The Climate Change Scandal

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The Climate Change Scandal

Postby WalkerARCHITECTS » Sun May 19, 2013 8:46 pm

Some of you think the current Architectural practices in the United States are good just the way they are now. Many of you are cynical about Architectural practice, the government and all of it. You see the world as a system that is inherently corrupt. You doubt real progress is possible. Some of you are choosing new career paths, perhaps in public service or joining nonprofits or volunteering in your communities. Architecture as a profession has huge challenges. Climate change is just one such challenge.

The opportunities that Architects should have are being limited by a weak economy. National Politics is alien, a stranger to the work of an Architect, and certainly not what the University prepared you for.

We live in a world where 90 percent of the total assets are owned by the top ten percent of the wealthiest people in the United States. These top ten percent control a substantial portion of our world. They influence the government and they shape our financial future. Lately that has not been a good thing for Architects.

Denial of climate change is well funded. What chance do we have against the Koch brothers and the other billionaires? How can we fight against Monsanto, Boeing, JP Morgan, and Bank of America? They buy elections. They run America. It is necessary to understand the relevance of your times, to engage in good design, to bring form and relevance to Architecture. You don’t know your history. Understanding the nature of your own times is the core capacity of great achievement. Cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy. You have no chance if you assume you have no chance. Now is not only the right time it is the only time. If you are a stranger to your times, then you have forsaken the capacity to be relevant.

I graduated in 1971 from High School, I already had done several small houses, Like most young men of that time I was concerned about the times and engaged politically at the age of 17. The Vietnam War was raging. My friends were coming home broken, wounded or dead. Over half a million American troops were already there. I didn’t know if I’d be drafted. A member of my class who spoke at commencement said he was heading to North to Canada and urged us to join him. I stayed put, fate found me with draft lottery number 40. Fate found me again when I was reject by the draft for high blood pressure.

I remember my times to this day, 3 years before, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. America’s cities were burning. Bobby Kennedy had just been gunned down. America was bogged down in bigotry and chained to cold war dogma. George (“segregation forever”) Wallace was on his way to garnering 10 million votes and carrying five southern states. Richard Nixon was well on his way to becoming president.

America was sleeping swept up in the currents of change. To sustain relevance and comprehension you must be engaged, you must understand the relevance of your times. The environmental movement had yet not been born. Two-thirds of America’s waterways were unsafe for swimming or fishing because of industrial waste and sewage. Some rivers were so polluted they caught fire. When the Cuyahoga River went up in flames Time Magazine described it as the river that “oozes rather than flows,” in which a person “does not drown but decays.” In those days, universal health insurance was a pipe dream.

I would not have believed our nation capable of so much positive change.

We achieved it. But we are not done, we have just begun. Widening inequality, a shrinking middle class, global warming, the corruption of our democracy by big money – all of these, and more, must be addressed. To make progress on these — and to prevent ourselves from slipping backwards — will require no less steadfastness, intelligence, and patience than was necessitated before.

But essential to all of this is to sustain relevance, direction, the comprehension and vision of the most desired future state. To remain engaged in driving the future forward.

The genius of America lies in its resilience and pragmatism. We believe in social progress because we were born into it. It is our national creed.

The problem we face everyday is made out of deliberate distortions and lies, called politics. The truth is often blurred and twisted. The motivation is always profit for a few.

It all seemed pretty hopeless. We all understood then that change was imperative; but it took endless hours, sweat, tears, protests and compromises. And yet what could be done was done, and reforms did occur. Relentless as time is, change is even more so, we had reason to hope, reason to challenge and reason to demand Design Intelligence to retire that outrageous backwards thinking and compel the advent of a more positive and humane world. We have not changed, we are change itself. We are still relevant to our times, we will engage Design Intelligence fearlessly, speak the truth, challenge the outrageous, corrupt, and stupid, to tear down the barriers that sustain a world that is no longer relevant, to prepare the way for the future. A world that is better, stronger and determined to change. We summon a more desired future every day. We are the fountain of hope. We are the agents of change. We are Architects of the most desired future state.

Architects are relevant. We are essential.

Public opinion on the topic of climate change is notoriously amorphous, it is a shape changer, public opinion is shaped by the truth as well as the lies, it is fickle and thrives on the illusion of uncertainty or opportunity. The latest bit of evidence on this: Yale's April 2013 climate change survey, which found, among other things, that Americans' conviction that global warming is happening had dropped by seven points, to 63 percent, over the preceding six months. The decline, the authors surmised, was most likely due to "the cold winter of 2012-13 and an unusually cold March just before the survey was conducted."

