2 Fields, 2 Siblings, 1 Goal
Max Moore and Elsie Moore
University of Oregon School of Architecture and Yale School of Public Health, USA
Climate change is the greatest challenge of the century and one we must all work together to tackle. Innovations and developments in health and design have increased standards of living for many people around the globe. Although this progress has created many benefits, it has also put significant strain on ecological systems and fostered unsustainability and inequity.[i] With continuing population growth and urbanization trends, we are at a critical tipping point for our planet. If we continue with current trends without action, it is predicted that we will experience extreme temperature rise and the implications of this will be devastating. Yet, this does not have to be our narrative if we take action now.
2015 and 2016 have been historic years for international efforts towards climate change action. In 2015 political leaders took a major step toward addressing climate change by negotiating and signing the Paris Climate Agreement. Just this past month steps were taken to bring the agreement into force with 81 of the 197 parties to the convention having ratified it.[ii] This ratification process was anticipated to take five years, but it happened significantly ahead of schedule indicating changing international norms, perceived urgency of the issue, and global cooperation.[iii] This exciting political movement must be built upon as it is not only essential for human prosperity and the planet’s well-being but it is vital to counter extremism. Crisis and conflict are often fueled by climate change. Rising global temperatures have the potential to cause massive disruptions to human society, including droughts, heatwaves, storms, changing monsoon patterns, rising sea levels, increasing numbers of climate refugees, weakening political states, and the incubation of terrorism. The Paris Climate Agreement is our opportunity to take action against this. However, as the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions currently stand, they will only limit global temperature rise to 2.7 degrees Celsius surpassing the catastrophic threshold of 2 degrees.[iv] Therefore, how are we going to achieve 2°?
The answer is simple: We achieve 2° together.
This year the Global Citizen Conference focuses on strategies to build sustainable societies and aims to broaden discussion of what sustainable citizenship looks like, and the roles of community development and design innovation.[v] As two siblings studying distinct fields on opposite coast of the United States, we have been unified by our passion to make climate change mitigation and adaptation a reality. We put forth that each of our respective fields can individually contribute to this common goal and that all fields, professions, and individuals must heed this call to action if we are going to give future generations a habitable world.
The role of architecture is pivotal to climate change mitigation. The built environment has the power to not only shape our actions but also our footprints. Architects must shape the path for how we live in the future. To achieve 2°, globally we need to cut CO2 emissions to almost zero and 90 percent of the building stock must be carbon neutral by 2050.[vi] Architects are crucial to improving the efficiency of existing structures while ensuring all new buildings and spaces strive to be net zero.
Understanding that building operations are responsible for nearly half of all (USA) CO2 emissions, architects have a unique opportunity to be leaders in climate change mitigation. We have the knowledge and systems (passive houses and LEED) to construct buildings in an efficient way. These cannot be goals but rather baselines for all buildings. A case in point, the state of California has enacted a progressive law that requires all new buildings to be net zero by 2030.[vii] In addition to making our buildings more efficient architects must select sustainable materials that take into account product life cycle analysis. If we do not want to live in a world that is drastically affected by climate change we must design the built environment so that it promotes and demands sustainability.
Although it is essential to mitigate climate change, even with keeping global temperature below 2º, many systems will have to adapt to the sunk effects of climate change. Human health and health systems are particularly vulnerable to these effects. According to the World Health Organization and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, health systems are vulnerable to climate change and there will be significant impacts on physical and mental health. For example, climate change will increase the frequency and severity of extreme health events, it will change the patterns of vector, air, and water borne diseases. Droughts and changing sea levels can lead to food shortages, undernutrition, population displacement, stress, and conflict.[viii] Moving forward public health practitioners and researchers must think about the best practices for local, national, and international policies that strengthen health systems and build resilience. Local capacities must be coupled with international research to create a new global public health paradigm that focuses on building health systems that anticipate, prevent, treat, and adapt to climate change threats.[ix]
We feel passionately that human health and the health of the planet are intrinsically linked and that we all must work together to build and modify urban spaces to promote sustainability and health. Our presentation will explore how our phrase can be operationalized by architects and public health practitioners in midsized cities that are currently experiencing rapid growth and urbanization and are highly vulnerable to climate change. We will make a call to action that architecture, public health, and other disciplines cannot work in silos if we are going to create built environments that address housing, health, food, water, energy, transportation, land use, disaster risk reduction and ageing (to name but a few). Imagine if this conversation included educators, innovators, researchers, farmers, engineers, community members, doctors, and entrepreneurs. By adopting this phrase the Dhillon Marty Foundation will accentuate that this issue cannot be solved in isolation but when we all work together in our respective fields we can achieve 2°.
[i] "Planetary Health Overview." The Rockefeller Foundation, 2016. Web. <https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/initiatives/planetary-health/>.
[ii] United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. "Status of Ratification." The Paris Agreement. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2016. Web. <http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php>.
[iii] Flynn, Cassie. "Paris Agreement and Road Ahead." Building Resilience for Developing Countries Class. USA, New Haven, CT. 11 Oct. 2016. Speech.
[iv] "Climate Get the Big Picture." United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 08 Sept. 2016. Web. <http://climatealert.info/2016/09/08/united-states-and-china-ratify-the-paris-climate-agreement/>.
[v] "State of the Community." Dhillon Marty Foundation, 03 Oct. 2016. Web. <http://www.dhillonmarty.org/in-action/global-citizen/2016-state-of-the-community/>.
[vi] Auer, Thomas. “Energy Efficiency Innovation Seminars.” University of Oregon Fall 2016 Lectures. USA, Eugene, OR. 13 Oct. 2016. Speech.
[vii] "The 2030 Challenge." All New Buildings, Developments, and Major Renovations Shall Be Carbon-neutral by 2030. Architecture 2030, 2015. Web. <http://architecture2030.org/2030_challenges/2030-challenge/>.
[viii] Watts, Nick, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Marina Maiero, Lucia Fernandez Montoya, and Kelly Lao. Conference on Health and Climate. Tech. World Health Organization. Web. <http://www.who.int/phe/climate/conference_briefing_1_healthresilience_27aug.pdf>.