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Next Steps in the Fight Against Climate Change

    The last word on the climate crisis goes to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Every six to seven years, the group releases an Assessment Report coalescing the latest research. Its findings, the IPCC explains, “provide a comprehensive summary of what is known about the drivers of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and how adaptation and mitigation can reduce those risks.” The IPCC released its Sixth Assessment Report earlier this year, and the findings were alarming to say the least. Only drastic and immediate cuts in carbon emissions can stave off disaster.

    The Architect’s Newspaper spoke with climate experts from architecture, engineering, planning, and other building-industry experts to gauge next steps. “The Mitigation report challenges built-environment professionals to act: The ninth of its 17 chapters concerns buildings, which contribute 21 percent of global GHGs as of 2019, and places architecture and construction in a pivotal position as the shift from fossil fuels to renewables and other sustainable practices is arguably both technically and economically feasible.”

    Here are a few key takeaways from the article.

    Today’s IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership. With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change. Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone—now. Many ecosystems are at the point of no return—now. Unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world’s most vulnerable on a frog march to destruction—now. The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal. The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home. 

    U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, speaking at the time of the report’s release in February

    One of the things that we understand in this report that we didn’t understand before was that these impacts cannot be treated in isolation, but have to be treated as a series of interlocking events. … Climate impacts and vulnerability [are] linked to inequality, to marginalization, to the processes of impoverishment.

    Vanesa Castán Broto, professor of climate urbanism, University of Sheffield (U.K.), and an author of Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

    Most of our so-called green buildings over the last few decades … have focused on efficiency. Those gains in efficiency have been more or less met, if not in fact overwhelmed, by simple demands for more: more space, more square footage per occupant or per worker. … We just don’t have a regulatory or cultural incentive to build differently.

    Daniel A. Barber, professor of architecture, University of Technology Sydney

    Schools of architecture are still structured forms of climate-change denial. [They] are not doing nearly enough to address these issues and prepare another generation of architects to contend with the issues, to identify them, be literate about them, to have the technical and design capacities to address them.

    Kiel Moe, associate professor of architecture and energy, Harvard University Graduate School of Design

    We spend too much time worrying about trying to decarbonize the grid, and not enough time in our field thinking about “How do I eliminate an electrical use?”

    Michelle Addington, dean, University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture 

    Can we transform the built environment and power sector fast enough to reach the 50 percent emissions reduction target by 2030? If we do this, I have no doubt we will then decarbonize the entire sector by 2040; the sheer inertia of the transformation will carry us forward.

    Edward Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030