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Climate Change: The Latest Architecture and News

The Design Implications of President Obama's Commitment to Climate Change and Sustainable Energy

January 21, 2013, Inaugural Speech; Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson
January 21, 2013, Inaugural Speech; Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

This past Monday, President Obama made climate change and sustainable energy the focal points of his Inaugural Address when he declared that choosing to ignore these key environmental issues "would betray our children and future generations." This is the first time in the last few months that the President has taken a firm stand for the future of our Earth, a direct result of Super Storm Sandy and a smart choice to reveal controversial policies only after re-election. Although Monday morning was not the time to outline a specific political strategy, President Obama made it very clear that this time around, denial of scientific judgment and Congressional opposition would not be reasons for failure to act.

While this is a sentiment easier said than done and there is doubtlessly a long and difficult road ahead for the President and his administration. The White House has revealed that it plans to focus on what it can do to capitalize on natural gas production as an alternative to coal, on "reducing emissions from power plants, [increasing] the efficiency of home appliances and [on having] the federal government itself produce less carbon pollution" (NYTimes). According to the New York Times, they aim to adopt new energy efficiency standards for not only home appliances but for buildings as well, something that should spark the interests of architects and urban planners already committed to designing with climate change and sustainable energy in mind.

More after the break...

Local Solutions: Floating Schools in Bangladesh

© Joseph A Ferris III
© Joseph A Ferris III

In Bangladesh, where rising sea levels are having profound effects on the landscape, one nonprofit organization called Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha run by architect Mohammed Rezwan is fighting back by adapting, a true quality of resilience. Rising water levels and the tumultuous climate is displacing people by the thousands; a projected 20% of Bangladesh is expected to be covered in water within twenty years. For a country that is one of the densest populated state on the planet, this figure has disastrous consequences for a population that has limited access to fresh water, food, and medicine. In response to these conditions, Shidhulai has focused on providing education, training and care against the odds of climate change by adapting to the altered landscape: moving schools and community centers onto the water – on boats.

Two Degrees of Separation, Part 2: Architects Must Lead on Climate Change

Last week I asked how architecture can ramp up its efforts to do all it can to help limit climate change. Sandy is a turning point. It will take action on the part of the profession and its members to make this turning point meaningful. Turning points are easily forgotten after the panels have been convened and the articles written. The vicarious thrill of crisis abates and everyone returns to business as usual, feeling better for having contributed to the discussion. If we listen to the scientists, we must not lose that sense of crisis and we must do more.

The Indicator: Two Degrees of Separation

© NASA Goddard Photo and Video
© NASA Goddard Photo and Video

“…clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.”

Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World

Hurricane Sandy painfully clarified the deadly implications of climate change. In fact, the superstorm was so forceful as a reminder of just what climate change means in real terms that it played a decisive role in the presidential election. 

Here in the US, the issue defines political divides. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows 85% of Democrats believe climate change is a scientific fact, while only 48% of Republicans believe so. Another poll shows 68% of Americans believing climate change is a serious problem and 38% believing it is a very serious problem.

The impact of Sandy may have played a role in bumping these numbers up but there is still no slam dunk on the issue when roughly 30% of the population still believes climate change is not real. For those of you outside the US this is your cue to roll your eyes and say, Stupid Americans. 

Continue reading The Indicator after the break