Can Architecture Save the World?
Topics:INTROGlobal Warming: What? Causes? Consequences Preventing Zero Carbon Housing: What? Science 2016 Law History Positives: Effect On Global Warming Effect On Environment Future Negatives: Cost Of Building Destruction Of Environment For Materials Will It Make A Difference CONCLUSION
What Is Global WarmingCarbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants are collecting in the atmosphere like a thickening blanket, trapping the sun's heat and causing the planet to warm up.
The Greenhouse Gas EffectThe greenhouse effect is a natural process by which some of the radiant heat from the Sun is captured in the lower atmosphere of the Earth, thus maintaining the temperature of the Earth's surface. The gases that help capture the heat, called “greenhouse gases,” include water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and a variety of manufactured chemicals. Some are emitted from natural sources; others are anthropogenic, resulting from human activities.The greenhouse effect refers to circumstances where the short wavelengths of visible light from the sun pass through a transparent medium and are absorbed, but the longer wavelengths of the infrared re-radiation from the heated objects are unable to pass through that medium. The trapping of the long wavelength radiation leads to more heating and a higher resultant temperature. Besides the heating of an automobile by sunlight through the windshield and the namesake example of heating the greenhouse by sunlight passing through sealed, transparent windows, the greenhouse effect has been widely used to describe the trapping of excess heat by the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide strongly absorbs infrared and does not allow as much of it to escape into space.
What Causes Global WarmingThe causes of climate change is a complicated and often contentious topic. However, there is strong evidence that natural causes (e.g. variations in output from the sun) can't explain our changing climate alone. Instead, it is increasingly believed that the activities and lifestyles of the earth's human population are causing the changes.Global warming is primarily a problem of too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere—which acts as a blanket, trapping heat and warming the planet. As we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas for energy or cut down and burn forests to create pastures and plantations, carbon accumulates and overloads our atmosphere. Certain waste management and agricultural practices aggravate the problem by releasing other potent global warming gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide. See the pie chart for a breakdown of heat-trapping global warming emissions by economic sector.
Consequences of Global WarmingThis has been the warmest decade since 1880. In 2010, global surface temperatures tied 2005 as the warmest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists say that the earth could warm by an additional 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit during the 21st century if we fail to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. This rise in average temperature will have far-reaching effects on the earth's climate patterns and on all living things. Many of these changes have already begun. Scientists report that some polar bears are drowning because they have to swim longer distances to reach ice floes. Unless we take effective action now, the polar bear will likely become extinct in Alaska by 2050.Increasing global temperatures are expected to disrupt ecosystems, pushing to extinction those species that cannot adapt. The first comprehensive assessment of the extinction risk from global warming found that more than 1 million species could be obliterated by 2050 if the current trajectory continues.More frequent and severe heat waves will result in a greater number of heat-related deaths. In July 2006, severe heat waves in North America contributed to the deaths of at least 225 people.Rising global temperatures will speed the melting of glaciers and ice caps and cause early ice thaw on rivers and lakes. At the current rate of retreat, all of the glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone by 2070Warmer water in the oceans pumps more energy into tropical storms, making them stronger and potentially more destructive. Even with storms of the same intensity, future hurricanes will cause more damage as higher sea levels exacerbate storm surges, flooding, and erosion. Hot, dry weather led to a record-setting 2006 wildland fire season with close to 100,000 fires reported and nearly 10 million acres burned, 125 percent above the decade's average.
TOP TEN WORST EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING 10. Rising Sea Level Earth's hotter temperature doesn't necessarily mean the Miami lifestyle is moving to the Arctic, but it does mean rising sea levels. How are hotter temperatures linked to rising waters? Hotter temperatures mean ice -- glaciers, sea ice and polar ice sheets -- is melting, increasing the amount of water in the world's seas and oceans. Scientists are able to measure that melt water from Greenland's ice cap directly impacts people in the United States: The flow of the Colorado River has increased sixfold [source: Scientific American]. And scientists project that as the ice shelves on Greenland and Antarctica melt, sea levels could be more than 20 feet (6 meters) higher in 2100 than they are today [source: An Inconvenient Truth]. Such levels would submerge many of Indonesia's tropical islands and flood low-lying areas such as Miami, New York City's Lower Manhattan and Bangladesh. You can't have as much fun in the sun when the beach is underwater. Miami, along with many other areas around the world, is threatened by rising oceans.9. Shrinking Glaciers You don't need special equipment to see that glaciers around the world are shrinking. Tundra once covered with thick permafrost is melting with rising surface temperatures and is now coated with plant life. In the span of a century, glaciers in Montana's Glacier National Park have deteriorated from 150 to just 35 [source: New York Times]. And the Himalayan glaciers that feed the Ganges River, which