't be distracted by some news coverage that will trumpet minor changes in the ranking of the leading greenhouse-gas-emitting countries. Even setting aside real accounting complications due to economic globalization, the United States still emits about 20% of the world's greenhouse gases, some five times more than its per-capita share (with 4.6% of the world's population).

The animation and the latest annual carbon report both highlight this essential truth: climate change is now everyone's problem.

It can be solved. There's overwhelming evidence for optimism if we get a collective grip, and make real change now.

Equally strong evidence shows it won't be solved without massive 80% to 90% cuts in gross material consumption in the United States, other deep cuts in consumption in the rest of the developed world, and huge and systematic reforms in the developing world.

It's all got to happen. And it's up to all of us to make it happen.

Online from Oregon,

Kevin Matthews


What can design professionals and the building and development community start today to address global climate change?   Consider these ideas and share your own.

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In ArchitectureWeek No. 377, in Tackling Climate Change, we took a reality check on the level of challenge embodied in established targets for reducing emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Then in ArchitectureWeek No. 378, on April 30, 2008, we announced a new call to action for architecture firms across the United States and around the world. — Published 2008.0430


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Just about a year ago, Al Gore rocked the national AIA Convention in San Antonio with a climactic final keynote address, and received a prolonged standing ovation from thousands of architects who had lined up for hours to get in.

Gore expressed the compelling case on global climate change, anchoring the powerful presentation with this silver spur to action for design professionals: — Published 2008.0423


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Even if global greenhouse gas emissions were to stop increasing today, the climate would continue to warm.

That was the stark reality underlined in February 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).1 — Published 2007.0926



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Kevin Matthews is Editor in Chief of ArchitectureWeek


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