Climate change: Hot or not?

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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.



Comments (3 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 9:12 PM Friday, December 18, 2009

    Follow the money, follow the money. Of course Green is Good. But following Alice and the Rabbit into Wonderland is not the way to do this. Look at the corn/ ethanol mess. An idea done too fast by a bunch of people who saw a way to make money on corn BEFORE ALL THE SCIENCE WAS IN. First we hear that it has less pollution per gallon burned, yea. OK, let's run with that, create government incentives etc. Later the rest of the story came out: it produces less energy also so it is a wash. But it ruins pipe fittings so it can't be pumped like gasoline can, so guess what? It has to be trucked. MY GOD, so much corn was being made into alcohol that not only did food prices go up, but farmers switched from other crops to corn (and raised the price of tequila, argh!). See who benefits financially from moving quickly and question their judgement! Less pollution IS a good thing. Did you know that farmers who switched to corn are now looking for the government to help them as the market has crashed due to the INHERENT failure of the concept! Let's be smart about this!!! There are people on the "other" side who should be heard.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 2:52 PM Thursday, December 17, 2009

    I was never taken in by the environmental doom and gloom forecasters. First it was "global cooling", then "global warming", now "climate change" all the result of man's efforts on the earth. As a lifelong conservationist the practice of being a good steward in my sphere of influence has always been important. I've warned everyone I could not to use "global warming/climate change" as the hinge pin on which to hang designing and building sustainably. It's simply good design and stewardship.

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  • Posted by: 1111 | Time: 2:25 PM Thursday, December 17, 2009

    Nevertheless, the question of evidence in global warming is important. If we were talking about minor changes, adjustments that could be done relatively painlessly, the fact that there is room for doubt would not be as important. It is precisely because what is proposed is so dramatic and costly - in terms of jobs and economic growth - that the question of sufficient evidence and sound policy becomes so critical. If we are dealing with a high degree of intellectual dishonesty, as revealed by the emails detailing suppression of dissenting voices in the scientific community and doctoring of data, something that the Washington Post so shamelessly called a "vigorous debate"; when we are told that we face a potential apocalypse, and yet we can give ourselves the luxury of avoiding certain distasteful technologies that could go a long way to resolving climate change (nuclear energy), when it's proponents are willing think of it as a kind of religion, I seriously wonder as to whether it isn't foolhardy to wholesale embrace the current mania. I think it was Confucius who once said "where there is much enthusiasm, we must be cautious."

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About the Blogger

Lance Hosey

thumbnail image Contributing editor and author of ARCHITECT’s monthly Eco column, Lance Hosey, AIA, LEED AP, Hon. FIGP, is president and CEO of GreenBlue, a nonprofit and consultancy dedicated to environmental innovation and the creative redesign of industry. A registered architect, he is a former director at William McDonough + Partners. With Kira Gould, he is the co-author of Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design (2007). His forthcoming book, The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design, studies how form and image can enhance conservation, comfort, and community at every scale of design, from products to cities.