Perhaps that's not so surprising for the journalism conference. After all, global warming has long been a pet topic of reporters on the environmental beat, right? On the contrary, the message from SEJ was that, where global warming is concerned, journalists have fallen down on the job. A panel that included and Bill Blakemore, a senior correspondent for ABC news, emphatically stated that we've failed to communicate the imperativeness of the situation—that we've allowed a journalistic instinct to always include opposing views to muddy the public's understanding of something that has clearly reached scientific consensus.
I then met one of those scientists, Brian Soden of the University of Miami's Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, on the Explorer of the Seas en route to Bermuda. Soden studies global warming—more specifically, how human activities play a role in the changing climate. Because of observations from ships (which, until now, weren't quite so lush), scientists know that the planet has warmed 1.5 degrees F over the last 100 years, and that two-thirds of that change occurred over the last 30 years. Climate models indicate that Earth will warm another 4 to 10 degrees F by the end of the 21st century. A certain level of warming is already in the pipeline due to past emissions. "Whether we hit the high end of that range will be determined in the long term by our future choices in energy consumption," says Soden.
Which brings me to this morning's open plenary at GreenBuild. The building sector is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. "We build green buildings because they matter, but nowhere do they matter more than in the epic battle we just began with ourselves over the CO2 that contributes to global climate change," says Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of the (USGBC), which sponsors the conference. "We have the resources and know-how required to achieve immediate and measurable results in our efforts to slow global warming. We are already reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent over conventional buildings. But we need to build more, and renovate the ones that are already built. Most are energy hogs of the highest order and we're running out of time."
And so he announced some ambitious new initiatives. Beginning in 2007, all new commercial LEED projects will be required to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent compared to conventional levels; a similar recommendation for neighborhood and redevelopment markets will soon follow. Also starting next year, USGBC will fully rebate certification fees for any building that earns platinum status, which is its highest level of certification for sustainability. "We believe so strongly that quantum leaps must be made to address climate change that we dare you to put us out of business," Fedrizzi says.
With people flying and driving in from all over the country, well meaning as they may be, the conference itself is no slouch in terms of emissions. Its 12,000 attendees will be responsible for producing 3,269,500 lbs. of carbon dioxide, 5,100 lbs. of sulfur dioxide, 17,900 lbs. of nitrogen oxides and 2800 lbs. of particulates—all of which the USGBC is hoping to offset with carbon and sulfur dioxide and renewable energy credits.I myself flew some 1600 miles to get here, and will be basking in electric lights and a climate-controlled atmosphere with the best of them. And so, for the first step of my own epic battle, I donated $20 for the purchase of enough renewable energy certificates to offset my impact.—Jennifer Bogo
As it turns out, there is an actual green builder at the GreenBuild conference, sponsored by Henkels GreenSeries of caulks and sealants. And he mimed that he really enjoyed reading Seniorhelpline (we think).