Ignorance is the driving force. Sustaining ignorance has been embraced by almost half the Congress of the United States. A far smaller percentage -- 49 percent -- understood that human activities are contributing to the problem.

People and surveys being what they are, these numbers tend to jump around a bit from year to year. At the same time, 49 percent is nearly half the country, so it wouldn't be excessively cheerful (would it?) to note that half of the American public is more or less in harmony with basic science -- at least as it relates to climate change and the role carbon dioxide emissions play in exacerbating things. Given that roughly the same number of Americans flatly reject evolution, the climate numbers represent a comparative bounty of enlightenment.

Obviously, if you change the atmospheric mix of gases of the whole planet it will impact all living things. Ignorance is power and wealth for a few. A conspiracy exists to sustain ignorance.

That's not something you hear very often when it comes to surveys of Americans. Delving deeper into the textbooks, for instance, another recent study showed that less than half of population was clear on whether atoms are smaller than electrons, or whether lasers work by focusing sound waves. In this light the larger consensus on global warming is notable.

It's elementary: climate change is real.

But a far more troubling metric from Yale's latest poll suggests that only 42 percent of Americans believe that most scientists think global warming is happening. A full 33 percent of respondents are convinced that there remains "widespread disagreement" among scientists on this question. This is a lie. This lie was created deliberately by liars, who are stalling efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels because that is the heart and soul of their profit centers.

This is a problem -- both because it is so at odds with reality, and because it likely helps prevent more Americans from recognizing and accepting some pretty straightforward scientific realities.

If you poison the water living things will die. Nobody is confused about that. Poison in the air however, killing 30,000 Americans every year, is somehow a point of dispute despite the science. Why?
Lies are now the constant barrage on the topic of Climate change. It is this reason that prompted a team of researchers to painstakingly comb through the abstracts of more than 12,000 scientific articles published between 1991 and 2011 to determine just how much scientific agreement exists on the subject of climate change, and humanity's role in driving it. The team was led by John Cook, a Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and the founder of the climate change education web site

The results, 5/16/2013 published Thursday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, were clear: of the more than 4,000 abstracts that had anything to say about human-driven climate change, 97 percent endorsed the notion. A little less than 3 percent either rejected the idea or remained undecided.

"There is a large gap between the actual consensus and the public perception. This gap was created and is sustained with lies. It is corruption. " Cook said in a statement accompanying the study's release. "It's staggering given the evidence for consensus that less than half of the general public think scientists agree that humans are causing global warming. The effectiveness of lies is thus exposed. This is significant because when people understand that scientists agree on global warming, they're more likely to support policies that take action on it." Corruption exists where members of congress who are well informed, deliberately lie to serve the interests of money and power for a few above the interests of the survival of the many.

Lies are not new to politics. In a follow-up email exchange, Cook said that the evidence for consensus on the topic among individual scientists was even stronger, given that more researchers were listed as co-authors on papers endorsing the idea of human-driven climate change -- technically called "anthropogenic global warming," or AGW for short -- than on papers that rejected it. On the face of it the liars are so effective that we are in peril.

"Consequently," Cook said, "among the 10,000 scientists who had expressed a position on AGW in the peer-reviewed literature, 98.4 percent endorsed the consensus."

So science has a consensus and less than 3% of scientists are nonconforming or abstaining. The study, which is also outlined in detail (and with colorful slides) at The Consensus Project, is the latest in a long line of meta-analyses seeking to debunk the relentless and apparently potent talking points of naysayers who argue that scientists continue to disagree on the matter. For the record this is a very potent lie largely propagated by profit centered Coal and Oil interests, who are funding denial and controlling Republican members of the Congress. Lies are understood as the foundation of all evil. It is now time for the Congress to be compelled to acknowledge the truth openly.

If you are an Architect it is in your best interest to be accurately informed on the matter. Last year, the free-market and right-leaning Heartland Institute financed a series of billboards in Chicago comparing those who understand and accept the basic science on global warming to unsavory characters like convicted murderer Charles Manson, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Corrupt actions and blatant lies are engaged to propagandize the public, in the interest of sustaining fossil fuel profits.

