A few years ago, the debate in the media and in academia over global warming took a different turn: It stopped being, well, much of a debate. In early 2007, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that human activity was, with a likelihood above 90 percent, the main cause of rising temperatures. Just this year, a poll by two scientists indicated that 97.4 percent of climatologists believe human activity has driven global temperature changes. Clashes of opinion on this issue among experts, concluded pollsters Peter Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, are now “largely nonexistent.”
And yet: According to a recent Gallup poll, only 58 percent of the general public is convinced that global warming is caused by man, which means that nearly half of us remain skeptical. We at architect figured that, even as the profession espouses the mantra of sustainability, and despite the prominence of climate change–battling organizations like Architecture 2030, there must be some naysayers out there. Right?
In fact, we found more than we anticipated. Turn the page and see for yourself: 33 percent of the 960 design professionals we surveyed this summer said skepticism about climate change was “common” in their professional network, while nearly 13 percent answered that global warming was “a myth.”
Surprised, we ran the results by two architect-activists, Edward Mazria of Architecture 2030 and Alexis Karolides of the Rocky Mountain Institute. Mazria took a decidedly glass-half-full view. “That over 70 percent of respondents are committed to or willing to build sustainable buildings is an incredible shift from just a couple of years ago,” he commented by e-mail.
What about the architects who think global warming is a hoax—could too much talk about climate change turn them off green building? Mazria doesn’t think so: “Those few ... risk missing out on one of the greatest economic opportunities in recent history.”
Karolides points out that architects are hardwired to value efficiency in design, irrespective of their beliefs about global warming. Also, she notes, the issue might catalyze as many architects as it turns off, imparting urgency to the sustainable agenda. “It gets people motivated to do something,” she says. Let’s hope so. Judge the results for yourself. (A text version of survey results may be found below the graphics shown here.)
Architect or project manager — 58.2%
Intern — 5.8%
Architecture firm management (partner, CEO, etc.) — 25.8%
Interior designer — 1.4%
Landscape architect — 0.7%
Urban planner — 0.6%
Other — 7.5%
Under 25 — 1.5%
25-34 — 13.1%
35-44 — 17.5%
45-54 — 27.7%
55-64 — 28%
65 or older — 12.2%
Male — 81.6%
Female — 18.4%
THE SURVEY RESULTS
1. Does your firm represent itself to clients as being committed to green or sustainable design? If you’re a solo practitioner, do you represent your own services this way?
Yes — 74.4%
No — 25.6%
2. If your firm calls itself “green,” do you believe that the firm’s leaders are truly committed to, and knowledgeable about, green building? If you’re a solo practitioner, would you describe yourself as such?
Yes, both committed and knowledgeable — 32.4%
Committed, but they/I need to learn more about best practices and technologies — 19.5%
They/I know how to build sustainably, and want to, but the client support isn’t there — 18.7%
They’re/I’m cynical about the whole sustainability movement, but these days you have to call yourself “green” for marketing purposes — 12.9%
Not applicable (my firm doesn’t call itself green) — 16.5%
3. Which of the following most closely describes your personal views on sustainable design and the environment?
It’s vital that we design and build sustainably, in order to conserve scarce resources and prevent further global warming. — 46.4%
I’m not sure that global warming is caused by man, but energy conservation makes economic sense if we’ll be less dependent on other countries’ oil. — 34.1%
I’m not sure whether building green in the U.S. will help the environment when China and India are becoming industrialized so rapidly. — 6.7%
Global warming is a myth perpetuated by the media, and green building is a fad — it’ll be forgotten in 20 years’ time. — 12.8%
4. Do you know of any colleagues—or other design-firm professionals—who don’t believe that climate change is a major problem and/or don’t believe that it’s caused by human activity?
Yes — 71%
No — 29%
5. How common or uncommon is climate-change skepticism within your professional network?
Extremely uncommon — 14.5%
Not at all common, but I know one or two people who are skeptical about claims of climate change — 22.2%
A small minority of people I know are skeptical about claims of climate change — 30%
It’s common — 33.3%
6 & 7. Have you ever been on a project team with someone whose views on climate change and the environment were opposed to your own?
Yes — 59.3%
No — 40.7%
If you answered “yes” to that, did this difference of opinion affect your working relationship and your ability to complete the project to a high standard?
No — 66.6%
Not Sure, But It Might Have — 21.1%
Yes — 12.3%
8. Have you ever argued with colleagues about sustainable design and its impact on the environment or tried to win them over to your point of view?
Yes — 52.9%
No — 47.1%