Climate change: Hot or not?
It’s a weird week for environmentalists.
In the midst of the United Nations’ historic Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, global warming deniers are having a heyday. Recent exposure of correspondence between climate scientists at the University of East Anglia (so-called "Climate-gate") has set off a firestorm about an alleged plot to falsify data, giving further fodder to outspoken critics such as Congressman James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” The Weather Channel founder John Coleman likewise calls it “the greatest scam in history.” And a few days ago the ever-eloquent Sarah Palin told conservative talk-radio maven Laura Ingraham that “this is a money-making deal for Al Gore and some of his environmentalist friends.” (Ignore the man behind the curtain: it's Al Gore.) One conservative blogger’s solution to the whole mess: “Nuke Copenhagen!”
According to the survey reported in the October cover story of Architect ("The Wide Spectrum of Green"), this magazine’s readership has its own fair share of skeptics and critics. For the sake of argument, let’s say they’re right; let’s say global warming is at least a myth, if not a hoax. (If it’s a plot to hoodwink us all, perhaps we should punish the perpetrators by banishing them to commune with the polar bears on one of those rapidly shrinking ice floes.) What now? Should architects and builders go back to making buildings that are gluttons for fossil fuels and dwindling resources? Is it open season on old growth forests? Mahogany for everyone!
The argument over climate change limits the environmental debate to a single issue: carbon emissions. Even if we all agree (and we don’t) that it’s okay to pump endless amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, there remain any number of reasons for going green. If security is your first priority, weaning ourselves off oil is a smart strategy toward “energy independence.” If the economy is your focus, supporting alternative fuels and technologies will help build more resiliency. If conservation is your concern, developing other options than mining and drilling can preserve our natural heritage.
The aim of sustainability isn’t sacrifice; it’s improving quality of life, and the construction industry should know this better than anyone. Greener development creates smarter, safer, healthier, happier, richer places. Nuke that.