"The point is that believing in global warming is not 'mainstream,' smart, or sophisticated," the organization wrote at the time. "In fact, it is just the opposite of those things."

The practice of consenting to lies to avoid conflict must stop. The time has come to confront the liars and demand their expulsion.

Lies and corruption are being built in. Studies like Cook's, which revisits a well known and similarly conducted 2004 review of the scientific literature by Naomi Oreskes at the University of California, San Diego, provide clear evidence that messages like Heartland's -- besides being rather boorish and odd -- are bunkum. Scientists are no more divided on the basic mechanics of the greenhouse effect than they are on questions of evolution or other elementary concepts. What we observe is the popular custom of stupid chasing stupid. The level of stupidity is identical to the idea that the earth is the center of the universe or that the world is flat.

The debate in science is now subject to a system of constraints created by established facts. There's ample room for debate on the individual particulars: How hot will the planet get? How quickly? How will our various ecosystems, from forests and oceans to vast tracts of tundra and polar ice, respond to rising temperatures, and how will these responses feed, in turn, into the incredibly dynamic and interactive machinery of our climate? And then based on all this, what the hell should we do about it?

These are all questions without precise answers, and they are providing rich and important territory for scientific investigation as well as social, political and economic soul searching. But exactly what value is added by the lies? How is that liars profit from the lies they speak?

Human beings are saturating the atmosphere with volumes of carbon dioxide -- mostly arising from the burning of fossil fuels -- at an unprecedented rate. That's trapping heat and driving up average surface temperatures across the planet, which in turn is spurring regional changes that we are now beginning to understand. On these points, virtually all climate scientists agree. The question is not do we have a problem or not? The appropriate question is how do we solve the problem?

A famous 2009 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences came at the question of scientific consensus from an entirely different angle, but arrived at nearly identical results.

That study reviewed public statements made by scientists of any kind about anthropogenic global warming, and then identified which of those scientists had published peer-reviewed climate research -- this as a way of weeding out those who publicly reject human-driven global warming but have no formal expertise or training in climate science, like these folks.

Remember that “A full 98 percent of all working climate scientists affirm anthropogenic climate change, according to a paper published in 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found the evidence that the world is warming to be "unequivocal."”

Among the nearly 1,000 most actively published climate scientists, that analysis found that between 97 and 98 percent supported the basic tenets of human-driven climate change -- a very similar result to the one published Thursday by Cook and his colleagues.

The scandal is that those who serve the fossil fuel industry in Congress are engaged in corruption and should be expelled, after all they are all under oath!

"We want our scientists to answer questions for us, and there are lots of exciting questions in climate science," said one of Cook's co-authors, Mark Richardson of Britain's University of Reading, in a statement accompanying the release of the study. "We found over 4,000 studies written by 10,000 scientists that discussed whether recent warming is mostly man-made," Richardson said, "and 97 percent answered 'yes.'

There is no justification for the lies to continue.

We can't possibly expect to agree on everything. Should there be subsidies for cleaner forms of energy, or a stiff tax on carbon pollution, or both? Or do we simply wait it out in the hopes that necessity -- in the form of rising seas, more destructive storms, choking droughts and other climate-related freakishness -- will drive invention and save the day? For my money, an ounce of early prevention would seem worth a ton of cure further down the line, but I understand the differing opinions.

This is a dead debate, and the denial is now a joke.

What's not a matter of debate -- and indeed, what is a virtual certainty among scientists -- is that we've got a problem on our hands, and we're going to have to deal with it sooner or later. Living in the practical world of cause and effect, is the only choice that actually exists.

So if you count yourself among the 49 percent of Americans who believe that climate change is happening, and that we're playing a key role in it, give yourself a gold star. The planet's best and brightest scientific minds agree with you. The rest of you need to study up.

And if you weren't sure whether electrons were smaller than atoms (they are), or that lasers work by focusing light, not sound, well, take heart: Scientists have got your back, that is why we have them. See the science and technology survey published last month by the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian magazine for more.

Here is the problem:

The problem is in part, that Climate Change leaves many plants and animals only a few decades to adjust. This is not enough time. The evidence identifies a serious expansion of mass extinction of species. A study warns that losses of habitat where species can survive, will afflict plants and animals worldwide, raising extinction worries.

Global warming will destroy more than half of the habitats of most plants and a third of animals by 2080, biologists conclude, unless steps are taken to limit greenhouse gases. This is not a political problem it is a physical problem related to our survival.