supplies drinking and irrigation water to 500 million people, are reportedly shrinking by 40 yards (37 meters) each year [source: The Washington Post]. Montana's Glacier National Park will lose some of its majestic beauty as surface temperatures continue to rise.8. Heat Waves The deadly heat wave that swept across Europe in 2003, killing an estimated 35,000 people, could be the harbinger of an intense heat trend that scientists began tracking in the early 1900s [source: MSNBC]. Extreme heat waves are happening two to four times more often now, steadily rising over the last 50 to 100 years, and are projected to be 100 times more likely over the next 40 years [source: Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University]. Experts suggest continued heat waves may mean future increases in wildfires, heat-related illness and a general rise in the planet's mean temperature. Heat waves not only make it seem difficult to function, they can be deadly as well. This man tried to cool himself with a water bottle during a 2008 heat wave in New York City.5. Disease Depending on where you live, you may use bug repellent to protect against West Nile virus or Lyme disease. But when was the last time you considered your risk of contracting dengue fever? Warmer temperatures along with associated floods and droughts are encouraging worldwide health threats by creating an environment where mosquitoes, ticks, mice and other disease-carrying creatures thrive. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that outbreaks of new or resurgent diseases are on the rise and in more disparate countries than ever before, including tropical illnesses in once cold climates -- such as mosquitoes infecting Canadians with West Nile virus. While more than 150,000 people die from climate change-related sickness each year, everything from heat-related heart and respiratory problems to malaria are on the rise [source: The Washington Post]. Cases of allergies and asthma are also increasing. How is hay fever related to global warming? Global warming fosters increased smog -- which is linked to mounting instances of asthma attacks -- and also advances weed growth, a bane for allergy sufferers.4. Economic Consequences The costs associated with climate change rise along with the temperatures. Severe storms and floods combined with agricultural losses cause billions of dollars in damages, and money is needed to treat and control the spread of disease. Extreme weather can create extreme financial setbacks. For example, during the record-breaking hurricane year of 2005, Louisiana saw a 15 percent drop in income during the months following the storms, while property damage was estimated at $135 billion [source: Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University]. Economic considerations reach into nearly every facet of our lives. Consumers face rising food and energy costs along with increased insurance premiums for health and home. Governments suffer the consequences of diminished tourism and industrial profits, soaring energy, food and water demands, disaster clean-up and border tensions. And ignoring the problem won't make it go away. A recent study conducted by the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University suggests that inaction in the face of global warming crises could result in a $20 trillion price tag by 2100 [source: Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University]. In addition to the loss of life caused by Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and Louisiana have faced the economic consequences of billions of dollars in damage3. Conflicts and War Declining amounts of quality food, water and land may be leading to an increase in global security threats, conflict and war. National security experts analysing the current conflict in Sudan's Darfur region suggest that while global warming is not the sole cause of the crisis, its roots may be traced to the impact of climate change, specifically the reduction of available natural resources [source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer]. The violence in Darfur broke out during a time of drought, after two decades of little-to-no rain along with rising temperatures in the nearby Indian Ocean. Scientists and military analysts alike are theorizing climate change and its consequences such as food and water instability pose threats for war and conflict, suggesting that violence and ecological crises are entangled. Countries suffering from water shortages and crop loss become vulnerable to security trouble, including regional instability, panic and aggression. The conflict in Darfur has been partly blamed on stresses caused by global warming. 1. Destruction of Ecosystems Changing climatic conditions and dramatic increases in carbon dioxide will put our ecosystems to the test, threatening supplies of fresh water, clean air, fuel and energy resources, food, medicine and other matters we depend upon not just for our lifestyles but for our survival. Evidence shows effects of climate change on physical and biological systems, which means no part of the world is spared from the impact of changes to land, water and life. Scientists are already observing the bleaching and death of coral reefs due to warming ocean waters, as well as the migration of vulnerable plants and animals to alternate geographic ranges due to rising air and water temperatures and melting ice sheets. Models based on varied temperature increases predict scenarios of devastating floods, drought, wildfires, ocean acidification and eventual collapse of functioning ecosystems worldwide, terrestrial and aquatic alike. Forecasts of famine, war and death paint a dire picture of climate change on our planet. Scientists are researching the causes of these changes the vulnerability of Earth not to predict the end of days but rather to help us mitigate or reduce changes that may be caused by humans. If we know and understand the problems and take action through adaptation, the use of more energy-efficient and sustainable resources and the adoption of other green ways of living, we may be able to make some impact on the climate change process. Coral bleaching is only a tangible aspect of global warming's effect on ecosystems.
