DENIAL IS NOT A RIVER IN EGYPT
While the fossil fuel industry continues to hawk its wares in total denial of the devastating global effects of its actions, the new International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report confirms the necessity for immediate and sustained action.
The IPCC report reveals how close we are to a turning point in the earth’s climate system, and reveals two critical numbers that speak to the urgency of the situation:
- One trillion tons – a maximum global carbon budget of one trillion tons burned is necessary to keep global warming under two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels; and
- 2020 – the year global CO2 emissions must peak in order to burn less than one trillion tons of carbon (the world has already burned more than half of that to date).
The underlying conclusion of the report is that the time has arrived for taking the necessary steps to preserve livable conditions on earth: i.e., we must stop burning fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
The IPCC report defines four timeline scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways or RCPs) plotting amounts of carbon burned and resulting global average temperatures, depending on when global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) peak and then decline. The IPCC chose to plot the “business as usual” scenario (RCP 8.5 – continued increase in GHG emissions), then scenarios for global GHG emission peaks in the year 2080 (RCP 6.0), 2040-2050 (RCP 4.5), and 2020 (RCP 2.6). Only by peaking GHG emissions in the year 2020 or sooner, and phasing out conventional fossil fuel burning around 2080, can we stay beneath the total of one trillion tons of carbon burned, which represents the threshold of catastrophic climate change, as shown in the following graphs:
A GHG emissions peak by about 2020 (RCP 2.6) will be necessary to keep global warming under the two degrees Celsius (above preindustrial levels) threshold. If we exceed the world carbon budget of one trillion tons burned (RCP 4.5, 6.0 and 8.5), the models project the planet will keep warming and it will be virtually impossible to bring global average temperature back under the two degrees Celsius threshold.
We can now say with confidence that when it comes to this problem, denial is not a river in Egypt – but is instead the highway to a hellish future of irreversible climate change. Consequently, time is truly of the essence. We need to seize this opportunity now to make a difference that will take us on the road to a transformative global vision of the built environment. The future depends on us.
This is a unique opportunity – and one with a defined window that will not remain open indefinitely. The 2030 Palette is designed to address that opportunity.
The 2030 Palette is a shared vision: it succinctly puts the principles and actions behind low-carbon, resilient urbanization and architecture at the fingertips of designers, planners, builders and policymakers worldwide. The result can be nothing short of a global transformation of the built environment.
Edward Mazria, CEO & Founder of Architecture 2030, will discuss how to leverage this remarkable free, on-line program, via the public release of the 2030 Palette in a Master Series session at Greenbuild next week.
If you’re headed to Philadelphia for Greenbuild 2013, this is an event you don’t want to miss.
Edward Mazria's Master Series session on the 2030 Palette takes place on Wednesday, Nov. 20th, at 2pm.