Over the past century, average global surface temperatures have increased about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Academy of Sciences. This global warming is largely due to burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, which retain heat and warm the atmosphere. Temperatures worldwide are expected to rise roughly 7 degrees by 2100 if the use of fossil fuels continues without attempts to mitigate their effects.

Time can no longer be wasted on debate, propaganda, or lies to protect the profit center of the fossil fuel industry.

Without mitigation, "large range contractions can be expected even amongst common and widespread species," concludes the study led by Rachel Warren of the United Kingdom's University of East Anglia. It was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In the study, biologists and climate researchers looked at the effects of these increasing temperatures on the living space of 48,786 animal and plant species worldwide. "With no mitigation, the climate becomes particularly unsuitable for both plants and animals in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Amazonia and Australia."

Overall, the study finds that 57% of plants and 34% of animals will see their habitats cut by 50% or more by 2080, as temperature changes make them unsuitable for the species. Given warming that has already occurred, some of those losses are locked in already, but they could be reduced by 60% if greenhouse gas emissions were to peak in 2016, the study shows.

"The terrifying loss of biodiversity predicted by this study shows that climate chaos will fundamentally transform our planet," Shaye Wolf of the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group, says in a statement on the study. "We need to cut emissions now, before our ecosystems suffer catastrophic damage."

The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report had estimated that more than 20% of species worldwide are at "high risk" of extinction if temperatures rise more than 3.6 degrees in this century.

Here is the resonating scandal.

That report is now five years old and little has been done. The Congress of the United States is filled with corruption, payoffs and scandal. Progress is being held hostage. The truth itself is being suppressed.

Architects are essential to the planets well being.

But the corruption is not infecting just this one issue, rather, it is widespread and expanding.

The living world is not accurately measured by dollars. It is not appropriate that every decision should be made by an analysis of profits and loss of someones business venture. Somethings are simply more important than money.

As we emerge from the deepest and most extended economic downturn since the depression, it is evident that there has been a profound shift in consensus on what constitutes excellence in architecture. A quality revolution is reflected in the emergence and wide adoption of architectural frameworks that step far beyond code compliance The evolution of; The Living Building Challenge, Architecture 2030, LEED etc. Success in this new competitive environment requires more than compliance with the metrics of others, it requires local and site grounded design and planning strategies that extend and enhance these qualities. What is emergent is a detailed and explicit model addressing the evolving dynamic of a value-centered and high performance design method. Design Intelligence has universal applications.

Building Sector energy consumption and projections are trending downward dramatically. According to the recently released U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2013 statistics and projections, Building Sector projections for energy consumption in the year 2030 have declined annually since 2005, even though we plan to add over 60 billion square feet (a 22.6% increase) to our building stock by then.

What this means is, we have no need to add more electricity generating capacity – additional power plants – to service the Building Sector today, or in the near future. We should not build any new coal power planst or other fossil fuel plants. That we are currently engaged in doing just that is a scandal!

Globally, however the gains made in the USA have been complete offset by China. Globally there is no good news to report. What we celebrate is simply reason for hope.

Although this news is cause for celebration in the USA, it appears to be deeply troubling to the gas and fossil fuel industry. So troubling, in fact, that somewhere in a parallel universe the American Gas Association is again pushing for repeal of Section 433 (which calls for new and renovated carbon neutral federal buildings by 2030), by creating an illusory need for more natural gas. Poison is common in the Congress of the United States and this particular brand is designed to hollow out a program that has worked very well.

The truth is, if we incorporate the “best available demand technology” in our building designs (roughly equivalent to meeting the 2030 Challenge targets), we can reduce the Building Sector’s energy consumption by 2030 even further. Under this scenario, the EIA estimates that we would reduce the need for building operations energy by an additional 8.1 QBtu and reduce U.S. electricity capacity by 177,700 megawatts between now and 2030, roughly the equivalent of 355 large coal or gas fired 500MW plants. This would reduce CO2 emissions from building operations by a staggering 29.8% below 2005 levels by 2030.

We want more activism by Architects. Architecture 2030 is doing what it set out to do six years ago!

It is clear that the Building Sector is tracking ahead of the 2030 Challenge reduction targets with unstoppable momentum. We’re vigorously addressing today’s critical issues of energy security and environmental stewardship.

The scandal of climate change denial remains. The battle is engaged. Every Architect needs to participate.
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