7. Storms and Floods Experts use climate models to project the impact rising global temperatures will have on precipitation. However, no modelling is needed to see that severe storms are happening more frequently: In just 30 years the occurrence of the strongest hurricanes -- categories 4 and 5 -- has nearly doubled [source: An Inconvenient Truth]. Warm waters give hurricanes their strength, and scientists are correlating the increase in ocean and atmospheric temperatures to the rate of violent storms. During the last few years, both the United States and Britain have experienced extreme storms and flooding, costing lives and billions of dollars in damages. Between 1905 and 2005 the frequency of hurricanes has been on a steady ascent. From 1905 to 1930, there were an average of 3.5 hurricanes per year; 5.1 between 1931 and 1994; and 8.4 between 1995 and 2005 [source: USA Today]. In 2005, a record number of tropical storms developed, and in 2007, the worst flooding in 60 years hit Britain [sources: Reuters, Centre for American Progress]. Warmer waters increase the likelihood of violent storms. Hurricane Dolly swept over the Texas-Mexico border in July 2008. 6. Drought While some parts of the world may find themselves deluged by increasing storms and rising waters, other areas may find themselves suffering from drought. As the climate warms, experts estimate drought conditions may increase by at least 66 percent [source: Scientific American]. An increase in drought conditions leads quickly to a shrinking water supply and a decrease in quality agricultural conditions. This puts global food production and supply in danger and leaves populations at risk for starvation. Today, India, Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa already experience droughts, and experts predict precipitation could continue to dwindle in the coming decades. Estimates paint a dire picture. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that by 2020, 75 to 250 million Africans may experience water shortages, and the continent's agricultural output will decrease by 50 percent [source: BBC]. Worldwide droughts, like that in a village northeast of Nairobi, expose rural communities to food shortages.
2. Loss of Biodiversity Species loss and endangerment is rising along with global temperatures. As many as 30 percent of plant and animal species alive today risk extinction by 2050 if average temperatures rise more than 2 to 11.5 degrees F (1.1 to 6.4 degrees C) [sources: EPA, Scientific American]. Such extinctions will be due to loss of habitat through desertification, deforestation and ocean warming, as well as the inability to adapt to climate warming. Wildlife researchers have noted some of the more resilient species migrating to the poles, far north and far south to maintain their needed habitat; the red fox, for example, normally an inhabitant of North America, is now seen living in the Arctic. Humans also aren't immune to the threat. Desertification and rising sea levels threaten human habitats. And when plants and animals are lost to climate change, human food, fuel and income are lost as well. The red fox has been affected by rising global temperatures.
Preventing Global Warming (Reducing Global Warming) TOP 10 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE GLOBAL WARMING 1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Do your part to reduce waste by choosing reusable products instead of disposables. Buying products with minimal packaging (including the economy size when that makes sense for you) will help to reduce waste. And whenever you can, recycle paper, plastic, newspaper, glass and aluminium cans. If there isn't a recycling program at your workplace, school, or in your community, ask about starting one. By recycling half of your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. 2. Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning Adding insulation to your walls and attic, and installing weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows can lower your heating costs more than 25 percent, by reducing the amount of energy you need to heat and cool your home. Turn down the heat while you're sleeping at night or away during the day, and keep temperatures moderate at all times. Setting your thermostat just 2 degrees lower in winter and higher in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. 3. Change a Light Bulb Wherever practical, replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Replacing just one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a CFL will save you $30 over the life of the bulb. CFLs also last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, use two-thirds less energy, and give off 70 percent less heat. If every U.S. family replaced one regular light bulb with a CFL, it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road. 4. Drive Less and Drive Smart Less driving means fewer emissions. Besides saving gasoline, walking and biking are great forms of exercise. Explore your community mass transit system, and check out options for carpooling to work or school. When you do drive, make sure your car is running efficiently. For example, keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage by more than 3 percent. Every gallon of gas you save not only helps your budget; it also keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. 5. Buy Energy-Efficient Products When it's time to buy a new car, choose one that offers good gas mileage. Home appliances now come in a range of energy-efficient models, and compact florescent bulbs are designed to provide more natural-looking light while using far less energy than standard light bulbs. Avoid products that come with excess packaging, especially moulded plastic and other packaging that can't be recycled. If you reduce your household garbage by 10 percent, you can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. 6. Use Less Hot Water Set your water heater at 120 degrees to save energy, and wrap it in an insulating blanket if it is more than 5 years old. Buy low-flow showerheads to save hot water and about 350 pounds of carbon dioxide yearly. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water to reduce your use of hot water and the energy required to produce it. That change alone can save at least 500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually in most households. Use the energy-saving settings on your dishwasher and let the dishes air-dry. 7. Use the "Off" Switch Save electricity and reduce global warming by turning off lights when you leave a room, and using only as much light as you need. And remember to turn off your television, video player, stereo and computer when you're not using them. It's also a good idea to turn off the water when you're not using it. While brushing your teeth, shampooing the dog or washing your car, turn off the water until you actually need it for rinsing. You'll reduce your water bill and help to conserve a vital resource. 8. Plant a Tree If you have the means to plant a tree, start digging. During photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. They are an integral part of the natural atmospheric exchange cycle here on Earth, but there are too few of them to fully counter the increases in carbon dioxide caused by automobile traffic, manufacturing and other human activities. A single tree will absorb approximately one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime. 9. Get a Report Card from Your Utility Company Many utility companies provide free home energy audits to help consumers identify areas in their homes that may not be energy efficient. In addition, many utility companies offer rebate programs to help pay for the cost of energy-efficient upgrades. 10. Encourage Others to Conserve Share information about recycling and energy conservation with your friends, neighbours and co-workers, and take opportunities to encourage public officials to establish programs and policies that are good for the environment.