Saturday, 26 January 2013

2013 - Year of Climate Decision

That is the title of a long and dense post by Kevin Matthews on Architecture Week. Ho hum, seen it all before? No, you haven't.  And you really should make the effort to read it.Why?  For several reasons.

The first is that the editorial box associated with the article reports the alarming drop of time dedicated by mainstream media to the discussion of the impact of climate change, and commits this specialised architecture newssheet to maintaining a useful and urgent level of discussion.  It puts architecture and architects at the forefront of the necessary effective action. 

The second is that at the core of the article is reference to a new discussion of a well understood and frightening principle, which advisers to governments have been trying desperately to communicate.  Namely, that the cost of doing anything effective is rising exponentially with every minute we waste.  That paper from Nature, titled Probabilistic Cost Estimates for Climate Change Mitigation, now pins down the timetable to this present decade.  To quote:

If we wait until 2025, then there's no realistic level of effort modeled by the researchers that would have a reasonable likelihood of preventing devastating (and multiplying) impacts. 

The third reason to make the effort is that while the material is completely USA centric, the article describes in detail the difficulty of getting the various sectors of the economy to nominate effective action, even while their agree on the scale and the urgency of the problem.  Just one of the poignant examples lucidly explained is why effective action on mitigating climate change might involve for instance leaving 50 to 80% of the known reserves of nonrenewable carbon fuels in the ground.  You can imagine how hard it is for an oil industry executive to recommend that, yet in the bigger context of the truly staggering carbon price that will have to be attached to that energy in quite a short run, it doesn't seem to be such a hard policy decision at all.

Neither this article, nor do more authoritative papers it cites may tell you as an individual, as a professional, as an industry player, or as a policy maker what specifically you should do.  But, as the article concludes:
Activating local, state, and national elites in government, business, and media is absolutely critical to achieving this decisive change. With huge institutional inertia to overcome quickly, it will probably take everyone, who can help to make the case for change, each giving their own best push, to break things loose.   
This means us — in our work as design professionals, and in our engagement as citizens. And this means now.
To read the article in full, and to access at least a few of its new scary graphs, click here.  Unfortunately, unless you are a subscriber to architecture week, the remaining collection of graphics are not available in full size view.

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